Parenting, while immensely rewarding, can often be a source of significant stress. It's easy to get so wrapped up in the responsibilities of raising children that you forget to take care of yourself.
A stressed parent can inadvertently contribute to a tense family environment. Parental well-being is essential for the overall health and happiness of a family. An unhealthy and unhappy parent will be unable to take care of their child, leaving the child confused and emotionally lost.
Here are some self-care practices to help manage and reduce parental stress:
Sleep deprivation is common when children are small and this can exacerbate stress and reduce your ability to cope with daily challenges. Sleep deprivation may also occur during your child’s growing years when you may be inherently disturbed regarding your child’s academics or behavioral patterns leading to disturbed sleep patterns. Ensure you're getting enough restful sleep; it's not just children who need regular sleep schedules! Restful sleep leads to a rested physical body. Chronic sleep deprivation may lead to chronic diseases like diabetes, obesity, heart disease, joint pains, and many more.
Even a few minutes of solitude, whether it's reading a book, taking a walk, or meditating, can make a difference. It's okay to ask for help or delegate tasks if it means getting a few moments to recharge. Spending some time with yourself will allow you to feel rejuvenated. Connect and spend time with your spouse. Most parents forget that they too are human beings with needs and need to have some time for themselves.
Regularly connect with friends or loved ones. Talking and sharing can be therapeutic and offer valuable perspectives. You realize that you are not the only one going through tough challenging situations. It helps you to unburden and share your issues with someone making you emotionally lighter.
Understand that no one is perfect. Be forgiving of your mistakes and those of your children. Set achievable goals for yourself and your family. It is not necessary to be very critical of yourself as that leads to guilt. Guilt is a strong emotion and leads to suppressed anger over a period of time.
Physical activity releases endorphins, natural stress relievers. Any form of physical activity whether it's a brisk walk, yoga, or an aerobic workout are stress buster, making you feel good about yourself. This improves self-esteem and self-confidence. So, find what you love and stick to it.
Eat a balanced diet. Stress often leads to unhealthy eating patterns, but nourishing your body with the right foods can boost mood and energy. Avoid addictions like smoking, alcohol, drugs. Avoid high-calorie food as it tends to make an individual lethargic. Have adequate fluids during the day to stay hydrated. Hydration is necessary as dehydration leads to fatigue and irritation.
It's important to set boundaries. Overcommitting can lead to burnout. It's okay to decline additional responsibilities when you feel overwhelmed.
This not only decreases your work but at the same time, gives you ample opportunity to bond with your child. Good communication is necessary. Learn to listen more and be a mindful parent.
There's no shame in seeking therapy or counseling. Professionals can provide coping strategies tailored to your specific challenges.
Techniques like deep breathing, meditation, and guided imagery can help anchor your mind, reducing anxiety and improving focus.
Revisit old hobbies or explore new ones. Doing what you love can act as a great stress reliever. You may even attend hobby classes with your child, giving you ample opportunities to bond with your child and decrease your stress.
Sharing experiences with fellow parents can provide comfort, knowing you're not alone in your challenges.
A predictable routine can provide a sense of normality. It can also ensure that you're setting aside time for self-care.
Managing parental stress is crucial for the well-being of both parents and children. By taking care of yourself, you're better equipped to care for your family. Remember, it's not selfish to prioritise your well-being; a happier, healthier you directly contribute to a happier, healthier family.
Dr. Paula Goel is a paediatrician and adolescent specialist at Fayth Clinic