- Pay attention to breathing, calmly and deeply, as often as you remember, all day long. Late for an appointment? Breathe. Kids just dump their toys in the toilet? Breathe. Breathing deeply lessens stress — it actually reduces the stress hormones circulating in your body. Breathing brings us back into the moment so we stop catastrophizing and can choose a better way to handle things. Remembering to breathe may sound simple, but it will change your life. Put post-its up all over and train yourself: Breathe!
- Pare down your schedule. Much of the stress we feel comes from routinely over-scheduling. That’s a choice, and it costs us. Kids thrive on connection, so when we get too busy to just hang out and connect with them, they act out. Prioritize your kids and your relationship. Then drop anything else you can. Your house can stay a mess a little longer. Serve scrambled eggs and raw carrots for dinner. You don’t have to prove anything; you’re more than enough exactly as you are.
- Sleep. Sleep is an essential stress buster. Your body uses your sleep time to heal and restore a better biochemical balance. This is hard, because sleep often feels out of our control. But you can get more sleep, even if it means going to bed when the kids do. Just do it.
- Move. Exercise is the best stress reducer there is, after deep breathing and getting enough sleep. Twenty minutes of sweat inducing activity every day will cut cortisol levels, put you in a good mood, and burn fat. What more incentive do you need? Turn on the music and get your kids dancing with you! (Want more ideas? See tomorrow’s post: Let’s Get Physical: 15 Easy Exercise Ideas for Parents and Kids.
- Cut your kid some slack. You don’t need to stress about every little mis-step from your child. The fact that Michael clobbered his playmate or Jillian smeared poop on the wall doesn’t mean they’ll be psychopaths. Most childish behavior is developmentally appropriate. Most acting out can be cured by your reconnecting with your child and getting some real laughter going between you, which heals both your stress. On those days when you’re ready to tear your hair out, remember that moment when you first held your child and how lucky you felt. This is your baby, showing you as best he can that he needs your love and understanding.
- Postpone anything but love. What about those times when you really do need to intervene to set some limits with your child? Go ahead. But first, remind yourself that it’s not an emergency. You don’t have to teach your child a lesson this very moment. In fact, all you have to do right now is keep everyone safe and return yourself to Calm. Anything you need to say to your child, you will say better once you’re calm and able to re-connect with love. This eliminates the stress of feeling so pressured and powerless in that moment to say the right thing to your child (or, in most cases, to come up with the right threat!). It also prevents saying things you’re sorry for later, so it makes you a more effective parent.
- Give up your perfectionism. Sure, life is messy, but is that any reason to postpone happiness? You’re more than enough, just the way you are. There are no perfect people, and there are no perfect parents. Trying to be perfect is a huge source of stress. It tightens a vise around your heart. Loving yourself – really feeling your love for yourself, even though you aren’t perfect – may be the single most important thing you can do to de-stress and help your child thrive. Practice positive self-talk. Find ways to nurture yourself. If you simply have to evaluate yourself as a parent, never judge yourself by your child’s behavior, but by your reaction to it.
- Count your blessings and cultivate optimism. Every time you start to feel negative, find as many things as you can to be grateful for, and really feel that gratitude. Research shows this practice reduces stress and improves health and happiness.
- Find support. Parenting is the hardest job there is. We ALL need support, someone we can vent to who won’t judge us or try to fix us. If you need more of that kind of support in your life, find other parents with whom you feel comfortable and start building new friendships. Listen to parenting audios that soothe and inspire you. Find yourself a parenting coach with whom you can check in occasionally. Even the simple act of writing in a journal is a way of supporting ourselves and coming to peace with things that bother us.
- Find spirit in your life. This can mean a higher power, but it doesn’t have to. Just step away from the distractions and find the quiet that inspires you to connect with your deepest wisdom. For some of us, it’s as simple as a walk in the woods or gazing at the stars. Your kids benefit from quiet time in nature too. We all need to reconnect regularly with the miracles that make life worth living.
WEP’s Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/TransitionsWEP
Access Mental Health (referrals to mental health services)