Recognizing and Managing Stress for Parents

Stress is an unavoidable part of life. Parents can experience stress related to a variety of situations. These situations can be ordinary, such as getting your children to school on time or rushing home from work to make dinner. On the other hand, they can be extreme, such as facing a serious illness or financial difficulties. Since stress can cause physical, emotional, and mental health issues if not well managed, it is important for parents to learn how to recognize and find ways to deal with stress.

How to Recognize Stress

Reflect and identify what causes you to feel stressed. Do you feel stressed in situations related to family, health, finances, work, or other situations?

Know your signs of stress. Everyone experiences signs of stress in different ways. Which of the following symptoms do you experience when you feel stress?

  • Headaches, muscle tension, neck or back pain
  • Upset stomach
  • Dry mouth
  • Chest pains, rapid heartbeat
  • Difficulty falling or staying asleep
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite or overeating
  • Lack of concentration or focus
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety

Reflect on and identify how you deal with stress. Determine if you turn to unhealthy behaviors to cope with stress, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, or overeating. Do these behaviors happen often or only during certain events or situations?

How to Manage Stress

Take care of yourself. It can be hard to find time for yourself when you are a parent, but it is important to take time for yourself, even if it is just a few minutes a day.

Try different stress-reducing activities. These activities can include meditation, yoga, taking a short walk, reading, or talking about your concerns with friends or family. Everyone manages stress in his or her own way, and you may have to try a few activities to see which ones work best for you.

Spend quality time with your family. Find activities that your family enjoys doing together. Take a walk or hike, have a family game night, or go to the movies.

Focus on changing only one behavior at a time. Unhealthy behaviors that develop because of stress can be difficult to change. Instead of making several changes at one time, focus on one behavior you would like to change or improve.

Reach out for support. Accepting help from supportive friends and family can improve your ability to manage stress. If you continue to feel overwhelmed by stress, you may want to talk to a doctor or psychologist, who could help you manage your stress and change unhealthy behaviors.

References:

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Managing stress for a healthy family. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/managing-stress.aspx

American Psychological Association. (n.d.). Five tips to help manage stress. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/manage-stress.aspx

Additional Resources:

THRIVE Initiative. (2018). Breathe to THRIVE. Mindful Strategies for You and Your Child. Retrieved from https://thrive.psu.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Breathe-to-THRIVE-FINAL-web.pdf

Child Development Institute. (n.d.). Stress Management for Parents. Retrieved from https://childdevelopmentinfo.com/family-living/stress

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