10 ways to help support mental health and wellbeing for parents

Whatever circumstances, working lifestyle, or lifestyle adaptations are currently being made given the latest government advice about social distancing during this period of disruption, a large chunk of the population, will probably find themselves with more time at home, and possibly, depending on the age of the kids and work status, with more time with the kids. As parents we’re going to need to be mentally and physically strong for ourselves and our families amongst the catastrophe.

Here are 10 things you can do to help boost your immune system and preserve your mental health and wellbeing whatever social distancing measures you’ve decided or have to take, or if you have to self isolate, that you can do with – or without (possibly after bedtime) – the kids!:

1 Work Out.

Working out boosts the immune system and massively improves mental health. 

For you: There is a mass of online fitness videos, or 1 to 1 personal workout instructors in a huge range of styles.  Virtual learning platforms will become our best friend over the coming months – technology is amazing. Investing in an online personal trainer, who can monitor your workout, will ensure you’re working out safely and to your strengths.

Listen carefully to the safe workout guidelines the online practitioners should provide. Take care, don’t overdo it to avoid injury, and always ensure you have approval from a physician if you feel unwell, have underlying, continuous health conditions, are pregnant, or have given birth within the last 6 months, on the type of exercise that is suitable for you.

For the kids: Cosmic Kids Yoga is fun for kids, and once you search for them, many other kids wellbeing channels crop up in the search!  

Watch this space for ideas for parent and kids work outs together from Dancing Mama Fitness…

At the time of writing (17.3.20) some of us can still get out – can still get to leisure centres.  They’re still open – providing you’ve done your own risk assessment for your health – support them!  The centres I teach in are heightening their cleaning routines and there is reduced attendance by members, so two metres apart from each other is achieved in most classes.

According to new information from Swim England, chlorine kills the virus, so we’re currently ok to go swimming.  The pools are pretty much empty too!

2 Walks in the wild

Nature, fresh air, greenery – exercise, walk, escape the confines of walls and bust some stress. Get some comfy walking boots or trainers and explore – walk far and wide with younger kids in a baby carrier (visit Wear My Babyfor a great collection), or take shorter walks to take time and educate the kids on nature or take a ball or frisbee.

3 Ramp Up the Self Love and Care

Take long baths, have a go at making scrubs and home made shampoos.  There’s so many blogs online, and we can’t necessarily go wrong if the ingredients are entirely natural and applied externally only of course (ahem!). Perfect opportunity to be more careful about the environment with less packaging as a result.

Also time to cook from scratch in mass production, if there’s not usually time to do anything more than bung a ready made meal in the microwave.  Cook with loads of immune system boosting fresh or frozen fruit and veg, and freeze stuff – loads of suggestions of recipes suitable for freezing online.  Read my Dancing Mama blog on Parent Baby Nutrition, Baby Led Weaning Ideas and cooking on a budget here.  Time to take control of what we’re consuming.

4 Meditate or Find Stillness and Breathe.

When our minds are a-jumble with so many different concerns, questions, possibly health issues too, it’s important to try to take some time out and try to switch the brain off. Guided meditation app subscriptions help spark motivation to practise regularly – I love Spotify or Insight Timer.  My little one loves New Horizon Holistic Centre Meditations on either app – I’ve been encouraging her to practise deep breathing (she’s 3 in June). There’s a meditation for everything!

This is Calmer has some good tips on breathing exercises and the benefits here.

Additionally, finding the right, focussed support online can give some really helpful motivation and guidance.  Check out Jane’s current Calmness In The Chaos campaign at Cherish, Transform and Upgrade Your Life’s Facebook Page

5 Read 

For you: Novels, fact, fiction, Motivational self help books, personal or business development…the list is endless.  Feed the mind! Audio books are a good substitute, but we’re more likely to try to multi-task whilst listening, arguably not giving the books full attention!

For the kids: My school friend’s son has started a Facebook page as he believes every child should have a book to read or read to them at night.  Check out Story Time By Max here!

6 Get arty or crafty

Do a quick online shop or support a local craft supplies retailer. Make a master piece. Adult colouring books are beautiful, and brilliant for the concentration.  There may be a craft or skill you’ve been wanting to have a go at. My mum told me I have to mention knitting – perhaps I’ll get her a YouTube channel of her own! Opportunities for being creative with kids are endless – find some inspiration here.

7 Dance, play and laugh

Crank up the tunes, dance with your partner/spouse, dance with the kids, sing really loudly.  That Saturday night out might be on hold for a short while.  We love finding different dance styles on TV, and my little one gets so inspired, lost in a ballet or a fierce contemporary dance piece.

Play is a great escape mechanism.  Lose yourself in a game – physical, strategic or silly games.  Can’t underestimate the joy of a play fight either!

8 Social Media Detox

Social media and technology will either make or break our society. I love this diagram from @From The Other Chair on Instagram.  

