The proper meaning of stress
Everyone talks of stress without understanding its proper meaning. This is because we feel stress over both the good and bad things that happen to us. If we never felt any stress, we would never be alive! Stress becomes a problem when we do not know how to handle an event or overcome a situation. It is therefore worry coming into the game which we feel as “stress”.
When something happens to us, we automatically process it in our mind. We decide on its gravity, the way to manage it and the abilities that we need to draw upon. If we decide that the requirements of the situation are beyond our capacity to handle, we judge that it is “stressful” and we apply the classical “stress reaction”. If we decide that the situation is well within our capacity to handle, it does not feel “stressful”. Each of us perceives situations differently and has different capacities of adaptation. That is the reason no two people react in the same way to a given situation.
Moreover, not all situations classified as “stressful” have a negative connotation. The birth of a child, a promotion or a moving of house is not perceived as threatening, but is “stressful” nevertheless because we do not feel completely ready to confront it.
Certain situations in life bring about stress but it is how we think about these situations that determine whether they represent a problem or not. Our manner of perception of an event and manner of reacting to it determine the impact of this event on our state of health. Events of our life can motivate and strengthen us or come across as “stressful” and in this case, a negative reaction affects our physical, mental, and social well-being. Trying to understand better, ourselves and our reactions when faced with stressful situations, we can learn to manage our stress better.
Children and the stress associated with the parental role
As parents we have to learn on the job. We love our children but realize very quickly that love is not all. We also need to have qualities of patience, and creativity and are sometimes found wanting. The learning of a parent is continuous and does not cease probably until the time that all the kids are grown up. Each child is unique, and what works with Anthony will not necessarily work with Jean and what works with Jean may not necessarily be successful with Thomas.
Taking care of young children is very tiring. Some days one can even feel imprisoned by this constant responsibility. Taking care of older children is not as tiring physically but more worrisome since they spend more time away from home.
If there are young children in the family, parents may not find enough time to be alone or spend time together alone. Single parents have difficulty to find time and energy to conduct a socially active life. Parents who work full time have difficulty finding time to relax with family. Working hours are often extremely long and busy. We all have a desire to find time for ourselves, whether it is to indulge in a hobby or simply to relax.
Have a realistic attitude
Most parents have very high expectations regarding the way things should work out. We all desire for a perfect family and are preoccupied with the future of our children. It is important to remind oneself here, that there are no perfect children and no perfect parents either. All children misbehave at times and all parents make mistakes at times. Wishing for a perfect family may prevent you from appreciating the one you have.
The future of your children can be a source of worry for you. Will they succeed? Remind yourself that each one of them has their own individuality. Accept them as they are. Children who are loved, encouraged and allowed to grow up at their own pace, develop great self confidence and self esteem.
It may be useful to step back and adopt a long term point of view. Have confidence in the twists and turns that events will take. Children may pass through difficult periods. What seems stressful today can be resolved in a short period.
How to recognize symptoms of stress
Stress becomes a problem when you feel overwhelmed by events happening to you. You may feel like “a nervous wreck” when you find yourself unable to cope and you don’t know how to deal with things.
When you feel stressed, usually you show physical symptoms. It is possible that you find yourself fatigued, suffer headaches, stomach pain or back pain, clench your jaw or grind your teeth, have a sudden rash, or suffer from colds and flu often, have muscle spasms, nervous tics or insomnia.
Mental signs of stress include feeling tense, having difficulty to concentrate, suffering memory problems and having difficulty taking decisions.
Emotional signs include feeling angry, frustrated, tense, anxious or more aggressive than usual.
How to confront stress
To deal with stress related to being parents, you must first understand what is causing you the stress, learn to recognize symptoms of excessive stress and find new ways to deal with the problems of life. You may not be always capable of finding the real cause of your emotional tension, but it is important to remind yourself that it is not the fault of your children. It is good therefore to go for a consultation and request for help.
We all react to life events in accordance with our personal history. Generally, we do not ever completely understand the deep and underlying causes for our feelings. It is essential to understand that our feeling of stress comes from inside and that it is possible to learn to control our reactions to stress. Here is some advice which you could find useful:
Give time to yourself. Each week, give yourself time to pursue activities that interest you.
Take care of your health by eating well and doing regular exercise. Parents need a lot of energy to take care of their kids. Avoid fatigue. Sleep early and try to take naps when you can. Take your time of rest away from the kids. Try and avoid the accumulation of stress. Request your friends or members of your family to take care of your kids for a while. Exchange baby care services with a neighbor or call for the services of a baby-sitter, even if it is for a few hours each week, so that you have some time for yourself.
Look up community programs for parents and children. They offer enjoyable activities and the occasion to discuss with other parents. Some of these services even provide for baby sitters.
Talk to someone. Sharing your anxieties is an excellent way of reducing stress!
Consider taking a course on the role of parents or join a group of parents from your region.
Learn a few tricks to free tension. Simple daily stretching exercises can relieve muscular tension. Brisk walking, aerobic exercises, and sports are excellent ways to unwind and get rid of stress. Others find that deep breathing exercises are a quick, easy and effective way to control physical and mental tension.
If you feel stressed, tense or fatigued at the end of a fully occupied day, talk of them at my consultations and I will help you through my different techniques to eliminate them. Say calmly to your kids that you will be happy to give them attention in a short while but that you need a short period of calm to yourself so that you can gather your energies and be relaxed.
Manage your time well. Devote time to your children, yourself, your partner and your friends. Learn to say no to things that disturb such important exchanges. Cut down on the number of external activities which stress the family. Learn to say no by thinking “no” and acting in a “no” manner… I can help you.
Develop good relations
Family relations develop gradually through affection and respect for the feelings of others. Speak of problems in the family in a warm and relaxed atmosphere. Concentrate on finding solutions rather than on finding faults. If you are too busy or upset to listen well, express it. Listen at a later appropriate time and respect your engagement. Laugh together, be grateful for the other and give compliments often. It may be extremely difficult to provide for family time; to do things that you all like to do, but you must do the best you can to invest in such time.
Parents and children need to spend time together. Regardless of whether you live in a single parent family or not, each parent must try to spend some time with each of their children. You can read a bedtime story, play a game or go for a walk together.
My work consists of trying to determine the causes and undesirable effects of stress on your somatic and body pains and treat them (see My working techniques).