Most parents have what feels like hundreds of things to keep up with on a day-to-day basis. It can be easy to feel overwhelmed or stressed in the midst of taking care of children, household work and personal responsibilities.
It’s important for parents to know how to handle stress in a way that is healthy for them and their family. Continue reading for some help on identifying why you are stressed and how to properly deal with your anxiety.
1. Causes of Stress as a Parent
Parents often find themselves dealing with mental stress much more than physical stress. Under mental stress, you may find yourself anxious, fearful or rushed. These things can be caused by one (or more) of the following:
- Protective Instincts
- Relationship Demands
- Time Demands
A great first step to handle stress better is to identify what is making you stressed. Doing this will help you know how to either lessen or avoid stressors in your life.
2. Signs of Stress as a Parent
While parents may find themselves under mental stress, that stress can often result in physical problems. Over time, high stress can take a toll on the body.
You might be stressed if you are experiencing…
- Body Aches or Pains
- Crying More Often
- Disturbed Sleep
- Headaches or Migraines
- Loss of Appetite
If you notice any of these signs in your life, it may be a good time to evaluate if you are more stressed than normal. Keep track of these symptoms of stress by writing them down. This may help you discover what exactly is causing you to become stressed.
3. Unhealthy Ways Parents Handle Stress
Everyone deals with stress differently. Unfortunately, there are ways of dealing with stress that can lead to increased anxiety in the future and damaged relationships.
Here are a few ways of dealing with stress that you should avoid:
- Emotional/Angry Outburst. Even when you feel overwhelmed, sad or stressed, remember to respond to others in a way that is safe for them – and you. If you find this difficult, talk to someone for help.
- Smoking or Drinking Habits. We recently conducted a survey of college students. 74% of them reported that they smoke to reduce stress. Some parents may want to resort to smoking or drinking alcohol to relieve stress – especially if they have a history of doing so in the past. This is not safe for you (or your children).
- Unhealthy Eating. Slipping into a habit of eating unhealthy foods is also taxing on your physical health. It’s easy to swing by a fast food place when you are feeling rushed. Or perhaps you just want to eat a few more cookies for “comfort food.” Either way, it’s unhealthy to do so. Also, don’t skip eating meals. As a parent you’re very busy, but not too busy to stop taking care of your needs as well as your family’s.
- Withdrawal from People. It can be easy to bottle up your emotions, but over time that can just make the stress worse. Feeling the urge to withdrawal from the people around you – friends, spouse or children – will not help you handle stress; it can hurt both you and them.
4. How to Better Handle Stress as a Parent
Even if you feel stressed, it’s crucial that you do avoid handling it in an unhealthy (or unsafe) way. Instead, take a look at the ways to better handle stress as a parent, listed below:
Does clutter make you anxious? Can you focus on work if there is a pile of dishes in the sink? Cleanliness and organization can be essential to reducing stress. Here are a few ways to keep chaos at a minimum:
- Evaluate Your Lifestyle. First things first – look at everything that is currently on your plate. Are you overcommitted? Be honest – sometimes you aren’t, you just need to prioritize your tasks. If you find that you are taking on too much, however, see what things you may need to drop.
- Get Up 15 Minutes Earlier. You may be thinking, “Less sleep? That’s exactly what I don’t need!” But waking up earlier will help you feel more prepared for the day, instead of feeling rushed to get out the door.
- Keep the House in Order. Simply having a semi-clean house (c’mon – with kids, it will never be FULLY clean) can make all the difference. Make a weekly schedule to keep the house clean.
- Prioritize Your Tasks. Take a few minutes to list out everything you have to do in the week. You can’t easily do two things at once – so give each task a priority and put them in the order you plan to accomplish them.
- Write Down Everything. As a parent, you have enough to keep up with as it is. It might help to buy a planner to keep track of calendar appointments or any notes you may have. You can also try setting reminders or alarms on your phone!
Make Time For Relaxation
When we say to make time for relaxation, we do not mean spending a lot of time and money on unnecessary pampering. Life is busy, and we want to stay in the realm of realistic ways you can relax. Enjoy a day out with the children – to a park or museum. Schedule a babysitter to watch your children while you meet up with a friend for lunch. Think of small – but meaningful – ways you can take a break from the stress of everyday life.
Talk to Someone
Opening up to someone – your spouse or a close friend – can go a long way in reducing stress. Share what is making you stressed and, if you can, include them in trying to deal with the cause of your stress. You don’t have to worry about everything by yourself. Things often go much better when you have a friend by your side.
Other small things you can do to better manage stress:
- Breathe Deeply
- Drink More Water
- Listen to soft music
- Read a book
Remember, your life isn’t perfect. Take one step at a time toward handling stress in a healthy way. Start with something small that you can easily make time for, then progress to something larger. If you can, include your kids! Read them books at the end of the day, or organize the house with their help. Slowly but surely you will begin to reap the benefits of handling stress better.
Do you have a tactic for handling stress? Tell us in the comments below!