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December 25, 2019

How to Cope with Parenting Stress and Anxiety

Every parent will probably tell you that parenting is one of the most difficult, if not the most difficult thing in life. And they would be absolutely right. The level of anxiety that comes with this huge responsibility is so great that it’s quite common for many parents, especially those dealing with this issue for the first time, to feel overwhelmed and make a number of wrong decisions as a consequence. Naturally, such mistakes might easily have long-term effect on children, which is the last thing any parent wants.

That’s why it’s vital that we all understand that parenting is not easy, but it is completely manageable at the same time, provided you recognise the challenges and deal with them properly. To help you deal with parenting stress and anxiety, we’ve prepared the following list of tips that should help all parents, but particularly those who have little or no experience at all.

Understand the effect of your anxiety

You might believe that the stress you carry around everyday affects only you, but you’d be wrong to assume that. With all the things modern parents are supposed to do every day, who wouldn’t feel stressed? However, you need to understand that many scientific studies have shown that stress is contagious between children and their parents or caregivers. Believe it or not, your one-year-old can mirror its mother’s bodily stress responses, such as increased heart rate! Also, just like many of us try to find comfort in food when dealing with stress, studies have shown that parental stress is linked to weight gain in young children.

Unfortunately, we can’t just make stress disappear, but we most certainly can learn how to cope with it. This is beneficial for two reasons. The first is that you feel better when you manage stress successfully. The other, possibly even more important, is that your child learns from you how to deal with stress. By showing them the tools, you’re helping them be more successful later in life.

Ask for help

There are many reasons why some people are reluctant to ask for help. Whether they have trust issues or are simply too proud to show any sign of weakness, they’re making a huge mistake. If you feel you have too much on your plate and are not happy with how your life is unfolding, you should by all means seek help. It could be a friend, family member or professional, but let someone know you’re going through a rough patch. Just like many women having trouble conceiving turn to other women, where they get moral support, you should find the kind of help you need and not hesitate to use it. 

Staying positive

It’s amazing how much we can change our perspective if we simply take a different point of view or attitude towards life. It’s quite normal to find yourself thinking something negative at times, but we should always strive to replace it with a positive. Let’s say you’re feeling a bit under the weather. Don’t think, “I really hope I’m not getting sick.” Instead, say, “I’m fine. I’m healthy and well.” By shutting out negative thoughts we can actually decrease stress. The same lesson should be taught to kids. Help them use positive language around events like tests, competitions or tournaments by putting positive thoughts on the mirrors in their room, on their notebooks or by simply repeating them to your kids. You’ll see how both you and your loved one will feel much more confident and under so much less stress.

Prevent stress

You know that prevention is always the best cure. The same applies to dealing with stress and anxiety. So, don’t wait until you’re under stress to apply some stress-busting techniques, such as eating healthy, exercising, meditating or taking time-outs. Once you get under stress, your brain will be preoccupied with coping with it and won’t be open to picking up new techniques. That’s why you should include these healthy habits into your routine rather than use them to combat stress. Some experts compare this behaviour to learning to drive in a snowstorm and it’s a really great comparison. Even when you feel great and under little or no stress, keep practicing stress-lowering methods and you’ll create a pattern of healthy coping mechanisms. That will help you when things get intense. Your mind will gravitate towards those good habits instead of bad ones, like overeating or avoiding dealing with stress.

Our lives are stressful for many reasons, but we should never forget that our ancestors also had to deal with many issues while growing up or bringing children up. So, that can’t be an excuse for giving up. Instead, we need to accept that stress is inevitable and that all we can do is minimize it and learn how to cope with it. That is crucial not only for our well-being, but also for the well-being of those we love most – our kids.

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Claire Hastings  |  Contribution: 475