  • So hard to disassociate with all the chatter but with increased social distancing we’ll probably be looking at social media and technology far more frequently to communicate.
  • Conflicting evidence on facts could ultimately cause us more unnecessary stress as we consume so much conflicting info and so many different opinions. 
  • Our brains and eyes need a break – studies show that staring at a screen longer will reduce our melatonin, disrupting sleep.  
  • I’m also worried I’m staring at a screen too much and disengaging with my little one, so it will be nice for her to see me unattached from a phone for once!  

9 Socialise (Virtually)

The above said – use technology to help you gather all your best mates, kids, family into a Google Hangouts or Whatsapp video call every now and then from phones or laptops.  Have a virtual girls night in – try to still celebrate the birthdays, Mothers’ Day together. We can’t lose the ability to speak face to face and see expressions and laugh together.  It’s the greatest medicine.

10 Sleep!

Get to bed earlier, wake up earlier! 7.5 – 9 hours sleep is the optimal length of time for the body to really benefit (and kids need more).  Any shorter or longer is not healthy for the body.  Some of the greatest leaders and thinkers are said to do their greatest work early in the morning whilst the rest of the world is still sleeping. Another great blog post from This Is Calmer about the benefits of sleep.

Time for reinvention?

Imagine if this time of unrest is actually a wake up call for us, to re-evaluate our lives and relationships, shake up our bad habits and practises that don’t serve us, and is a gift to practise some self love and care… 

In a time of immense uncertainty in many aspects of our lives, my mantra lately: Where there is tension, there is reinvention.  


Dancing Mama Nutrition Day 5 – The Fitness Expert

My final Nutrition Day 5 offers a combination of fitness and nutrition tips from health and fitness expert Iona Layland  of Train heal Breathe.
Here’s her 5 tips for getting back into shape after pregnancy:
1) Corework: pregnancy and child birth is a MASSIVE upheaval to your core. Gentle, calm and controlled exercises to rebuild from the inside. This is exactly what Alison has done with Pilates. 
Too much intense exercise too soon (all depends on your pre pregnancy history) could cause distress to the system. My philosophy is “Little by Little”  https://ionapt.wordpress.com/2014/12/23/little-by-little-advice-on-how-to-start-out-training/
My motto to achieving progress is ‘little by little’ ; faith in action no matter how small it is. However unfit you feel, you can make progress. Dream BIG but don’t let …
2) Whole Foods: include lots of whole foods and minimise any processed foods. Smoothies are great for time efficiency! You can add oats, hemp, flax, chia, frozen fruits for vitamins and minerals and natural sources of protein.
3) Protein: this is one of the most essential building blocks of the human body, whether you are weight training or repairing the body after a baby. Generally aim to have in grams of protein your bodyweight in kilo: e.g. 80kg person = 80g of protein.
This amount goes up depending on how much training you’ve done. Here’s my blog on protein that goes into more detail.
4) food diary: write down everything you eat in a day or even better put it in an app; there are so many out there now! You can see exactly what’s happening, how many grams of macros you’re consuming: protein, carbs and fat.
In order to be leaner you need to get a minimum of around 20% of your calories from protein. Here’s my food diary blog that explains more  https://ionapt.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/food-diary-what-do-you-need-to-eat/

5) Strength training: once you’re feeling stronger inside from the corework (take as long as you need) start to work on strength. It’s essential for women to be doing at least strength training at least two or more days a week working all major muscle groups. See more here:  https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/physical-activity-guidelines-for-adults.aspx

As for cardio only gentle movement at first; Alison’s group walks in the countryside and woods are perfect! Try not to to do high intensity until you’ve done several months of core, strength training and gentle cardio.
Good luck guys! I have lots of clients with babies and young kids and it’s always a far greater challenge to fit in exercise but just a little everyday goes a loooooong way.
And if you’re based in East London, Olympic Park Stratford (and Hackney Wick) and would like to try out personal training feel free to get in touch.

Dancing Mama – Day 3 Nutrition – The Freezer Friend

 

I love days when I look in my fridge and it’s so uninspiring that I’m considering ordering takeout. But then I remember the goodies I have in my freezer. As long as I can motivate myself and find time to prepare vegetables in advance or buy them ready prepared from the freezer department, I can quite often be creative enough to cobble together lunch or dinner from the contents of my freezer.

Preparing baby food in advance or cooking in bulk and freezing means I can easily grab something for her dinner and cook it quickly. So when she’s grizzly and hungry food can be in front of her in a matter of moments. I’ve been told about using ice cube trays to store mashed vegetables. As baby gets older she has more ‘cubes’ of food per portion but it really helps to manage her mealtimes without chunky tubs, when freezer space is at a premium.

As long as I have some good staples in the freezer I can also get something nutritious and satisfying for my lunch too. My favourite is a Asian inspired with some miso soup paste vegetables and noodles the song keep me going at lunch time and again doesn’t require much preparation.

My meal here was thrown together in moments, and with the claims that frozen foods retain their nutrition when packed from source, hopefully I’m optimising our vitamin intake as I go.

 

Dancing Mama – Freezer Food Lunch when I look in my freezer