Mental Health Awareness Week: Lockdown, toddlers and being kind to you

Mental Health Awareness Week blog series

Lockdown, toddlers and being kind to you

by Heather Tattersall, Head of Client Services

I think we are all feeling it now; the stretch, the frustration, the need for connection to people other than those you live with. I certainly am! Let me introduce myself, I’m Heather, I work at the Cellar Trust and I have a toddler who turned 3 in lockdown…

The last few weeks have been testing but to be honest, it’s hard being a parent at any time! In lockdown, with your amazing child every minute of every day….yikes, its nonstop full on can’t even take a pee in peace hard. If you feel like it’s all too much… You. Are. Not. Alone!!

Did you know it’s ok to need a break? It’s ok to tell your child “hey I’m on the toilet I will be back in 5”, I mean why do they want to watch that anyway?! 😉 Its ok to make a cuppa and tell them to leave you, it’s quiet time. Seriously though, you do need a break, goodness, you deserve a break, so, be kind to yourself!

We all do things differently to be kind to ourselves and recharge our depleted batteries and re-establish frayed patience. There are so many things you can do and we all have our go to wellbeing tools; colouring, yoga, good food, baking, exercise, Sudoku, jigsaws, chats with friends, bath, candles, memory box, the list is never ending and whatever works for you works for you and that’s great.

I too have a go to set of things that improve my wellbeing…I would say I am in need of them and more at the moment and I am learning that its ok to take myself off every day, yes, every day, for some time to replenish my empty glass, so its topped up and ready for giving out again. Some of my go to’s have been around a while, some others, are new, because I’ve never been in this situation before so I needed to learn some extra things that help me when I’m starting to feel frayed at the edges, or just because I deserve to be kind to myself and my daughter needs to see me model that too:

  1. Exercise – boring I know…sorry about that. I have tried a zillion things to work for me and I’m not particularly motivated. That’s an understatement 🙁 I keep trying though because the way it lifts my mood is just undeniable. My go to is a brisk walk with just my dog. It needs to get my heart pumping so a stroll with the toddler in tow just does not cut it! I also switch it up, if I can’t get out and I noticeably feel my mood low I will pop joe wicks on or something. If my daughter is about I will put Andy’s Wild Workout on CBeebies so she can join in (that’s not massively long or lots of effort but it’s something that helps!)
  2. Fresh air with the babe. Like I said above, getting out with her isn’t about exercise for me as it’s a snail pace with those little legs but the fresh air, amazing. Watching her have fun is tonic for the soul. It’s burning some energy, definitely a good thing!! We switch it up; go post a letter, take the dog, take the football, take the scooter, whatever she says yes to basically
  3. Activities – this can vary from baking, cooking, colouring, sticking, crafting and I have done a few of the above but I have found colouring most useful to do with a toddler because she can do it too, independently or with me. A few years ago I got on the mindfulness colouring bandwagon. Like most things I get into it was a fad and those books haven’t seen the light of day since – until now! I find the colour by numbers best as I have to concentrate and it takes up your thinking space.
  4. Have a cuppa – we all know too much tv isn’t good. We also know it’s a sure fire way to get a breather!!! So don’t be hard on yourself. Make a brew, stick Paw Patrol on and take five. I find being boundaried works best to avoid a tantrum at the other side, explaining how many can be watched and giving the ‘last episode’ warning. There are still tears sometimes but because I’ve had a break I am waaaay better equipped to deal. Having a warm brew without demands to do this or that, or without being climbed on is something I find really relaxing and is one of my main ways if I am the only adult that I try give myself some time.
  5. Evening equals ‘me time’ – if you’re a single parent you are my hero and this has to be for you. It’s tempting to use those golden hours between their bedtime and your bedtime to do jobs. Sometimes that might be the kind thing to do for yourself. I tend to use this time for my exercise but other times I might tidy a drawer, have a bath, or veg in front of the telly.
  6. Limit social media – this is so key for me! I have found some great ideas for entertaining your little one but it’s also sooooo easy to feel utterly rubbish. I purposefully follow some honest, frank and hilarious mums on Instagram who post the good the bad and the ugly about their journey. We really need brutal honesty about how hard this is….no one has a perfect child and no one is a perfect parent. If your social makes you feel pants, switch it up or delete it all together – go on, I dare ya!
  7. Put. Your. Phone. Down. If I am honest, I am on my phone way too much. I know I am not alone in that but when my daughter shouts at me to put it down it’s pretty clear it’s got the attention she deserves! A couple of months ago I found I could mute and limit the time I was in certain apps. Between certain hours my WhatsApp, all social media and internet are all muted so I don’t get notifications. If I go into the app I have to select that I want to disable the limitation. It has really helped me to be more present (I say sat next to her writing this on my phone – I am a work in progress, and that’s ok!).
    Please be kind to yourself. I don’t just mean for mental health awareness week. I don’t just mean during this strange season we find ourselves in. I mean, all the time.

It is so important that you refill yourselves with things you enjoy and things that are good for you. Aside from it helping you parent your little one, it will also show them the importance of taking care of yourself. It is not selfish to spend time on you. The fact will always remain, that actually, taking time for you, is what is best for them too. They get to have a healthier and happy version of mummy or daddy when you look after yourself. I know that I don’t want my little one to have the short tempered version of me. I do want her to know the importance of self-care.