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As soon as we become parents we can be vulnerable and feel our anxiety rising. As wonderful as it is to give birth and bring a new baby into the world, it can be scary too. And it can feel overwhelming at times. Here are some practical ways you can manage your anxiety when it hits you. Simple and actionable ways you can feel calmer and more in control.

Parents are feeling anxiety three times more since we experienced the first lockdown and the start of the pandemic a year ago. But anxiety has been felt by parents since the dawn of time and we are no strangers to it. However, if it increases, it can present mental and physical health problems, which is an additional threat to our children too. So finding ways to manage anxiety has never been more important for us and also our families.

So what is anxiety and how can we manage it?

Believe it or not, anxiety is a normal part of us.  It’s there to keep us safe when we think or experience something is going to happen.  I like to think of my anxiety like an inner lioness. A fierce protector that is getting me into high alert should I need to defend myself or my children.  However, she is hyper vigilant and often appears when I don’t actually need her. So those thoughts that tell me there is danger (or has been), may not be so realistic. But my lioness doesn’t differentiate between fact and imagination, and by realising that, we are able to take the first steps to tame her.

In essence, if we can welcome anxiety and see it for what it is, it often lessens as soon as we do so. By recognising anxiety for what it is, we in effect, take back a smidgen of control and can process in a more healthy way.  Once we see anxiety for what it is; our inner protector, we can take steps to become more rational-minded and calm again. 

So what does anxiety feel like?

Often anxiety feels like a racing heart, a tight chest, sweaty palms, dry mouth and a feeling of wanting to run, hide or an inability to think clearly.  It is triggered by a thought, or by an experience. Once we notice it, we can take steps to master it, although at first, we may have an inner experience that would have us believe it’s the other way around (it is master of us!).

As with everything in life, if we practice it enough, it becomes habit.  So here are my top tips to practice when you are feeling fine as well as when you start to notice anxiety standing guard and creeping into your thoughts and feelings.

5 steps to manage your anxiety

  1. Notice the thought/anxiety – Say to yourself “I notice that I am having the thought that…. or “I notice I am feeling…”.
  2. Name it  – This is anxiety/anger/frustration/fear, etc.
  3. Ground yourself with a hand on heart anchor – Cross your arms around your chest – really allow yourself to feel held. Say to yourself “I am held, I am safe” . Take as long as you need until you feel your calm mode kicking in.  Visualise being held and safe too.
  4. Breathe – Take 5 deep breaths in through your nose and out of your mouth – with a longer exhale.  Think about the oxygen coming in, and the stress going out…
  5. Affirm – Say to yourself: “These are just thoughts and I know my reality is…. It will be okay/ I know I can do this / I am safe”

If you can, get used to this when you are feeling normal, so that you can be conditioned to spring from anxious to calm when you really need to.  But also, practice befriending your inner protector, as you never know when you really will need it and it’s there to guard you and keep you safe.

If you would like to know more about my work as The Mamma Coach and how I can support you 1:1 or with Beyond Birth: A Mindful Guide to Early Parenting and the groups and Mental Wellbeing Practitioner Training, then please see the website www.themammacoach.com or get in touch with me here [email protected]

We have more information and support if you are suffering with PND or anxiety here.

And, if you are worrying about how your baby or child is coping in the pandemic we have some top tips from a clinical psychologist.

Are you worried about how lockdown is affecting your baby or toddler’s mental health? If so, you’re not alone.

Recently there was a viral video of a little girl walking along the street, stopping every few steps to ‘clean her hands’.  It had the caption: ‘When your first year of life is 2020 was all about HAND SANITIZING’.

She’s adorable, as toddlers are when they copy what they see Mummy or Daddy do in their play. 
The video taps into one of the biggest things parents worry about right now, which is how growing up in a pandemic will affect our babies and toddlers.

Growing up in this ‘new normal’

The world our babies and toddlers are growing up in one where adults wear masks and keep their distance. It’s a world based within their own homes, where they only have their parents for company: a world where they only see Grandma and Grandad on Zoom or through a window.

In many ways it is one of the invisible costs of the pandemic. Will growing up in this strange new ‘normal’ have a lasting effect on our baby or toddler’s development and mental health?

Mums and dads are feeling the stress too

baby and toddler mental health

Living through a pandemic has taken its toll on us all. Some days feel OK but others feel rubbish. 

