Prioritizing Self-Care As We Emerge From COVID

As mothers face a long and uncertain winter, what can they do to preserve their physical and mental health?
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Pandemic parenting has been all-consuming for most of us, but a recent study found that working from home has had an especially negative impact on the physical and mental health of mothers, particularly those with young children. As we brace for a long and grueling winter, what can moms do to prioritize self-care?

Let Go of the Guilt
Anyone who has ever boarded an airplane has heard the crew say, “Put your mask on first before helping others.” While moms understand the concept, many are hesitant to put themselves first. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, a child psychologist and author of the book Growing Friendships; A Kids Guide to Making and Keeping Friends, says, “Sometimes moms worry that if they do something for themselves, they’re being selfish. But we can’t possibly be the kind of parent we want to be if we’re running on empty. We need to refuel to offer our best selves to our families.”

Ask For Help
“Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness,” Kennedy-Moore says, “it’s often a sign of wisdom.” Rather than doing everything yourself and getting frustrated when no one pitches in, ask for help from your family members. Even the youngest kids can pitch in with simple tasks. “Don’t make it a test for your loved ones by assuming they ought to know what you need if they really cared for you,” Kennedy-Moore says. “They can’t read your mind. Be sure to say specifically what you want the other person to do. You’re more likely to get the kind of help you need.”

Prioritize Your Health
Several years ago, Meredith Masony, founder of the parenting blog That’s Inappropriate and the book Ask Me What’s for Dinner One More Time, was diagnosed with an esophageal tumor. “Doctors believe it was growing for over a year,” Masony says. “But I was so busy taking care of everyone else in my life that I put my health in jeopardy.” Fortunately the tumor was benign, and Masony says her health struggles taught her a number of valuable lessons. “A good mom takes care of herself as one of her jobs,” she says.

Make Healthy Choices
The study also found that workers reported a decrease in their overall physical activity but an increase in overall food intake. There was also a correlation between increased food or junk food intake and decreased physical and mental well-being. “When we’re worn down, we’re more likely to go for the unhealthy quick lift,” Kennedy-Moore says.

While a handful of chips or an extra glass of wine might feel good at the moment, it’s not the ideal way to take care of yourself in the long run. Instead, look for healthy ways to indulge. Read a book, take an extra long shower, or meditate. “It doesn’t have to be big,” Kennedy-Moore says. “Research shows a brisk, 15-minute walk three times a week improves people’s moods.”

Find Support
“There is no guidebook on how to parent through a pandemic,” Masony says. “We are all learning as we go along. Some days I am slaying it and others, I am struggling.”

Although COVID-19 has made it difficult to socialize, it’s important to stay connected. Set up a FaceTime call or bundle up to meet a friend for a socially distant coffee date. Masony has found support from her online community of friends. “Every weekday, I do a Facebook Live,” she says. “We may be isolated in our homes, but we are all going through this together. Talking about how we feel honestly and without judgement has been extremely helpful.”


RANDI MAZZELLA is a freelance writer specializing in parenting, teen issues, mental health, and wellness. She is a wife and mother of three children. To read more of her work, visit ​