As parents, we always have a lot on our plate, from juggling childcare and homework to kids’ parties and activities. However, add in a job, relationships, and finances, and things can start to get stressful. Even if your job is great, your relationships are blooming and you’ve got your finances in check, there are still many aspects to your life demanding your attention.
Stress is unavoidable in modern life. In fact, some stress is necessary for health- it keeps us going and non-complacent. However, when we have many plates spinning at once, we can become overwhelmed. In this blog, we explore a range of top tips on how to cope with parenting stress, and the demands of daily life.
How can you address parenting stress?
In order for us to be the best possible parents that we can we have to look at our own issues first. If that is mental health then we have to make that Dr’s appointment, look for counselling or support groups if needed. It’s important for parents to be interdependent – when they can realise that they cannot do everything themselves and encourage them to seek help and support in the community that they are a part of.
By modelling this to our children we can already sow the seed of thought that it is OK to ask for help and talk about problems. We need to show it is ok for us to have a bad day and for us as adults to feel frustrated, we are showing we are only human. If we shout at our children because of stress brought on by our own issues,
It is ok to say “sorry I should not have spoken to you like that I have had a bad day at work etc. but there was no need to take my frustration out on you”. This is showing we do have stress in our life and as a parent/adult we don’t get it right all of the time.
How stress shows up in the body
Stress causes a myriad of physical effects in the body- some of which you might recognise as problems you struggle with. They include:
- stomach problems
- trouble concentrating
- muscle tension
- skin irritation
- teeth grinding
- frequent colds
- muddled thinking.
What are the long-term effects of stress?
Ongoing chronic stress can have a range of effects on the body. It can result in mental health problems such as anxiety or depression, and affect the heart, causing high blood pressure. Obesity can also occur through stress-eating, and a range of stomach problems such as acid reflux and gastritis can arise. Acne, eczema and hair loss can also be due to an overload of stress.
So how can I cope with parenting stress?
The number 1 thing you can do to reduce stress is to make your mental health your priority. This means putting your wellbeing first, and saying no to commitments that take too much out of you. It also means making time for activities that you enjoy, and finding time to relax, in order to bring balance to the stress in your life. Here are other, more specific ways to reduce stress in the body:
Self care for parents
It can be hard for stressed parents to find time and headspace for themselves. The following are some easy ideas to build this important time in your day:
1) Get out in the fresh air
Aim for a little every day, and try to pay attention to your surroundings. Go for a wander through the local park and notice the sound of the birds singing. You could even go for a 20 minute jog. The combination of exercise and fresh air releases dopamine, the happy chemical, in your brain.
2) Stretch it out
Take little breaks when you can to stretch your body in any way it feels good. Stretching releases tension in the muscles and helps calm the mind. There are a number of stretching tutorials on YouTube.
3) Get organised
If you feel like life is spinning away from you, try getting organised. This might include noting dates of commitments on the calendar or even merely tidying up your home. Being in a clutter-free environment helps calm your mind and body, and you can relax knowing your life is in order.
4) Write it down
Got too much on your mind? Make a list of it all. It might sound insignificant, but getting all of your concerns out of your head and down on paper helps empty a busy brain. When you can see all of your stresses in a list, you may wish to think of steps to take to eliminate some of the worries. This can make you feel more in control and at peace.
Laughter actually increases blood flow and makes you feel happier. If you can’t arrange a meet up with your friends, plonk yourself on the sofa and enjoy an evening of comedy shows or movies.
6) Listen to music
Play your favourite songs, and sing along if you want to. Creating your own feelgood playlist of songs that always cheer you up is a great way to ensure you always have happy tunes at hand.
7) Try new activities
Variety is the spice of life, and giving new hobbies a spin is a fun way to relax. Perhaps give cooking a new recipe a try, or check out a local fitness class. Activities like learning a new language or skill also help boost your self-esteem.
8) Deep breathing
Take a few minutes a day to devote to calming deep breathing. Try our box breathing animated video, which you can do alone or with your kids. Deep, slow breaths induce the release of endorphins- the brain’s natural pain reliever.
You can easily do deep breathing anywhere. Either sit or lay down and place one hand on your stomach, the other on your chest. Slowly and deeply breathe in to feel your stomach rise, and lower as you release the breath. Continue for up to 10 minutes.
9) Take time out for yourself every day
Even if it means setting the alarm half an hour before the children wake so that we are organised and calm when they get up.
10) Talk to friends
Have a long list of friends and people that we can go to for different things so that we do not feel that we are a burden to just one person.
If you feel overwhelmed
If you find yourself struggling with stress, you can either speak to your GP or self-refer to a counselling service.
This blog originally appeared on DAD.Info.