Managing stress as a busy parent

November 5, 2021 • Lewis Goldsbury

Raising children can be one of the greatest jobs on earth but no one said it was easy. For many, life as a parent is stressful. There’s no handbook to read or course to pass. It’s working out how to look after your children whilst juggling many other aspects of life at the same time. As a society, we have normalised parental stress. If you ask other parents, they’ll tell you that sleepless nights and dark circles come with the job. But while stress may be the norm, it isn’t something we have to accept. So let’s look at some techniques for managing stress as a busy parent.

What is stress?

Stress is the body’s reaction to feeling threatened or under pressure. Our bodies are naturally programmed to respond to any challenges or uncertainties we face in our environment. It’s actually necessary for our survival! With that in mind, it’s important to have a healthy dose of stress in your life.

Stress becomes unhealthy however when it begins to affect our mood, wellbeing and body. It can sometimes make situations worse, preventing us from thinking rationally and solving issues. This can creep into our work, home life, friendships, romantic relationships and most importantly, our physical and mental health. When managing stress becomes a chronic issue, it can even cause anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Stress at this level isn’t good for anyone. Yet, as a parent, you have the responsibility of your children to take care of as well as yourself, so not letting stress consume you is all the more important. Ever heard the saying, ‘you can’t pour from an empty cup’?

What is parental stress?

Some would say that there is stress and then there’s parental stress. The duty of looking after another person adds pressure to day-to-day life.

Parental stressors are anything that stops parents from keeping their children safe, happy and healthy. Whether it’s money, illness, lack of time or exposure to an unsafe environment, there are lots of factors that can weigh parents down and affect their ability to cope with day-to-day life.

It doesn’t help that children are like sponges – they pick up on everything! You may start to notice your stress affecting your little one’s behaviour or see your bad mood reflected in their eyes. Interestingly, increased child behaviour problems is the most common result of parental stress and, in the worst cases, can even lead to the development of depression or other mood disorders later in life.

As a busy parent, you may be feeling day-to-day stress, parental stress – or in some cases, a combination of the two. But by learning helpful stress management techniques, you can try to bring a little peace back into your life. Calming your mind and body can help you tackle any problems that might come your way. Plus, learning ways of managing your stress will help you regain control and lead to a happier family life.

Stress management tips for parents

Though stress isn’t exactly something we will ever learn to fully control, we can control how we respond to it.

Plan for the day ahead

Try and make the most out of the time you have. Think about the most stressful moments in the day and think about how you can make them less stressful. Take the school run for example. Try packing school lunches and setting out uniforms the night before. This will save you some precious moments, as we all know how slow kids can be in the mornings!

You could also try planning out your entire week in advance. There are plenty of family calendars out there to help keep track of everything from after-school activities and doctor’s appointments to parent’s evenings. If you’re looking to keep track of your schedule when you’re out and about, go digital. Try TimeTree, a family calendar app that allows you to set reminders, record goals and share your calendar with the whole family. That way, you never miss out on the big or small moments. Think of it as a personal social media platform for your family.

Sweat the stress away

Rest is often sold as the answer to relaxation, hence the cliché ‘rest and relaxation’. But physical exercise can in fact be the key to finding a sense of calm again.

Exercise stimulates the release of endorphins, chemicals that elevate the mood and act as natural painkillers. A workout could be exactly what you need to lift your spirits and take your mind off your troubles. Not to mention, exercise reduces levels of adrenaline and cortisol, hormones that trigger stress and anxiety.

We know what you’re thinking… you barely have time to breathe – where are you going to find time to go to the gym?! If there’s no way of squeezing in a spin class or a jog, try picking an activity that you can do with the whole family such as swimming or cycling. Pretty much any form of physical activity will help with managing stress from the outside in.

Talk with other parents

As a parent, it’s easy to get wrapped up in family life, but it’s important to have a strong support system away from home as well. Talking with other parents will help you realise that you’re not alone. Lots of parents experience stress and some may be able to offer you relevant advice and support.

Talking about your troubles can help you to gain an objective perspective. This is referred to as ‘cognitive reappraisal’. In simple terms, cognitive reappraisal is about changing the way you see a situation and its emotional impact. This could even help you put a positive spin on a situation that you may not have been able to see before. Studies show that cognitive reappraisal helps reduce depressive symptoms and increases levels of positive affect.

Remember to laugh!

Sometimes, it’s the oldest advice that’s the most effective. When was the last time you found yourself in stitches?

Laughter has numerous benefits and a good giggle can leave your muscles relaxed for up to three-quarters of an hour. It also strengthens your immune system and reduces pain, whilst helping to boost your mood. Laughter does wonders for the mind, body and spirit – and for managing stress.

Being a parent is an overwhelming job, so don’t beat yourself up if you’re not always feeling your most ‘zen’ self. Stress management takes a lot of internal (and external) work and patience.

There will always be something to worry about, and unfortunately, one of the biggest worries for most parents today is money. 43% of parents say they are struggling to make ends meet. And trying to find the cash to replace a large appliance can seem like an impossible task for many families. That’s why we offer flexible repayment plans for all your home essentials – giving you one less thing to worry about. Contact our team to find out how we can help your family today.

Remember, if managing stress is seriously affecting your quality of life, it’s always best to seek advice from your GP. We have also sign-posted some helpful organisations below that you can turn to if you need support with your mental health:

  • Samaritans – there to provide emotional support if you are experiencing distress or despair. You can contact a Samaritan in a way that suits you, as they offer their services over the phone, email or face-to-face. You can even write a letter.
  • Mind – a charity that provides information and signposting services. Call or email their Infoline to discuss your treatment options and where you can get this help.
  • Mental Health & Money Advice – whether your financial debt is impacting your mental health, or your mental illness means that you are struggling to cope with your finances, Mental Health & Money Advice are always available to help. They can give you clear, practical advice and support.
  • SHOUT – a 24/7 text service that is free on any major mobile network. This is the best service to turn to if you need immediate help from a trained volunteer.

And don’t forget to keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram pages for wellness tips to keep you in balance every Wednesday.

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This entry was posted in Health and Wellness
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