“What have you done for yourself today?”
Family and friends may mean well when they ask you that, but as a parent, it’s tough to find ways to destress while parenting. It’s especially difficult if you’re trying to be an effective parent to a teen who’s navigating his or her own rocky road. It’s almost easier to put all of your energy into your teen than pay attention to any of your own needs.
How Stress Slays You
Coping well with stress is part of effective parenting. Here’s what happens if you don’t find ways to handle stress: you become a burned-out, overly controlling, and overly emotional parent. You could begin to react with some of the following physical and behavioral issues:
- Disrupted sleeping and eating patterns
- Extreme fatigue
- Gastrointestinal issues and ulcers
- High blood pressure
- Increased alcohol or drug intake
- Poorly functioning immune system
- Tightness in throat, back, chest
To minimize or avoid these outcomes, take a moment for yourself and look through these seven stress coping skills. You — and your family — will be happy you did.
Simply Breathe Deeply
Sometimes the simplest solution is the most powerful one. In times of extreme stress, breathe deeply. Deep belly breaths activate your vagus nerve, the long cranial nerve running from your brain down through your abdomen. It’s a communications highway between your brain and gut. When you breathe, the vagus nerve sends messages to your body to stop feeling panicky. Here’s how to stimulate your vagus nerve through belly breaths:
- Close your eyes.
- Inhale through your nose until you fill up your lungs from top to bottom; you may count to seven if that helps.
- Hold your breath for a count of seven.
- Exhale slowly through your mouth for a count of seven.
- Relax for a second or two and do more rounds until you are relaxed.
Get Better Organized
Disorganization aggravates stress. Declutter and organize, and you won’t have a panic attack when you need to lay your hand on a critical document in a moment’s notice. But there’s more to the connection between organization and stress relief. Staying organized streamlines your physical and emotional space. Your mind will stop racing and you’ll be able to think and act more clearly during stressful times.
Reinterpret Stressful Situations
This is a therapeutic tool that you can do for yourself. You may find that oftentimes the source of your stress is how you have interpreted a situation or a person’s behavior towards you. Take a step back and stop taking it all too personally. If your teenager has just insulted you, compassionately interpret it as his or her cry for help rather than a personal attack.
Learn What You Can and Can’t Control
You really don’t have control over much of anything except for your thoughts and actions in the moment. You can try to guide, but you can’t force or control other people’s feelings, thoughts, or actions, including those of your child. And you certainly can’t control global situations. This way of thinking can help you significantly lower your stress levels because you’re spending your energy on what you can control rather than ruminating on what you can’t control.
Nap If You Need More Sleep
Of course, you’re trying to eat and exercise better, but sleeping better is critical to coping with stress. It’s tough to handle stress when you’re exhausted. When you feel unexpectedly sleepy, nap just enough so you’ll improve your mood, memory, and alertness. Ten to 20 minutes usually offers a solid nap, but you may feel best if you nap for an hour. But don’t nap too close to bedtime.
Limit Social Media
You can never have enough avenues of support through stressful times. One of the benefits of social media is reaching out to others who understand your situation. But there’s the downside, as well. If you come across posts from family, friends, and peripheral social media contacts whose families or kids appear to be doing exceedingly well, it can derail your sense of peace and add to your stress. Try avoiding scrolling through social media and instead, quickly dip in and out if you need to accomplish a task.
Seek Professional Guidance
In addition to finding a counselor, therapist, or doctor for yourself, seek out a support group in your community. Ask your child’s school counseling center for help locating one that meets your needs. You’ll find that meeting like-minded people in your community goes a long way to reducing your stress. Visit turningwinds.com or call 800-845-1380 for additional helpful resources or to reach out to caring professionals who can help you and your teen cope with stress and get valuable support.