The past year has brought with it more stress than many of us have ever experienced. Given the fear, anxiety, isolation and overall disruption of our normal lives caused by the pandemic, it would be surprising not to feel more stressed out than usual.
Uncertainties have been the rule rather than the exception. Should I let my kids go to summer camp? Can we take a family vacation? Is my job secure? Can I get a vaccination appointment? The questions are never-ending.
So, the big question is, how do you manage to handle all that stress so that it doesn’t create further emotional or physical problems?
First and foremost, parents need to let go of the idea that self-care is selfish. “Most of us have heard that, in the event of a drop in pressure on an airplane, parents should put on their own oxygen mask before their child’s,” says Dr. Sue Cohen, Director of Early Childhood and Psychological Services at North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center. “If you aren’t able to breathe, you’ll be no good for your kids, and that’s true in all areas of your family life.”
It’s not that you’re putting your child’s needs below your own; rather, you realize that you will be a better parent by being as healthy in mind, body and spirit as possible. “As human beings, we cannot avoid all stress, but there are strategies we can take to help ourselves manage when things seem overwhelming,” says Cohen.
- Exercise is a benefit to both your mind and body. Don’t have an hour for the gym? Even 15 or 20 minutes of walking, yoga, gardening or another activity that you enjoy will make a difference. If it’s hard to fit into your schedule, choose an activity that’s good for the whole family—but don’t feel guilty if you want to set aside some time just for you!
- You’ve heard it before: Try meditation. It’s a proven method of reducing stress, and anyone can do it, anywhere. There are many free apps out there to guide you, whether you are new to meditation or a seasoned practitioner. One good bet: Insight Timer.
- Even if you decide meditation isn’t for you, we all know how to breathe. Taking low, slow breaths is a guaranteed way to slow down your anxiety response. Click here for more info.
- Getting enough sleep isn’t only essential for kids, it’s critical for you, too. Getting less than 7 or 8 hours a night raises your level of stress, depression and many other illnesses. Click here to read some helpful tips on establishing a proper sleep routine.
- Ask for backup when you need it. If you’re having trouble making time for yourself, set up a regular swap with a friend or neighbor for playdates.
- Limit your exposure to bad news. While there are many things you can’t control, you can turn off the TV when your blood pressure is rising.
Bottom line: A tired, stressed-out parent isn’t helpful to anyone. Taking time to recharge your batteries won’t only benefit you, but it will benefit your children.
To read more about how to relieve stress during the pandemic, visit our previous blog.