It gets crazy for all parents - stay-at-home parents, working parents or parents who work from home- - house work, paper work, “work” work if you “work”, errands, kids school work, birthday parties and other weekend socializing and of course trying to eke out some decent bonding time with the kids and spouse or even get some time for yourself. So many times you feel frazzled, overwhelmed and feel that you just cannot keep up and wish for many more hours in a day.
Remember that you can pass your stress to your family and kids. Happy relaxed parents can be more tuned to their children, take care of them better and have more fun with them. Parents are a child's guide to life and also the fountain of that most important emotion - love. And when the guide is stressed out, the child feels directionless. Some stress is natural since there is so much going. But many times you can avoid undue stress and when stressed deal with it better.
Some tips to avoid and beat stress.
Be in the moment
Be “zen”. Just focus on what you are doing and not be consumed by the past or your to-do list for the future. Sometimes stress is caused by trying to do too many things at once. Moms especially though great at multitasking, need to focus on one or perhaps even very few things on hand. . For example, while cooking, sometimes try and not take a phone call and supervise the child’s homework, at the same time. Try and enjoy cooking and not make it just a chore. Put on your favourite music. Perhaps even involve your child in cooking. And you can be cooking and spending time with your child - “multitasking” in a more natural way.
Take one moment or one day at a time
- Realize that you cannot do it all. Just focus on the present and prioritize on a day-to day basis.
- There might be days when you neglect your work and be with the kids. Or there may be days when kids take a backseat and you want to focus on your work or the house or even just yourself.
- It is okay. Do not feel guilty. Guilt is a negative and further draining emotion. Just chill and take one thing at a time.
Meditation can help you focus and help calm you down. There are many different ways to meditate. You need to find the one that works for you. Basically, going to a quiet spot, closing your eyes, first letting all thoughts just flow and then focusing on one thing (a repetitive chant, picturing something pleasant etc.) are all some basics that are a good start.
Exercise, exercise exercise!
Nothing beats stress better than exercise. Exercise releases relaxing and happy hormones called endorphins and make you feel good. Walking, running, playing tennis, swimming etc. are all great ways to exercise.
You could take your children to the park and have someone watch over them while you take rounds of the park.
Yoga and Pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) are holistic since they are good for the body and the mind. You can even do yogic breathing while in your car, while in a queue or in a lift. Every bit helps.
Wherever possible, climb the stairs.
Eat and sleep well
- During times of stress, make sure that you eat good nutritious meals. Do not skip meals or over-eat. Eat slowly and enjoy eating. Sometimes, the simple basics of life can be very calming.
- Also, make sure that you are getting adequate sleep. Some tips to help you sleep: Have a warm bath (if cold), have some warm milk or herbal tea before you sleep, meditate, or read a good book before sleeping.
Take out time for yourself
- Even if you work and are away from the kids, if you really have the urge to get away and do something fun, do not feel guilty and take up some fun activity or spend time alone. You will come out relaxed and recharged to have fun with your family.
- Take time to read, listen to music or favourite hobby. Or take a fun class - bollywood dancing to photography.
- Express yourself. Expressing yourself and having a creative outlet can also soothe frayed nerves. Play a musical instrument, paint or just write. You do not have to be a professional writer. Just jot your thoughts in a journal. Why not keep jotting snippets in your Parentree journal?
- Repetitive activities like knitting, needlework or chanting can also help you focus on the present and calm you down.
- Or some pampering like spa, massage, the beauty parlour, even some retail therapy or shopping. Remember you work hard and you are special and worth it. Massage is supposed to be very beneficial for stress.
- Even doing nothing. Go to a café and have a cup of coffee or tea just by yourself - some casual reading, making a to-do list, just thinking or people watching can be relaxing.
- If you want to go on a retreat or getaway by yourself or with someone else, go for it, if you feel it will rejuvenate you. Discuss with your spouse and make sure that you verbalize that doing so will recharge you for caring and having fun with the family. Do not be shy or hesitant. Be calm, confident and make sure you express yourself to your spouse in an objective manner. You will be surprised how understanding he/she can be if you broach it the right way.
Anticipate stress and deal with it
Life is never perfect. Anticipate times of stress and realize that the time will pass. Come up with ways to deal with that stress proactively. For example, if you have a lot going on and on top of that have guests coming, get extra help so that you can spend time with the guests.
Take stock and make a list
When overwhelmed, sit down and make a list of all that you have to do. And prioritize. Just the act of charting and list what you have to do, will give you a sense of control and direction. You will feel calmer and will most probably realize that things are not that bad after all.
Typically women are good at this. They will vent to their friends and mothers about everything - how tough it is, their spouses, how unruly the kids are, a bad hair day, anything! As long as you are aware that you are venting and have a close relationship with the person you are venting to, venting can be positive and gets “bad stuff” out of your system leaving you feel lighter and calmer.
Spend time with your spouse
- Make sure that you and your spouse spend some time with each other - communicate, catch up and have some romance in your relationship. Kids enjoy the security and fun of happy parents who love each other!
- A good dialogue, intimacy, and having fun together will strengthen and spice-up your relationship, and help you deal with things as a strong team.
- Go for a movie, a candle-lit dinner, try and have an early bed time for kids so that you can catch up with each other on an everyday basis without interruptions.
- If you have that luxury, leave the kids to bond with the grandparents and go for a getaway basking in each other.
Go out with your friends as well
Moms and Dads, sometimes, try and leave your families and go out with your friends. A dad's night out or a mom's movie or lunch or a mom’s night out can be great to refresh you. It can be a good change to interact and have fun with other folks and a change is always refreshing. Take the initiative and form a group with folks you work with or other parents in your child’s school and you will be surprised how everyone will be grateful that you started a group going.
Healing power of simple stuff (silence, deep breaths, smiling, hugs and imagination)
- Sometimes, when stress consumes you, just stopping all interruptions (email, phone calls) and just being silent can really calm you down.
- Take deep breaths. Close your eyes, inhale slowly and exhale slowly. Do this a few times. You will feel a sense of calm.
- Yes it is tough to smile when all is going wrong. Just try and smile. You will be surprised. Remember when your child is sulking and you say smile and they try and manage a weak smile and the smile gets only better and bigger. It is the same with you.
- Hugging can be therapeutic. When stressed, go and hug your children, your spouse, your parent, your friend... You will be surprised how that works it’s magic and charges you.
- Let the stressful times pass. Instead close your eyes and imagine something positive and relaxing--waves of the sea, a sunset, mountains, greenery, your child’s smile. You will be surprised how recharged you feel.
Treat your family to frequent vacations and weekend getaways
You could go with other families or just bond with your family. Just a change of scene and being away from home can really be relaxing and rejuvenating. Budget time and resources for these. As important as anything else.