Written by: Kristen Winiarski
Everyone deals with stress from time to time but when you have kids, stress levels can reach a whole new level. The intense emotions that come with birthing them, caring for them as infants, and raising them as children not only feed your feelings of love but your feelings of frustration too, which can lead to stress and burnout.
Most parents have to cope with burnout at one point or another and you definitely aren’t alone if you’ve been feeling more stressed out than usual. Thankfully, there are some great strategies that you can use to help manage stress for your own mental health so you can focus on being present for your child.
Know your triggers
A great place to start is to figure out what your triggers are in the first place. Maybe skipping a meal makes you especially irritable, or a poor night’s sleep makes things feel worse than they really are. Figuring out the root of your stress can help you anticipate it and address it.
Talk about it
When I get overwhelmed, I tell my kids how I’m feeling. I share that I’m a bit cranky and need to eat before I can come play or that I need to sit down for a few minutes before taking them outside. Kids are smarter and more compassionate than we give them credit for and helping them understand my needs helps all of us.
Sometimes when my kids are difficult, I need to take a minute away. When my son is throwing a tantrum, I’ll step outside and take a break. Calming myself down helps me prepare to come back in and help him calm down.
Take deep breaths or meditate
So often we forget to just breathe. Taking a few minutes to focus on deep breathing, stretching, or incorporating a meditation practice into your daily life can help you reset your mind and body.
When you’re taking care of kids, it can feel like you’re “on” all of the time. My kids are great, and I have a lot of fun with them, but being in this state is exhausting. It’s important to take breaks and have time for yourself. Planning and then taking physical and mental breaks will help clear your head and give you the necessary downtime you deserve.
Focus on the fun
Sometimes when the day starts to take a turn for the worse, we’ll make a mental list of all the things that went wrong. Maybe the kids were grumpy, wouldn’t listen, or were fighting a lot. If you notice yourself doing this, take a little break to wipe the slate clean, think of something good that happened and focus on that (even if it’s something really simple, like a hug with your child).
Participate in a hobby
Parenting can often cause us to put aside our hobbies and replace them with household chores, caregiving, and (seemingly) endless transportation to school, friends’ homes, and extracurricular activities. If you’ve been putting the things you love on the back burner, here’s your reminder to find your way back to hobbies that are just for you.
This point can be tricky when you don’t get enough sleep, but I’ve found that making time for working out helps me feel better. The endorphins from movement and the commitment to doing something just for me puts me in a better mood. Working out in the morning helps keep my cortisol levels in check. Plus, even if the rest of the day goes sideways, I feel better knowing this was one thing I was able to check off my list.
Ask for help
Many parents have trouble asking for help because they think they should be able to handle everything themselves. Juggling everything is unsustainable for anyone and there’s no shame in getting the help you need from time to time. Before burning out, ask friends and family to ease some of the load you’re taking on.
Talk it out
Having someone to vent to who understands what you feel is invaluable. No one will understand how frustrating it is quite like another parent. Having your feelings validated will help you realize that you’re not alone in feeling the way you feel.
Talk to your healthcare provider or a family therapist if you need additional support. Remember that you aren’t in this alone.
Every parent gets overwhelmed from time to time. Taking time for yourself and talking to others about what you need will go a long way in helping to manage your stress.