If you are a parent and you or your partner has a job, chances are you feel stressed. On the surface, being stressed out and feeling rushed and under pressure may seem the norm of modern life. But the effects of stress on a person’s body should be a wake-up call to fight back.
Stress symptoms can further complicate and exacerbate other health issues. And create new ones, such as headaches, insomnia, and more. But the effects do not stop there. When parents are stressed out, children pick up on it too. So stress can cause your parenting skills to deteriorate, along with how much quality time you spend with your children.
How can working parents, or any parent for that matter, protect their family life from the negative effects of stress and work pressure? Here are a few moves to consider:
- List your stress triggers.
Was is it saying yes to that extra thing at work? Or agreeing to bake cookies for that weekend mommy group you got roped into? As things come up in your day and throughout your week, turn off your automatic “yes” and carefully consider if you are agreeing to too much. Perhaps you love to bake, so the cookies are not a big deal. But if you are a perfectionist, and you know you will not have time to give it the focused attention that will meet your standards, just say no. Learn to question yourself when people ask you to do things. “Will this cause me to feel stressed? Am I okay with accepting the stress this will bring into my life.” Be realistic and count the cost.
- Know who to turn to for help.
Some things are unavoidable. Tasks at work that the boss asks you to handle that are within your work mandate. Mandatory PTA meetings. Doctors’ appointments. When our load gets too large for a single person to reasonably handle, you need to know where to turn for help. Have a list of names that are your support network whom you can turn to for that extra babysitting hour. Siblings, parents, best friends… Understand, too, that for relationships like this to work, the giving must go both ways. When things slow down for you, make sure to reinvest into your relationship with that person who helped you out.
- Vent to the right person.
Even if we are saying no to the non-essentials and getting help from our support network, that does not guarantee a perfect family life. Children will have behavioral issues as a part of their development. And parents go through their own share of growing as they learn how to handle and support their children. For some parents, parenting counseling is key to alleviating the mental worry that comes with the job of parenthood. Other parents might make do with venting to an experienced parent. Just be careful not to strain your relationship with other parents or friends by over focusing on your problems to the neglect of their needs. This is where talking to a professional provides you with a safe space to air out all your concerns.
- Schedule in fun.
Having fun is often pushed aside in favor of cleaning the house or any other number of seemingly more important things. If you can’t think of the last time you truly enjoyed your children, then it has been too long. Play as a family. Go to the park. Watch a movie together, with all the smartphones in the next room. Do karaoke, or enter a singing contest. Pencil an event into your calendar that you can all look forward to.
Most important of all, know what helps you slow down and relax. Working to eliminate stress might not come naturally at first and may feel like work. But if you keep de-stressing as a goal, your health and family life will improve.