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How to keep mentally healthy

Parenthood brings new joys and experiences but also special challenges that can impact our mental health. Big transitions can be hard, and whether it’s our first child or our fourth, and whether we’re in a relationship or a single parent, we’ll be time poor, tired and managing changes in almost every part of our life.

No matter how busy you may be, it’s important to set some time aside for yourself to do the things that will help you stay mentally well. The message of Act Belong Commit – staying active, staying connected to others and having a purpose in life – is a great guide.

Past strategies for keeping mentally healthy may not be quite as useful with a new infant to consider. With so much to learn, many new parents begin to understand the saying “it takes a village to raise a child”. Connect with your existing ‘village’ or find new sources of support like other parents and carers.

Act: Do Something

Keep active – mentally, physically, socially, spiritually, culturally…

Even when you’re tired, a short walk in the park with your baby can boost your mood and help you manage stress.

Check your library for local activities and join a playgroup or toy library.
There are lots of group activities for new parents from post-natal pilates to walking groups where you can take baby along and mix with other parents.

Try to catch up for a coffee with friends or just call them for a chat.

Belong: Do something with someone

Keep connected – to friends, family and your community.

Make time to stay connected with the people who matter most to you. Good friends and family members can be invaluable.

Spending time with other parents and comparing experiences can be fun and reassuring. It doesn’t matter whether it’s at the park, in a new parents group, or in a online forum.

Talk to your local Child Health Nurse or clinic to discover other ways to connect.

If you have a partner, make spending quality time with them a priority. Agree a regular time when you will do something together – even if it’s just a walk around the neighbourhood a few evenings each week.

Commit: Do something meaningful

There’s nothing more meaningful than being responsible for a new baby. You might want to register for a parenting course or simply research the wonderful ways young children develop.

Perhaps capture the early months of your baby in photographs or sketch them while they are sleeping.

Make room for other things that are important for you, beyond being a parent. Plant a herb garden or vegie patch; plan your next holiday – even if it’s still many months away.

Remember – becoming a parent is a big challenge, so make sure you celebrate your achievements!