Self-Care Is Just As Important For Dads 

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A strong family foundation begins with the wellness of its individual members.

Self-care is just as important for dads as it is for moms. And yet, how likely are you to hear dads exchanging self-care tips or actively carving out time to focus on restorative practices for mental health? 

If the dads in your life do both of these things, that’s wonderful. More likely though, these types of conversations more frequently occur between mothers… if at all.

Mental health and self-care is important regardless of sex, gender, or society’s expectations (or lack of) of different parenting roles. In a world that often emphasizes the self-care needs of mothers, the essential practice of self-care for dads often falls by the wayside. 

But parenthood is a shared journey, and one where both partners struggle as responsibilities, roles, schedules, relationships, and identities change. For that reason, it’s crucial to recognize that both moms and dads can struggle to prioritize their own well-being amidst the demands of family life. 

Dads, however, might find themselves facing unique challenges in embracing self-care. That could be because society places less importance on male mental health. There could also be a lack of awareness about what self-care truly entails and why it’s necessary. Or, absorbed messages around toxic masculinity might lead some men to feel that practicing self-care and investing in mental health makes them weak. Some might not buy into the idea of self-care practices assuming it’s fluffy or unnecessary. 

Let’s take a look at the results of neglecting mental wellness for a moment. Because refusing to invest in emotional wellbeing (or not having the awareness to kickstart these behaviours) often leads to unhealthy coping methods. 

Unhealthy Coping Methods To Watch For 

As mentioned, parenthood is often an incredibly stressful time. So much changes in such a short period of time (for both parents). The learning curve is steep and the stakes are high. When faced with stress or anxiety, men, just like anyone else, may resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms. These can include overworking, self medicating with alcohol, avoiding confrontation or difficult conversations, neglecting difficult tasks or putting off important decisions, disconnecting from friends or family, over-exercising, over-eating, isolating, or deferring parental duties to the mother due to a lack of confidence. 

These coping strategies, while initially providing a temporary escape, often lead to long-term consequences, impacting mental health and overall well-being. Plus, they avoid tackling the real issue at hand, kicking it down the road to solve later after it builds and becomes worse. 

Neglecting Self-Care: Consequences

There are so many reasons why dads need to practice proper self-care. For starters, dads, too, are susceptible to postpartum depression (PPD) and other mood disorders. Recognizing the signs and acknowledging emotional distress is powerful in addressing these challenges head-on. By fostering strong mental health, dads contribute not only to their personal well-being but also to the stability of the entire family unit.

That family unit is such a strong point against neglecting mental health. As parents, being a positive role model is paramount. Kids are always watching, internalizing, and copying. Not demonstrating the value of self-care to children can contribute to poor emotional management, lack of self-prioritization or self-esteem issues of their own. When dads do prioritize their mental and physical well-being though, they help to instill healthy habits that can benefit their children throughout their lives. 

Remember: a strong family foundation begins with the wellness of its individual members. Dads who practice self-care contribute to a healthier family dynamic, creating an environment that promotes understanding, communication, and resilience.

Effective self-care strategies for dads

Ok, so by now you’re sold on the idea that yes, both parents need to put an effort into feeling happy, balanced, and grounded. But how do you actually do that? Self-care doesn’t have to be any of those stereotypical things that first come to mind. (Nobody is prescribing a bubble bath or foot massage here.) 

Effective self-care strategies will vary from person to person and aren’t bound by gender. In other words, what will work for dads might be the same self-care strategies used by moms. If you’re stuck, here are a few practices to work into your day as a starting off point. 

  1. Quality Time with Friends

It may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but socializing is a powerful form of self-care. Spending time with friends allows dads to step outside their parental roles, be seen and heard, fulfill needs outside of their family structure, connect with peers, and share experiences, providing much-needed connection.

  1. Physical Activity

Regular exercise benefits both physical health and mental well-being. Choosing something you love will help make this feel like time in your day you look forward to rather than a chore. Whether it’s a jog, a gym session, or a team sport, physical activity releases endorphins, reducing stress and promoting overall mental clarity.

  1. Alone Time

Dads just like anyone need moments of solitude to recharge. That means quality alone time that has nothing to do with work, errands, or getting ahead on tasks. Whether it’s reading a book, listening to music, or simply enjoying some quiet time, carving out space for oneself fosters a sense of individual identity and rejuvenation.

  1. Quality Time with Partner

Maintaining a strong connection with one’s partner is integral to a healthy family life. That’s especially true considering that relationships can go through periods of difficulty and disconnection after kids come into the picture. This can look like a quiet morning coffee, 20 minutes of quality conversation before bed, or bonding over a nice dinner with the family. 

  1. Outdoor Activities

Spending time outdoors in nature is one of the best known and most effective ways to reduce stress. Being in nature, near a body of water or just getting a change in scenery helps reset the day and take necessary breaks away from stressors. Bonus points if you’re moving your body at the same time. Whether it’s a hike, run, or simply sitting by a river, this is likely the self-care you need. 

  1. Proper Sleep Hygiene

All the self-care in the world isn’t going to work if you’re not getting enough quality sleep. Parenthood can increase anxiety-related symptoms like insomnia, irritability or fatigue. One of the best ways to address these is to practice adequate sleep hygiene. That means establishing a consistent sleep routine and creating an environment that is conducive to a good night’s sleep. 

Self-care for dads isn’t a luxury, unnecessary frivolity, or a sign of weakness. Investing in emotional wellness and clarity prevents mental health issues from festering. It also demonstrates healthy habits to kids, helps maintain a strong relationship, and prevents one from leaning towards unhealthy coping mechanisms. If you need support getting your mental health to a place that supports—rather than takes away from—your quality of life (and your family’s!) reach out to The Perinatal Collective. Our team supports all parents, not just mothers, as they work toward a life that feels comfortable, peaceful, connected and strong. 

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About The perinatal collective

Welcome! So glad you're here. 

We're a team of mental health therapists across Canada with advanced education and experience in perinatal mental health, meaning you don't have to cross your fingers and hope that we understand how hard this stage can be.

We understand the nuances of the early stages of parenthood: how typical counselling strategies may not be relevant to parents with young kids, and how mental health challenges look different during this time.  

From deciding to have children, to navigating your journey through fertility, pregnancy, birth, postpartum, relationship changes, parenting, career demands and beyond, parenthood can be full with challenges.

Our goal is to help you manage the peaks and valleys of the entire journey, while staying connected to yourself, and feeling whole, along the way.