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The inspiration behind Salma's wellbeing packs

1 June 2022

Mum of four, Salma Nawaz, is a community representative on our Better Start Bradford Board. Salma knows what a struggle lockdown has been on many parents with young children, as her own mental health has suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Better Start Bradford started delivering activity packs for children, Salma was appreciative, however she also felt that it would be wonderful for parents to have their own wellbeing packs as so many parents were struggling to simply get through each day.

When Salma made the suggestion at a Better Stat Bradford Board meeting, we agreed that this would be a brilliant idea, so we made it happen!

In this blog Salma shares her inspiration behind the well-being packs and the impact COVID-19 has had on her mental health.

Salma’s Well-being Packs

When the January 2021 lockdown was announced, my eldest daughter and I started crying. She was desperate to be at school and I just knew how I had struggled to cope in the lockdown that began in March 2020 with four children under the age of 11. I physically thought I was having a panic attack as the last lockdown had such a huge impact on my mental health.

When the first lockdown happened, it was a novelty at first. The children were excited to be at home, we didn’t really go out, there was no routine and the children wanted to stay up until ‘stupid o’clock’.

The novelty of lockdown soon wore off!

The novelty soon wore off though. My husband works in the food industry so he was classed as a key worker and he was at work, while I was at home with the children. After a few weeks, the school started delivering a bit of work, but it was so difficult – they are all in different age groups, with different abilities and different needs and I was also still breastfeeding my youngest daughter.

I started to have panic attacks

When the children wanted to play outdoors, I had to tell them not to play with other children, which was hard. I would take them to Mira Shay and panic when they touched things like railings and handrails – it really was a vicious cycle of sanitise, ‘don’t touch that’, sanitise, ‘don’t go near that child’, sanitise. I was watching the news day in, day out and found it so overwhelming. I started to have panic attacks to the point where I didn’t leave the house for a few weeks. My husband did all of the shopping, so I didn’t have to go out and I found that lockdown completely drained me. I was literally exhausted trying to be everything to everyone.

I made a conscious decision to take some time for myself

I then made a conscious decision to take a little time for myself. I turned to my faith, prayed and read passages to calm me. I questioned why I was doing this to myself, why was I throwing myself into a situation of ‘what if’ all of the time? I started to do what I could with the schoolwork and gradually I started to pull myself out of my heightened state of anxiety.

During lockdown we received an activity pack from Better Start Bradford for the children, which was lovely. However, even doing those activities with the children at times felt overwhelming and it made me think how parents can possibly do things with their children if they are struggling mentally. There is a big expectation around improving outcomes for children, but how can you try to do that if you are not taking care of yourself?

I then suggested at a Better Start Bradford Board Meeting that it would be great for us to develop wellbeing packs for adults. The Vine Project had done some activity packs for children, but they had also included a couple of things for adults, such as a bath bomb and an adult colouring book.

The Board thought well-being packs for adults were a great idea

The Board thought it was a great idea and the Family and Community Engagement team went ahead and developed a winter well-being bag with a massage ball, adult colouring book and pens, hot chocolate sachet, a snack, Better Start Bradford pens, notepads, mental-health support numbers, self-help ideas plus some festive activities for children too.

From the feedback that we have had, families have loved the packs and have appreciated that their health and mental wellbeing is important too and to not be afraid to ask for help if they need it.

Parents shouldn't feel ashamed if they are struggling

I made a big decision in the last lockdown to contact my children’s school for help. As my husband is a key worker and I am also a carer for my mum, they have allowed our children to go to school – this has helped so much. The children are so happy to be back at school and it has made such a difference on my own mental health.

Parents shouldn’t feel ashamed if they are struggling. No-one out there has got it all together all the time and everyone’s challenges are different, just try and take a little time out for yourself and do something you enjoy.

Salma’s Self-Help Wellbeing Tips

Here are the things that have helped me – they might seem small, but they have made a huge difference to my wellbeing:

  • Have a soak in a lovely warm bath
  • Go for a walk just to get some fresh air and to free your mind – there are some lovely parks in Bradford
  • Do an exercise class for yourself – there are loads online on YouTube
  • Do a pedicure
  • Do a face mask
  • Keep a little journal – try find something positive in every day and write it down
  • Start reading a book – even if you just manage a chapter every other day
  • Have a virtual cuppa with a friend via your mobile or on Zoom