| || |
As parents, we already face so many demands in time, energy and finances. Most Americans today are facing the additional stressors of a declining economy and the residual affects this has on being able to provide the best for your family. In my neighborhood alone, several families are experiencing home foreclosures, the decreased ability to buy needed products for their kids, rising food and gas costs which ultimately limit or eliminate typical family luxuries. All of these impending stressors can strain relationships, increase symptoms of depression and anxiety and in some severe cases promote family conflicts.
When parents feel stress, kids absorb it. Your children can always tell when something is upsetting Mom or Dad and when kids sense that something isn’t right...they also begin to worry and experience anxiety or depressive symptoms. This absorbed anxiety can then affect your child's mood or behavior. Some parents will notice in their children increased irritability, behavioral problems, poor frustration tolerance, or even withdrawal and decreased interest in activities and are often unclear about what is causing this change in behavior. Typically, this behavior is the child’s response to their parents level of stress. Therefore, it is extremely important for parents to recognize the internalized symptoms of stress and how this may be impacting their own health and that of their kids.
Here are 5 techniques to help parents manage stressors more effectively. Try these suggestions immediately when you become aware of feeling tense, overwhelmed or anxious. These tips will hopefully normalize the stressful experience and give some quick and easy options when feeling overwhelmed.
1. Deep Breathing: it sounds simple but sometimes just stopping a few minutes to take a few deep breaths can be enough to regain some perspective, regulate your internal system and allow you to clear your mind. Getting more oxygen into your body and releasing physical tension are two ways that breathing exercises can benefit you, and you can do them anytime or anywhere. The best way to do this sometimes is to find a place to sit, sit up straight, try to visualize something positive (think about your kids when they are happy or silly) and take in 1 slow, long, deep breath through your nose and exhale through your mouth. Do this about 10 times. As you do this...notice where there may be tension in your body and try to relax your shoulders, unclench your teeth, slow your breathing pace, and clear your mind of negative thoughts.
2. Go for a Short but Brisk Walk: again, sounds simple...but when stress hits, we get so overwhelmed that we neglect or forget about simple ways to take care of ourselves. This is something you can do with your kids or take your dog for a walk. Walk around your block or go to a nearby park. Take in the fresh air, say hi or smile at people as you walk, think of something positive, be silly with your kids, pick a flower...you get the idea. The goal is to focus on the natural, organic beauty that is present and step away from the issues which are causing you stress.
3. Decrease Caffeine and Sugar in your Diet: When I’m stressed, my weakness is Starbucks…There is nothing better than a tall Caramel Macchiato! Not only is this becoming an expensive habit, but all of the excess sugar and caffeine work wonders for the immediate boost, but have longer term negative consequences in causing irritability, disturbed sleep, appetite changes which all affect your mood and energy level. Limit or if you can eliminate excessive caffeine and sugar from your diet. Try to increase fresh veggies and fruits, drink plenty of water, decrease/eliminate fast foods or processed foods and try to maintain a steady diet with predictable mealtimes for both yourself and your family.
4. Go to Bed Earlier: Worrying about finances can keep anyone up late at night. Start off by setting a reasonable bedtime shooting for about 7-8 hours of sleep. Try reading or taking a bath before bed to enhance relaxation or light scented candles for an aromatherapy experience. Eliminate sugary foods or caffeine prior to bed time. Make a manageable “to do” list for the next day which helps to clear your head of unproductive worried thoughts before bedtime. For a little added “me time” try to wake up about 30 minutes before the kids wake up. Start the day in a quiet positive way. Try saying a favorite prayer or positive affirmation to get your mind in a positive place. You can say this prayer or affirmation throughout the day to keep you focused and centered. Review your daily “to do” list and set a reasonable goal for accomplishing what you can.
5. Sing or Play: Sometimes we do the best we can to be positive but the kids are screaming, the phone is ringing, bills and the “things to do list” are piled high and we have just had it!!! So just stop...put on some fun music and dance yourself happy by yourself or with your kids! What a fun way to release tension and stress and at the same time you get to model positive coping and stress management for your kids!!
~ Written by Cheryl Washington, LCSW
**Child Psychotherapist and mother of Micah, 21 months!!
Coping Tips for Parents