STRESS. Short word, big impact. Especially among parents. For working parents, stress means juggling deadlines from demanding bosses, handling tasks that keep coming beyond office hours, even as they struggle to raise a family. Mind you, a stay-at-home parent also works round the clock: cooking, cleaning, disciplining, making sure the kids get along most of the time while getting the chores done take all day and almost all night. Staying at home and staying sane isn’t a breeze either.
Is stress all bad? Not really. We all need a certain amount of stress – good stress that can motivate us to do the things we’re supposed to do.
Bad stress is the kind that makes you feel exhausted all day, you feel drained and unable to cope. This happens when you have too much stress, for too long. In fact, you can get so overwhelmed, that you no longer look forward to seeing your child. You want to stay away, keep a distance from your child as much as possible. Parenting feels like a burden. If this is isn’t bad enough, you might even physically hurt your child at the slightest provocation. You’re no longer the parent you wanted to be.
What can you do to reduce stress?
Be mindful of your stressors.
A lot of stress has to do with what goes on in our heads about how things will work out next year, in five years, in ten years. We worry how that child is going to turn out, if we’re going to do better the following year, if there will be a bumper crop next year. Because we are so focused on the “might-be’s” of tomorrow, we tend to notice less the blessings we have now. In truth, nobody knows if they will have another day in their life. So be present, and make the best of today despite circumstances.
Take short but regular breaks.
A parent once complained to me, “I’m so exhausted, I haven’t had a vacation in years.” But you don’t have to wait for a long vacation to take a break. A break could be a short 5-minute power nap or a long hot bath or 7 mins talking to your favourite plant. But do it anyway. The keyword here is SELF-CARE. Self-care is critical for parents, and as parents we are so good at sacrificing our needs to prioritise others including work. If this is true of you, know that nobody is indispensable at work. If something happens to you tomorrow, your boss, your supervisor will still find someone to do the job.
Share your concerns with a trusted person.
The idea here is not to expect that person to solve your problems. Rather, talking to a trusted someone helps clarify your thoughts, helps you see options and a possible way out. Most of our problems can be resolved if we take the time to clear our thinking to see through the mist, and take steps to unravel the knot bit by bit.
Start a gratitude journal. At least once a day, write down 3-5 things you’re grateful for. Note the date. I had a hearty breakfast. The children are safe. Everyone has clean clothes to wear. It was a smooth train ride to work this morning. Anything that makes you notice what went well that day. And when you’re feeling low, re-read these notes to remind you that no matter what, there’re things that will go right.
When you feel better, come up with a strategy. If there’re external factors causing your stress e.g. relationship issues, or money issues, draw up a plan. Plan your work and work your plan, but be flexible along the way. Take a deep breath when things don’t happen the way you planned it. Think of another way to get things done which may still bring you closer to the desired outcome. No matter how difficult a situation you’re in, there’s always a way out.
As parents, how we carry ourselves, the kind of interactions we have with our children will colour their lives today and in the future. We lead our children all the time, through our words, actions and decisions. Nobody is a perfect parent, but by being mindful of what we say and do, we can motivate, encourage and inspire our children to be the best they can be.
Featured image courtesy of Alain Audet from Pixabay