How to reduce stress
Simple, proven ways for parents to manage stress.
Being a parent can bring with it a rollercoaster of feelings – from happiness and love to worry and fear and back again. It’s anything but stress-free!
Stress happens to everyone and is a normal human reaction. A small amount of stress can even be useful in our daily lives – it helps us to focus and be productive. But stress can be harmful when it gets too much or goes on for too long, leading to exhaustion and burnout.
Many of life’s demands can cause stress, like work, relationships and juggling being a parent. When you feel stressed, it can get in the way of dealing with these demands and can affect everything you do. You can begin to feel stressed with even the simplest of tasks.
The first step to reducing stress? Try to be kind to yourself. Recognize that parenting is hard and there’s no such thing as a “perfect” parent. Taking time for yourself isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity. When we take care of ourselves, we can better take care of our children as well.
Recognize the signs of stress
We can’t avoid stress completely, but there are ways to stop it from becoming overwhelming. Stress affects people in different ways. Feeling overwhelmed, increased anxiety, irritability, and fatigue are some of the effects that people experience.
Try to recognize the signs that you need a break and take steps to stop stress before it builds up – a short walk, a cup of tea or a breathing exercise can really make a difference. By doing so, you’re helping bring your body back into balance and preventing stress from building up, which can lead to burnout.
> Learn more: What is stress?
What to do if you get angry
If you ever feel yourself getting angry, step away and take 20 seconds to cool down. Breathe in and out slowly 5 times before you speak or move. If you can, go somewhere else for 5-10 minutes to regain control of your emotions.
What is burnout?
One of the negative consequences of accumulated stress is burnout. Burnout is a state of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion that results from prolonged exposure to stressors or situations that are emotionally demanding. It is emotional exhaustion.
Burnout includes many symptoms that can be both physical and emotional, such as:
- Feeling tired most of the time
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Reduced performance
- Concentration and memory problems
- Inability to make decisions
- Muscle tension
- Getting sick more often, frequent headache or upset stomach
- Loss of empathy
If you relate to any of these symptoms, it could be a sign that you may be on the verge of burning out or being burned out. It is a sign that it’s time to pause, seek support from those around you, and focus on self-care. If you feel that you need further support, do not hesitate to reach out to a professional who can help you to prioritize self-care and explore how to manage stress.
Relaxation techniques for parents
Your breathing affects your whole body. When you feel stressed or worried, your body can become tense and your breathing speeds up. You can use breathing techniques to help you calm down. It can be very helpful to spend two to three minutes breathing deeply a couple of times a day to help you feel calm.
These exercises can be done anywhere, anytime.
Try to breathe in slowly and deeply to fill your lungs with air. Then breathe out slowly and fully. You can count to five on each inhale and exhale to help you breathe slowly. Try practicing this for two to three minutes. If you are doing this with your children, explain that when they inhale, they are blowing up their tummy softly like a balloon, and when they exhale the air is going slowly out of the balloon again.
Listen to your breath
It can be helpful to listen to your breath as the air goes in and out. You can put a hand on your stomach and feel it rise and fall with each breath. Listen to your breath for a while.
Add gentle movement
Drop your hands below your waist and keep your palms facing up. Slowly raise your hands as you breathe in through your nose. Stop when your hands are about shoulder level. Slowly lower your hands as you breathe out through your mouth.
The importance of self-care
Self-care is any activity that we do intentionally in order to take care of our mental, emotional and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept, it’s something we can often overlook.
Good self-care is key to an improved mood and reduced anxiety. A self-care activity can be as simple as taking the time to enjoy a cup of tea, listen to your favourite music or go outside for a walk. Think about some simple activities that re-energize you.
Self-care needs to be something you actively plan, rather than something that just happens. Add certain activities to your calendar, announce your plans to others in order to increase your commitment, and actively look for opportunities to practice self-care. See if you can incorporate self-care activities into your day with the support of those around you.
Self-care is key to preventing burnout!
> Read: How mental health experts practice self-care in their families
Positivity, problem-solving and play
When you are facing challenging times, it can be difficult to feel hopeful that things can improve. But it is important to remind yourself that you do have control over different aspects of your life and that you can bring about change. When we feel hopeful, it helps us to focus on change, look to the future, and actively look for solutions to the difficulties we may face.
If you are facing a problem, try to write down as many ways of overcoming it as you can. Then think about the pros and cons of each solution and which ones would be easier to put into practice. Sometimes you will need to try more than one solution. If a problem seems too big to take on, try breaking it down into smaller tasks to make it more manageable.
It is important to remember that you are not alone and that others can play an important role in helping us. Don’t wait to ask others for help if you are feeling overwhelmed. Speak to a friend or family member who can support. Try to find ways to include your children in age-appropriate tasks around the home – it can be a great way to connect, help children develop skills and take some of the pressure off you.
Playing with your children is a proven way to relieve stress. Whether it’s playing a game, dancing or singing together, when you’re enjoying fun moments and laughing together, your body releases endorphins that promote a feeling of well-being. Even short periods of play can help remind adults of their ability to support their child, as well as provide a happy distraction from whatever else is on your mind.
Don’t hesitate to seek professional help
If you are finding it difficult to cope, consider meeting with a trained expert who can help. Your family doctor or a counsellor should be able to advise you on your options, such as time with a psychologist who helps people to manage stress and establish positive mental health habits.
Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. If stress is affecting your life, then it is important to get help as soon as possible, so you can start feeling better.
Remember that children look up to adults, so taking steps to manage stress sets a positive example for how your children should take care of themselves now and in the future.
Developed with support from LEGO Foundation.