Millions of parents in the UK are struggling with their mental health. In fact, research by Unicef UK found that sixty-one percent of parents have revealed concerns about their mental health.
Nearly half of parents surveyed by the charity said they’ve felt overwhelmed and 43% said they’ve been anxious. Meanwhile, 70% of parents with babies and young children said it was getting harder every year to be a parent in Britain.
The rising cost of living, a lack of affordable childcare and difficulty in balancing work and home life are all contributing to the struggle.
The impact on mental health
The build-up of stress that many parents are experiencing can impact on their resilience to cope with the demands of day-to-day life.
With parents facing so many challenges and drains on their emotional resources, it’s important for you, as an organisation, to consider how you can help them to manage their stress, prevent burnout, and build on their resilience stores.
What many employers may not know is that the simple act of talking has the power to make a big difference to someone’s resilience levels. With that in mind, I’ve shared seven small but mighty ways you can help your working parents talk their way to a more resilient mind:
1. Suggest they speak the language of acceptance
The words ‘should,’ ‘must’ or ‘ought’ have all become fixtures in our everyday dialogue and we often use them to keep ourselves in-check. However, these two words can be problematic because they are judgemental in nature and can make parents feel inadequate. Parents who are perfectionists or compare themselves with others tend to be much more vulnerable to this language.
When a parent feels they ‘should’ or ‘ought’ to do something, they would do well to question themselves on why they feel that way and look ahead towards the benefits that something may bring.
Try to reassure your employees that their role as a parent is not to provide the perfect existence. Try to help them take a non-judgemental stance towards themselves and their family and lower their expectations to make the day feel more achievable.
2. Encourage them to be realistic
When life feels challenging, it’s important to be pragmatic about what we can and can’t control. Being realistic about what we can control will help avoid overburdening ourselves or feeling bad if things do not go to plan. When we are stressed, we lose the capacity to problem solve.
One way to avoid overwhelm is to encourage your employees to ask themselves, “Is it in my control to do something about this? ” If the answer is no, then they would do well to let the worry pass by. If yes, help them to schedule in some time to act on what they can feasibly do. Asking them to turn their mind towards acceptance of the situation will help build resilience.
3. Suggest they celebrate small wins as a family
Why not suggest that they try to develop some realistic small goals and then aim to work towards them. Feeling a sense of accomplishment is important, hence why it is great to set smaller, achievable goals that are impossible to fail. Encourage your employees to ask, “What is the one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?”.
You may then suggest that they share their goals with their children and, or, partner, at the start of the day and ensure they celebrate their achievements together at the end of the day. Small steps like this can really add up to a collective sense of success.
4. Recommend that they share their story
Turning a problem around and around in your head often leads to a dead end, or worse, increased feelings of stress and anxiety. You can help wrap your brain around a problem by sharing your story, which will give it a beginning, middle and an end. Sharing the weight of your thoughts with someone else can help to reflect on it in a clearer and more logical way.
Encourage your employees to express their feelings. If they do feel isolated, recommend that they write these feelings down on paper, call a family member or look to speak to a professional. It is important that your team members have people they can confide in and call upon if things are feeling overwhelming. They may be able to help by exploring a range of possible solutions.
5. Inspire them to reconnect with an old friend
When someone is feeling burnt out, it is easy to retreat into yourself and avoid contact with others. In reality, this may only compound the negative feelings. Your employees may feel the conversation with their close circle of friends and family has run dry, so perhaps inspire them to take this opportunity to reach out to an old friend.
Feeling isolated can be detrimental to mental health, but taking this new path to reconnect with an old friend and scheduling in regular catch ups could feel invigorating, and it could help them too.
6. Advocate they self-talk their way to confidence
For your employees, having confidence in their own ability to cope with the stresses of life can play an important part in resilience. Likewise, being more confident in their own abilities, including their ability to respond to and deal with a difficult situation, is a great way to build resilience for the future.
Ask your employees to listen for negative comments in their mind. When they hear them, ask them to practise immediately replacing them with balanced alternative ones. Some people find that by saying “stop” straight after having a negative thought can stop the thought from having a negative impact. How they talk to themselves can greatly affect how they think, feel and behave, and help us to put things into perspective.
7. Ensure they know they are not alone
It’s important to remind your team that they are not alone on their journey and they have your support as a business. While they may not be able to control all the circumstances, and sometimes it may all feel overwhelming for them, they will be able to grow by focusing on what these challenges can teach them. Encourage them to leverage the support of loved ones, trusted professionals and of course, their own positive mindset.
If you are concerned about one of your team member’s mental health, encourage them to reach out to their family, friends, GP, or other available support quickly. This is a positive step to managing mental health. Alternatively, you could encourage them to use a free NHS mental health talking therapy service.
Michelle Robinson Hayes
Michelle is a leading expert in workplace mental health and is passionate about helping employees overcome their mental health challenges. She supports organisations with education and training, and equips employees with the tools to live healthier and happier lives. Michelle holds professional memberships with the BACP, and NCPS.