Parental guilt is not a new thing. Right now we are feeling it in spades, worrying about whether our children will pick up on our anxiety and if it will it damage them?

We always urge mums and dads to banish any guilt they feel. Right now – that’s even more important. 

One of the best things we can do to help our children is to take care of ourselves and make sure we are OK. It’s normal to feel overwhelmed at times. So when you do, take time to escape in whatever way you can. That might be taking a few deep breaths. Or it might be carving out time in your day to unwind in whatever way you can. 

Emily Tredget, from Team Happity says:

It is important to remember that in keeping our babies healthy and well, we need to first remember to keep ourselves healthy and well. Often we forget about ourselves, but like on an airplane, we need to put our oxygen mask on first.

Your baby and toddler’s mental health

Little ones don’t have the vocabulary or the emotional maturity to explain their feelings. Often they show you their feelings through their behaviour.

baby and toddlers mental health

You are enough!

One of the most important things to remember is that you are the centre of your baby or child’s world. Your love, time and attention is what they need. And it’s what will make them thrive. 

Lockdown days have a peculiar sense of time. Spending it together can benefit your child.  

You are enough. None of us expected to be parenting in a pandemic and we have to be kind to ourselves.

Top tips to help support your baby & toddler with their mental health:

  • When you pass people in the street on your daily walk say ‘Hello’, smile and wave. Chances are they’ll greet you back. Even though we’re all keeping a distance you will be teaching your child to welcome the people they meet in their day to day lives and showing them how friendly they are.
  • Welcome everyone who knocks on your door with a big smile and tell your child who they are and why they are at your door – whether it’s the postman delivering letters or the delivery man dropping off food. Even in a mask and at a safe distance they will more than likely enjoy getting such a warm welcome and chat to your little one.
  • Your baby or toddler often shows their feelings in their play. Watch what they do and join in. For example, if your toddler pretends a toy cat or dog is sad and needs care, get down and play along with them – talking about how the toy is feeling and how you both can help them feel better.
  • Verbalise their feelings. If your child is sad or withdrawn put their feelings into words. This shows that you understand and care. For example you might say: ‘I can see you feel cross right now because we can’t go out and play. Why don’t we choose a jigsaw or toy to play with together?’
  • Talk about the people you see in books and on TV. Focusing on how friendly they are and talking about all the kind people we meet, who help us.
  • Show your child photos of their extended family. Babies and toddlers are drawn to faces and can recognise them if you show them often. Say the names of your family as you point to the photos. Your baby and child might not get much out of a Zoom call or Facetime with Gran and Grandad but it’s another way of showing them the faces that will be an important part of their lives.
  • Join in online baby & toddler classes. We KNOW they’re not the same as face to face classes but they are the next best thing in lockdown. And your baby or toddler will be super engaged and love them. They also break up the long and lonely lockdown days for you too. Find loads to choose from and book them on Happity.

How to help your kids during the pandemic  

And a must-read for all parents: Keep calm and carry on (with Covid 19)

Gentle Journeys support parents in the early months of parenting. Find out how to access their support.

#Shoutie Selfie – why we need to shout about mental health this year more than ever before

We are in our 5th year of running our annual Shoutie Selfie campaign. It was started by Emily (co-founder of Happity) back in 2017 – when she ran MummyLinks. Since then it has gone from strength to strength. Now in 2021 – after the year of the pandemic – we all need to shout loud about mental health more than ever.

What is everyone shouting about?

Do you know five parents? One of them is struggling with a mental health issue. And the likelihood is that all of them struggle with loneliness as some point each week.

Do you know which of your parent friends are struggling? I bet you don’t. And not because you’re a bad friend, but because they are probably hiding it from you.

This is what #ShoutieSelfie is all about. It’s about showing parents that are struggling that you love and support them. That they are not alone, and that it’s ok to feel they way they are.

shout selfie - why we need to shout about mental health

Why we need to shout loud about mental health

Luckily mental health issues have been getting more and more airtime. Celebs are talking out about it (watch this space for their #ShoutieSelfies!) and normal parents like us are too.

And it’s important, because no parent should feel alone in this.

