It’s natural to feel a little stress as a parent. After all, you are in charge of a brand new human. And you are required to turn that brand new human into a well adjusted adult with the bare minimum of psychological baggage. Also, you’re to do this while making sure they learn to walk, talk, and not kill themselves by chewing on the damn lamp cord! (What is your deal, Toby!?)
So, yeah. Your day-to-day can occasionally get a little intense. But when it goes from occasional blips of intensity to white-knuckle OMG MAKE IT STOP, it’s time to consider some parental stress management. Here are some ways to calm the hell down.
Why It’s Important
You may think you’re doing an a-okay job hiding your stress from your kid, but it turns out that they’re picking up way more than you could imagine. Studies have shown that your stress could even be affecting their genes. Which is funny considering when they destroy their jeans it affects your stress.
The emerging field of epigenetics shows that kids who have stressed out parents in the first few years of life could see genetic changes that affect things like insulin production and brain development. More than that, these effects could endure through most of their childhood.
To put an even finer point on it, stress also leads to: Increased illnesses, drug and alcohol abuse, decreased life satisfaction and increased risk of accidents. So before you start getting high, while suffering with the flu, and fall down that flight of stairs you’re not satisfied with, it’s time to get your crap together.
Keys To Stress-Free Parenting
No, the first step is not to go back into time and push yourself off your partner before you conceive (though that would make a great movie). After all, you love your little stress-inducing love-nugget-cutie-pie and your life would be 1,000 percent less interesting without them.
In fact, the first step is to not look at your kid, your partner, or anything else. It’s to look at your own damn self and go from there. Here are some things to consider:
Chickity Check Yo’ Self
Prior to wrecking yourself, you’ll want to keep track of what really gets your stress pumping. It’s not just your family writ large. There are likely pain points throughout the day that really get you spinning. Look for broken routines:
- Getting everyone out the door in the morning
- Coming home after work
- Dinner time
- Weekend activities
Make a note of those times that your heart rate is elevated, or your shoulders are around your ears. Consider when you get snippy with your kid or partner. Or when you feel like you want to drink all of the beers to calm down. What you’ll likely find is a pattern related to times when things don’t run smoothly in your house for whatever reason. It’s time to take some action.
Sometimes the biggest stressors in family life are those times when routines haven’t been fully established. Or times when there is forced hustle due to poor timing or disorganization. Luckily, there are many resources to help you get a lock on this stuff. Often it’s simply a matter of giving yourself the right organizational tools, or shifting your environment or schedule to make things flow more smoothly.
You know which people are traditionally stress-free? People who do not give a shit. Which is not to say you should just stop caring about your family or being a good parent. However, if you lower your expectations and understand that you are stressing about things that do not ultimately matter, you are going to be in a much better place.
So chill out about those development milestones. Or put together a budget and stop freaking out about money (because that’s also making you look like hell). Maybe realize that a grocery store tantrum is not the end of the world, and the people giving you side eye in the snack aisle can go eat a bag of Dick’s brand potato chips. The penis flavored ones.
Have Some Fun
But make sure that said fun is happening with your family. Get out of the house for a day trip to the woods, mountains or beach. Or if you’re staying in, get down with a silly YouTube dance party and enjoy how rude it sounds when your kid sings up-town, FUNK you up.
It’s about letting loose and laughing with your family. Getting that boost of happy-time endorphins and letting that smile work to your advantage.
Indulge In Self-Care
The term “self-care” is definitely cringe-worthy for most dudes. But we’re not talking bubble baths and candles here. We’re talking about eating right. Getting some exercise (carefully) and maybe taking time for breathing in silence. There are plenty more ways to do this. None of them include an avocado mask and a glass of chardonnay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
Get A Support Group
You don’t necessarily need to sit in a circle with a bunch of other stressed out dads talking about how you cry on your commute home. But it is helpful to know some dads that you can commiserate with every once in awhile. These guys might be in your neighborhood. Or you might be able to find them online. Just find them.
If you don’t feel like any of this is working, then it might be time to seek help from a health professional. Getting your troubles off your chest with a counselor or psychologist might be just what you need to feel better. And they might even be able to provide some insight that you missed somewhere along the way.
The important part to remember is that fighting stress is a crucial to the health and well-being of your entire family. Not just yourself. And tackling it now means you’ll have to stress less about making sure your kid becomes a cool grownup. Isn’t it weird how that works?