When Everything Spells Disaster
There isn’t a training manual or level of preparedness for becoming a Mum. No-one informs you of the reality of parenthood as you sail through your childless years with wild abandon. Never really taking stock of the sleeping in until 9 am or even the freedom of simply going to the toilet yourself. As one hurdle is overcome a new challenge arises and our ability of coping with stress increases.
We cope through the toddler tantrums, the sleepless nights, the toilet training and food refusal and that’s even before they go to school. Research has found that some parents find school age the most stressful with homework, child socialisation and bullying common issues.
How do we manage the stress? I’m picturing a secluded island with a Pina Colada in one hand while a masseuse tends to my aches and pains as I stare out to the calm blue ocean. Just the vision is making me happy, okay so my masseuse may be extremely gorgeous but hey! It’s my dream. We can all dream.
So we may not all be related to Richard Branson with his luxurious island, what else can we do to manage parenting stress? Stress is a normal part of life and having some of it in your life can help to create a balance and motivate you to face some challenges and get things done. There is also a bad level of stress that makes day to day tasks difficult to deal with and may impact on quality time with the family. Signs of stress can be confused with anxiety as the symptoms are quiet similar. In tense situations you might find your heart racing or muscles tightening as a reaction to the stress you are experiencing.
How can we stop this happening? Stress can’t be completely eliminated but it can be managed. Some helpful tips for this are:
Acknowledging trigger points- When you are in a stressful situation write it down this may help you to avoid or prepare for it in the future.
Positive thinking- If we keep telling ourselves everything will be okay eventually we will listen to ourselves it is a good coping mechanism when feeling stressed.
Be realistic and choose your battles- Sometimes the fight isn’t worth the stress caused.
Stay Connected with others
Making sure you’ve got a ‘person’ to confide in and share when everything has totally gone to crap is what helps me cope with stress the most. I have a few people who help with different levels of stress in my life. It creates a good balance and I don’t feel like I’m piling all of my negativity on to one person, spreading the love you could say.
Having a child has given me an automatic network of people and without any family local I have been able to create my own little family hub. This has taken a great deal of stress out of my life as I now have someone to rely on in a time of need. An example of this was the other day I had worked back late, the child was grumpy, I was grumpy, we had just gotten off the train from the city and I couldn’t find my keys. I phoned a friend and we ended up making a fun night out of it. I was able to turn the day around. Seeing my heavily pregnant friend walking down to meet us with her toddler, push bike and pram in hand it was easy to refocus my energy and remain positive. You wouldn’t believe it but when I got home my keys were exactly where I had been looking but I had such a terrible day that I couldn’t see what was right before me.
Sometimes you don’t have time to maintain or make new friends or you may live in isolated areas where it is near impossible to connect with others. That is where the wonderful world of the internet comes in handy. There are a multitude of online parent forums that can connect you with other like-minded people. I am part of a group that are beyond helpful as there is always someone there to share or give advice. Catch ups are often planned Australia wide which helps to bond further.
Making physical and emotional health a priority
Oh to find that magical balance between exercise, healthy food choices and rest. Life is chaotic and that is acceptable but to manage that chaos your best options are to focus on those three things, exercise, healthy food and rest to create a great base for the rest of your life.
The main complaint in my life is that I haven’t had enough sleep. I have an early riser but aside from that I’m getting at least seven hours which I could maximise if I make a few little changes. Eliminating stimulants or at least decreasing them would help me to sleep better. There are experts that actually support this! Less caffeine, sugar, cigarettes and alcohol are ways to get better sleep. My vice is caffeine, most days I will have two cups of coffee and I applaud myself on this but then I will top this up with cups of tea and maybe even a caffeinated zero sugar drink (it’s healthy right? It has no sugar). Well I am lying to myself every day, every caffeinated drink I have after 2pm is disrupting my sleep. I am devastated by this I love coffee but as I decrease my caffeine levels I will have better quality sleep and need less coffee the next day. I look forward to this day as I sit here bleary eyed from my 5:30am child alarm clock. At least I’m not needing to eliminate it completely, I’m not too sure I could cope with that.
Other stimulants like television, laptops or looking at your phone can affect your sleep. They say kids shouldn’t watch TV before bed and that is the same for adults. A guided meditation is a fantastic way to fall asleep and there are some Apps that turn off automatically after a certain amount of time so you don’t have to be tempted to check one last thing on your phone.
Make some you time, this may mean saying no to the odd party. The benefits of having time out and relaxing a bit will help significantly in coping with stress. You may find you will be able to enjoy social occasions a little more in the future.
Laugh it out, putting a bit of humour in to our lives can lighten the mood and make the crappier times seem that little bit better. Watching a live comedy show or even on TV can bring on the laughs enough to forget some of the day’s woes, even if it is temporarily. Have an organised ‘happy hour’. A few glasses of wine with the girls, well you know, it’s just fun.
If you find that stress is overtaking your life and no amount of laughter, sleep or you time is working a GP will be able to point you in the right direction.