That’s why I launched #Shoutie Selfie back in 2017 – to help parents out their struggling with their mental health to know they are not alone. I launched it because after struggling for 2 years with Post-Natal Depression and anxiety I started to share my experience and realised it wasn’t just me who was struggling – and knowing that helped me on my road to recovery.

The success of #Shoutie Selfie

I launched it in 2017 (with just 10 days planning and 2 months social media experience, but bags and bags of energy and passion!) and it was a great success. It got maternal mental health trending in just 30 minutes of launching, and a million impressions in the first week.

It’s been a huge success, with over 10 million impressions and the support of amazing charities, organisations and celebrities such as BBC5Live, HeadsTogether, Baby Buddy, NCT, PANDAS, World mental health day, Binky and Jane Felstead, Anna Williamson, Josh Paterson and many more!

#ShoutieSelfie 2021

This year with the pandemic we’re facing a mental health crisis.

The Health Foundation research found that:

More than two-thirds of adults in the UK (69%) report feeling somewhat or very worried about the effect COVID-19 is having on their life. The most common issues affecting wellbeing are worry about the future (63%), feeling stressed or anxious (56%) and feeling bored (49%).

Our own research at Happity in the past years has found that 93% of mums are lonely each week. And that struggling with loneliness makes you 50% more likely to struggle with your mental health.

And with perinatel mental health struggles, even before Covid-19, costing the UK £8.1bn for each one-year cohort of births, something needs to be done.

We need to be supporting each other in understand why looking after our mental health is so important, and how to do it.

How to do a #ShoutieSelfie

So, if you love someone who is struggling – or have/are struggling yourself – of even if don’t know of anyone struggling but want to let those around you know that you support and don’t judge them, please:

  1. Take a selfie of you shouting (feel free to write #ShoutieSelfie on it if you fancy!)
  2. If you’d like to us the official wording make sure you are signed up to our newsletter to hear updates before the big day!
  3. Post it using #ShoutieSelfie on Wednesday 5th May on your social media platforms, tagging 5 friends who understand if you can so they can take part too!
  4. Tag Happity (@happityapp on Twitter and FB, and @happity.co.uk on IG!) and we will share your post 🙂

What to write in your #ShoutieSelfie post

You can, of course, write your own words to explain why you are posting your #ShoutieSelfie. But, if you prefer, we have put together some words that you can use on each of the different social media channels that you can copy and paste.

Instagram:

This is my #ShoutieSelfie
 
It’s to help raise awareness of maternal mental health. And to let anyone suffering know they are NOT alone.

This year, more than ever, so many of us have struggled with our mental health. I’m posting my #ShoutieSelfie to let you know that if you are struggling I support you, I understand you, and I don’t judge you.

I shout loud to let you know it’s OK to not be OK. There’s no stigma. BUT there IS support and help – and things WILL get better.

I shout to raise awareness that we need more free and easily accessible support for those suffering with poor mental health.

I shout because nobody should feel alone.

Will you post your #ShoutieSelfie too?

Tag 5 friends who understand and @happity.co.uk for shares

Facebook:

This is my #ShoutieSelfie
 
It’s to help raise awareness of maternal mental health. And to let anyone suffering know they are NOT alone.

This year, more than ever, so many of us have struggled with our mental health. I’m posting my #ShoutieSelfie to let you know that if you are struggling I support you, I understand you, and I don’t judge you.

I shout loud to let you know it’s OK to not be OK. There’s no stigma. BUT there IS support and help – and things WILL get better.

I shout to raise awareness that we need more free and easily accessible support for those suffering with poor mental health.

I shout because nobody should feel alone.

Will you post your #ShoutieSelfie too?

Tag 5 friends who understand and @happityapp for shares

Twitter:

This is my #ShoutieSelfie. 
If you are struggling with mental health I’m shouting that I support you, I don’t judge you, and you are not alone.
Will you post your #ShoutieSelfie too? 
Tag 5 friends who understand & @happityapp for retweets 

If you want to see more updates about #ShoutieSelfie and Happity please follow us on InstagramFacebook or Twitter.

Let’s do something great!

Need help with your mental health?

If you need support with your mental health please click here.

Supporting Organisations

NCT
Pandas
MMHA
World Mental Health Day
Best Beginnings
Heads Together
Baby Buddy
BBC 5 Live
ITN
Glamour
Channel 5 News