This blog was originally published on Sept. 15, 2022, and was updated on May 10, 2023, with new information.
Every day, child care providers are put under a great deal of stress that can lead to depression, worry and burnout.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month, which seeks to bring attention to mental health and how essential it is to our overall health and wellbeing.
Part of that is recognizing and tackling stress to feel in greater control of your life. To help you do that, we have some tips from Dr. Olivia Remes, a mental health researcher and program director of Leading Mental Health in the Workplace at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom.
For 10 years, she has been conducting research on mental health and wellbeing and her work has been featured by the BBC and USA Today. She offers strategies for wellbeing on BBC Radio in Cambridge and is also a life and team coach helping people tackle challenges and reach their goals in life.
She is the author of the book “The Instant Mood Fix,” which contains strategies for tackling anxiety, stress and indecision, and she has performed TED Talks related to stress and anxiety.
Dr. Remes said stress and overwhelm may lead to experiencing headaches, forgetting things, being confused, feeling tense and finding it difficult to sleep.
“We can’t take care of other people until we take care of ourselves first,” Dr. Remes says to child care providers.
This is why we have to look at our own mental health and wellbeing, she said.
Dr. Remes said negative thinking patterns that may be holding us back and influencing our wellbeing. Let’s take a look at a few of them and how to tackle them!
Examples of this type of negative thinking include believing that you are inadequate or not good enough.
And when we apply such labels to ourselves, we have a tendency to live up to those labels, no matter how negative they are.
The antidote, Dr. Remes said, is to develop an understanding of ourselves and to develop self-compassion.
“In the context of mental health and wellbeing, the way that we think and the way we talk to ourselves and think of ourselves – this has a significant influence on us,” she said.
When this happens, we are looking to our emotions for guidance.
She gave the example of having a gut feeling that your husband is cheating on you, even though there’s no concrete reason to believe such a thing is happening.
But this belief, coupled with the stress of running your child care center and all the other aspects of your life, can feel real. And maybe you’ll start making decisions that are in accordance with this gut feeling, even though your husband has always been supportive and kind.
“Feelings are not facts,” Dr. Remes said.
In this case, the antidote is to look at the evidence. Look at the facts and ask what they are telling you, she said.
Indecision and Negative Thoughts
The inability to make a decision is linked to stress and frustration, Dr. Remes said.
Perhaps you feel overwhelmed with your job and family, and you want to decide on a path to take, yet you can’t make a decision.
Sometimes the questions you face are big. Others are smaller, such as what shirt you should wear or what food you should order at a restaurant.
And you may experience negative thoughts, which can give way to low moods and feeling bad about ourselves. We might feel like we can’t move forward, so we take “mood-directed” actions, she said.
“What can happen is you grind to a halt. So the action really becomes an inaction. You stop doing anything because you feel bad,” she said.
So what can you do?
Take goal-directed actions, she said. Think about your goals and how to achieve them.
To do help you do that, Dr. Remes shared an expression she loves: Feel the fear and do it anyway.
How You Can Get Back to Loving What You Do
Dr. Remes encourages us to see if we’re engaging in any of these negative thinking patterns.
Knowledge is power, she said.
And knowledge comes with recognizing what you’re doing and thinking about why you’re doing it.
“Wipe the slate clean and meet yourself where you are,” she said of improving your mental wellbeing. “I know you’re dealing with many tasks and it can feel overwhelming, but when it comes to mental health, you need to be patient and take baby steps.”
Move from thinking about the past to thinking about the future. What do you want and what are your ideal outcomes?
Dr. Remes shared these tips at the 2022 Business of Child Care Conference hosted by Procare Solutions. If you’d like to watch her entire speech, click here.