Being a parent is a demanding job. When you're responsible for another human being and you never get a day off, parental stress can seem par for the course. In the moments where you feel overwhelmed, it can seem hard to come up for air - but you're not alone. You can do this. Not only are there are some easy and effective ways to cope with parenting stress, but these tips can actually help to prevent your feelings of anxiety from surfacing altogether.
What Causes Parental Stress?
Parenting stress is a physical, emotional, or mental strain that arises when a parent feels they cannot effectively manage their duties as a mom or dad. Science suggests that this can be because of a lack of resources, an overloaded schedule, trouble with finances, or a family transition. The daily pressures of everyday life and raising your children can also lead to parenting stress. If you are a single parent or have a child with an illness or behavioral issues, it can cause these feelings of inadequacy to be worse. While stress is a normal part or parenting, it can cause intense anxiety, depression, and mood swings. It can also affect your sleep and your overall health.
How to Handle Parenting Stress
How do you handle this pressure to perform? First, you need to regain control of your emotions. When you feel a breakdown bubbling up, take a step back. Go outside for five minutes to regroup.
One of the best techniques for clearing your head and lowering your stress is engaging in a ten-minute mindfulness meditation. What does it mean to be mindful? This term refers to a state of awareness where a person focuses on the present and reminds themselves that they can only control what is happening to them right now. You cannot change the past and you cannot control others. Once you have calmed down, you can better assess the problem at hand and come up with a way to deal with the issue.
Unfortunately, parenting stress can resurface when you least expect it. If you find these moments of anxiety becoming more frequent, then it might be time to change how you parent. This doesn't mean altering your parenting style, but rather, your perspective and expectations surrounding parenting.
Nine Techniques for Reducing Parental Stress in Your Life
If you're looking to make a change, then check out these actionable ways to cope with parenting stress. These may help reduce and even potentially eliminate it.
1. Take Things Day by Day
Parenting is a marathon, not a sprint. Every day, week, month, and year, there will be hurdles that you have to face and there's no way to know where your road might take you. One of the best ways to cope with parenting stress is to make a list of daily goals and focus on those tasks. Prioritize what matters most. Tomorrow can wait. Center your attention on today.
2. Start Each Day Off Right
Whether you're a stay-at-home parent or you work full time, it's important to greet the day in a positive way. When you wake up, get dressed and make your bed. Take five minutes to stretch, meditate, or do some deep breathing exercises. Accomplishing these little tasks can help motivate you to take on the day. People stress the most when they have a negative mindset. If you start your day off with little moments of productivity and positivity, you can create a snowball effect.
3. Get Off of Social Media
Facebook and Instagram show us a picture-perfect world - one that sets an impossible-to-reach bar. This is especially true during the holidays when those pristine images of people's families land in your feed. Let's be real here - that's not real life. That one picture probably took 100 takes and the photographer likely spent a whole lot of time in photoshop. If you are a parent, your world is messy! That is normal.
Unfortunately, in your moments of chaos, it's hard to remember that these posts aren't reality. If you don't feel you are living up to your parenting potential, get off of social media. Research shows that by comparing yourself to others on social networking platforms it can lead to "higher levels of parental role overload" and "higher levels of maternal depression."
This also applies to your child. Every person is different and every child will reach milestones at different times. Little Janey can talk as much as she wants. Your Johnny will talk when he is ready. Don't let anyone ever make you feel like your child isn't where they are supposed to be or that you are not doing a good job.
4. Set Boundaries and Take 'Me' Time
Balance is a necessary part of life. You can't do everything all the time: it's impossible. One of the most effective ways to cope with parental stress is to get better at saying the word 'no.'
If work is bogging you down, set a meeting with your boss to discuss reasonable cut-off times for your workday. If you have too many tasks on your plate at home, talk to your spouse about pitching in more around the house. If your mother-in-law in hounding you about a visit, tell her when it is best for you, not the other way around.
Most importantly, designate a time for you. This can be for 30 minutes each day or two nights per week, but make regular time in your schedule for yourself. During these time frames, no one is to bug you unless there is an emergency. Your spouse or someone else is in charge of the kids and you are free to see friends, take a walk, or watch a movie. This can allow you to detox from a rough day, relax, and recharge for tomorrow. Also, plan regular date nights to reconnect with your spouse and fun excursions with the kids. Parenting should not feel like work all the time. Enjoy some time with your kids!
5. Set a Schedule
All parents know naptimes are sacred. However, as your kids get older, routines sometimes seem to fall by the wayside. If you want to avoid parenting stress, then bring a planner back into rotation or print out a planning chart. Creating a schedule for each week can ensure that surprises are kept to a minimum and that you stay on top of your tasks for work and the home. This can also keep you stay on top of your kid's extracurriculars and even allow you to find time to squeeze in a date night with your spouse.
6. Prioritize Tasks That Will Make Tomorrow Easier
Yes, you probably need to vacuum, but the world won't come crumbling down if you don't. However, if you run out of baby bottles, you may come to regret not doing the dishes. One of the best ways to cope with parenting stress is to stay on top of mandatory tasks. This should be a short list - with essential things like clean baby bottles, food for lunches, and making sure the clothes get washed and dried. If you're feeling overwhelmed, leave unnecessary to-dos for tomorrow.
7. Work Smarter, Not Harder
It's amazing how quickly you run out of things when you have kids in the house. Shopping takes time and it can be quite the task with young kids tagging along. Save yourself the time and the headache - order your food through various grocery delivery apps like Favor and Instacart. Stores like H-E-B also have their own apps for ordering their products. This allows you to shop when it is most convenient for you and you can pick it up curbside or have it delivered right to your door.
Consider setting up subscriptions for supplies like pet food, water, coffee and tea, diapers, and razors. This guarantees that you never forget to add these items to the list, reducing parenting stress. Plus, you'll save yourself some money in the long run!
8. Always Ask for These Two Things as Gifts
No matter if you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, or a birthday, if someone asks what you would like as a gift, the answer is quite simple - babysitters and gift cards to restaurants. These gifts can allow you to skip making dinner or give you a night off altogether. Either way, it simplifies tasks and gives you more time to focus on what matters.
9. Don't Stress Over Dinner
We all want our kids to eat well-rounded, home-cooked meals, but who really has the time to do this task every single day? Meal prep can be a good solution, but again, you need the time to complete the prep every week. For the truly busy parents who find themselves overwhelmed with completing this never-ending task, start using some simple hacks to invest in healthy meals that require little to no effort.
For instance, Costco is famous for their rotisserie chicken at an affordable price tag. You can easily shred this up and throw it into pasta and salads or you can serve it plain. Veggies Made Great is a brand that uses healthy ingredients to craft quick and easy meals. They use recognizable ingredients, their products are high in protein and vegetables, and they are effortless to make. Looking for quality products that can limit your cooking and cleaning times is a great way to lower your parenting stress.
Healthy Habits Can Reduce Your Parenting Stress
Children mimic what they see. If you take the time to care for yourself, both physically and mentally, your children will follow suit. This will not only limit your stress levels, but it can also make parenting easier. So get a good rest each night, eat healthy meals, and exercise each day. Drink plenty of water and soak up some sunshine. Meditate. Ask for help when you need it. Let go of the little things and focus on what matters!