Health Tips for Parents in Winter

As we navigate the chilly days of winter, it’s common for both parents and children to feel cooped up, leading to increased screen time and a dip in mood. As a gentle parenting coach, I understand the challenges this season brings.

Here are 8 empowering strategies to uplift your physical and mental well-being, ensuring you and your family thrive.

Physical health in parenting: Simple steps to keep on top!

  1. Put your own oxygen mask on first: You can’t look after anyone else if you’re running on empty! So attend to your own needs first. This means taking a few minutes each day for a simple self-care activity: enjoy a cup of tea while looking out of the window, or take 5 minutes of fresh air by the back door. Once in a while, have a longer date with yourself: for example, go for a massage, or take a dance class.
  2. Nervous system regulation: In the chaos of daily life, taking moments to slow down and breathe can make a big difference to your overall well-being. If you think this sounds pointless, you probably need it even more! Try taking 3 breaths deep into your belly. Then try shaking your whole body for 1 minute (here’s an example). Will your kids join you? 
  3. Family time outdoors: It turns out it’s true: being in nature, or just outdoors, can help you get more headspace and feel more relaxed. You could take a walk in the park or simply go round the block. It doesn’t have to be every day, it might be just once a week, and that’s ok.
  4. Tone your vagus nerve: You could feel more calm and capable in your parenting by adding small habits throughout your day. Examples are gentle humming, singing, or laughing (if your little ones won’t tell you jokes, there’s always YouTube shorts). Last week, my son and I went to an intergenerational choir together. Babies were mesmerised! It filled our cup and gave us some needed parent-child bonding time.

Mental health in parenting: Nurturing your emotional regulation

  1. Acknowledge your internal dialogue: You know how sometimes we say: “part of me feels like this, and another part of me feels like that.” These parts communicate via your body sensations, like that tightness in your gut when you’re nervous. So listen to them, they’re important! If you find it hard to tune into your body, grounding yourself first is helpful (here’s an example).
  2. Embracing conflicting thoughts: Some parts of us can seem at odds with each other. Two opposing emotions can be present and true at the same time (Here’s an example). Have you noticed any come up? Embracing this complexity can help us navigate our own and our children’s emotions with more ease and stay away from black and white thinking. 
  3. Journal for self-understanding: If you’ve identified different parts of you, feelings, sensations, journal about what’s come up for you. For example, do you feel warmth in your chest, that feels like joy, or frustration as tension in your arms? Something about handwriting helps connect our emotion centre with our thinking brain and make sense of things for us. I do this for 10 to 30 minutes when I’m facing a specific problem, but of course it’s even more useful as a regular habit!
  4. Bedtime mindfulness: Finally, after all that work, prepare for a good night’s sleep. If you have a bedtime routine with your children, incorporate 3 new steps right at the end (and make sure you do this too):
    • Take 3 deep breaths, rising your belly as you breathe in, making a low sound with your mouth as you breathe out.
    • Tell 3 things that you’re grateful for from your day, e.g. “I’m grateful the sun came out”, “I’m grateful we had lunch together” etc.
    • Say 3 feelings you’d like to wake up with in the morning, e.g “I’d like to feel energetic, happy and clear-headed”.

What’s your go-to strategy for shaking off the winter blues? Hit reply and let me know!

One mum I’m working with has noticed that her 5 year old copies her whenever she takes deep breaths, and even closes her eyes and puts her hand over her tummy to focus fully. This lovely habit will probably serve her for life! 

Physical and mental well-being for parents is not a fad and it’s not selfish — it’s necessary for creating a nurturing, supportive and gentle parenting environment for both you and your children. In our culture, the main way to receive parenting support is to give it to yourself, especially during this isolating winter period. So take deep breaths through the day, make time for nurturing activities, tune into your body and attend to its needs, let you and your children be the complex beings you are, and journal to clear your mind. These are all empowering ways to help you feel calm and capable in your gentle parenting journey.

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