While parenthood is filled with all kinds of special joys, it can also take a toll on your mental health. Parenting is one of the most stressful things that adults can do, and when you combine that with all your other responsibilities like a career, a marriage, caring for aging parents, hobbies, friends and more, it’s easy to get stressed out and frustrated. The sooner you learn to recognize true stress in your life and how it is affecting you, the sooner you’ll be able to develop coping strategies to minimize it.
Stress is Bad For Your Health
The body is conditioned to respond to danger in the environment by triggering physical responses like a rapid heartbeat, fast breathing, and panicked thoughts. In modern times, an adult’s stress response can also be triggered when there’s no actual danger. You may feel the symptoms of stress in some situations and not in others, while another parent may be completely opposite.
Too much stress can lead to chronic health conditions like headaches, stomach cramps, hypertension, depression and anxiety. It can also cause existing physical issues to worsen, like asthma, insomnia and more. That’s why it is so important for parents with kids of all ages to get a handle on their stress levels and do what it takes to alleviate it as much as they can.
New Parents Are Especially Vulnerable
When it comes to managing stress levels, new parents haven’t had as much experience in dealing with all that an infant can bring into their lives. Because new parents are solely responsible for their new child, they can be consumed with unhealthy stress and anxiety. After all, new parents are faced with
reduced mobility, limited free time, and often experience increasing isolation and loneliness. There’s no doubt that adding a child to the family can cause more and more stress.
Parenting Young Children Isn’t Easy
Caring for young toddlers and elementary-aged children gets a little easier physically, thanks to potty training and their ability to play. However, it’s at this point in time where parents put a lot of stress on themselves about their children’s emotional and mental development responsibilities.
Often, parents can feel guilty about not making the right decisions for their son or daughter or they may worry about what others parents are doing or thinking, especially about them. Chronic stress can also be triggered in parents when they are faced with all kinds of decisions they’ve never thought about before, from how and when to bring in electronic devices into the home to dealing with bullies.
Older Kids and Teens Create New Challenges
As challenging as younger children are to parent, it’s the older kids and teens that really cause some stress. Parents want their teens to gain the skills they need to launch into the world, but yet remain protective over them. This push and pull from both parents and teens can trigger arguments, resentment, misbehavior and more. While it’s normal for teens to start to grow more emotionally distant from their parents, it’s still a source of stress on both sides. Dealing with older kid and teen transitions is not an easy thing to do.
One recent source of stress on the parenting front is technology, social media and gaming systems. Overall lack of knowledge and training on all these mediums make it harder for parents to stay up to date on what their kids are doing and saying. All too often, they are unaware of all the different products and apps their kids are using.
Ways to Minimize Stress With Kids At Any Age
Parents need to make the time for some self-care, and that means getting a handle on any sources of stress with their kids. The secret is to make sure you get the time you need to recharge and indulge in the things you like once in a while. It’s far too easy to devote all your time and energy to kids, but when parents are running ragged and exhausted, nothing is getting done very well and everyone in the family suffers.
Here are 10 simple ideas for parents to nourish their own mental health and find some ways to de-stress so they can be better parents, spouses and employees:
- Commit to regular exercise, even if it’s just a 15 minute walk every day.
- Meditate or practice mindfulness exercises like breathing or visualization.
- Indulge in a healthy snack in a quiet location.
- Listen to some soothing music that slows the heart rate and lowers blood pressure.
- Keep a journal to preserve thoughts and feelings in the moment.
- Do something creative, whether it’s a craft or a home improvement project.
- Step away from electronics like smart phones and computer screens.
- Spend time with friends and leave the kids at home with a sitter.
- Make date night a priority with a significant other.
- Do something that causes laughter, like a funny movie, comedy show or a light-hearted book.
The bottom line is that you don’t really have a choice when it comes to encountering parental stress—it’s part of the job description. However, how you handle the stress is completely up to you. Instead of getting frazzled and physically sick due to stress, choose to combat it in the best ways possible. With plenty of self-care and support from friends and extended family members, you can discover new and effective ways to beat stress and embrace each new phase of your parenting life.
We would love to share all the awesome things we’ve learned from Dr. West and Dr. Latham! Sign up for our FREE newsletter to have a hands-on learning experience every week!