So the question of the day is, “As a parent, is it normal that I feel overwhelmed all the time?” And the short answer is, “Yes!” People can feel overwhelmed all by themselves. But when they become responsible for other little human beings, that feeling will ramp up rather quickly.
“Being a parent is like folding a fitted sheet; no one really knows how.”
I’ll never forget the feeling of leaving the hospital after the birth of my firstborn. As we pulled away from the building with my precious little bundle, it really hit me that I was now totally responsible for this new life. And that was my initiation into the “overwhelmed parents club.”
“The only thing kids know how to wear out faster than shoes are their parents.”
You raise children in phases. First, you have the walking zombie phase where you are on call 24-7. You think you will never sleep for more than two hours at a time. Secondly, you move on to the potty training phase where your child takes his diaper off and decides to “let her fly” at the top of the stairs—just because.
And then, all kids seem to get stuck in this phase where the only word they know is “why?” And believe me, it starts at two and doesn’t end until the late teen years. It might start innocently enough because they are just curious. But then it evolves into asking why just because they don’t like your first answer. They figure if they ask you enough times, you’ll change your mind.
“Perfect parents exist, but they don’t have kids yet.”
It isn’t just the responsibilities that can be overwhelming. There are other contributing factors to feeling overwhelmed all the time, like societal pressure toward perfect parenting. Or worrying that anything you do wrong can mess up your child later in life that contributes to higher levels of guilt and stress.
“Raising kids is a walk in the park—Jurassic Park, that is.”
The easy button that the office supply store Staples is known for has become an iconic symbol for finding solutions for frustrating situations. Their commercials insinuate all you have to do to cope with stress during high-pressure projects is to “Don’t stress it, press it.” I think we can all agree that raising children could be considered a high-pressure project! But I’m pretty sure you can’t pick up an easy button at the nearest Buy Buy Baby.
So what is a parent to do?
HOW DO YOU AVOID GETTING OVERWHELMED?
Well, here’s another short answer for you—you can’t. As long as you’re breathing, stress is inevitable. And if you are a parent, you can definitely count on it. You won’t eliminate feeling overwhelmed at times, but you can better prepare yourself for stress with a few coping techniques.
And, “No,” hiding out in your bedroom with a bag of cookies is not on the list—Sorry! However, I do have a couple I think you will find helpful.
5 Coping techniques to keep from living overwhelmed
1. Accentuate the positive
When we get frustrated and lose our cool or can’t seem to control the home’s chaos, we hear that inner critical voice telling us we’re a failure and a bad parent. We need to ignore it and recognize when we make a mistake, and use it to motivate us to keep trying.
Instead of talking to ourselves in a harmful way, we need to challenge those negative thoughts. Use positive affirmations such as “I’m trying my best” or make mental notes of situations where you made an A+ parenting choice. To teach your children to focus on the positive, maybe during dinner, go around the table and have each family member state at least one good thing that happened that day.
2. Be realistic
Having too high expectations is probably the most significant cause of feeling overwhelmed all the time. It doesn’t mean you’re a terrible parent if the laundry doesn’t get done, your kid has to eat a fast-food burger on the way to soccer practice, or your kid showed up to school with peanut butter on his face. When reality meets high expectations, it’s a setup for becoming overwhelmed, exhausted, depressed, and even resentful of your circumstances. If you can let your super-parent cape slip a little and admit you can’t do everything perfect, you’ll find you’re not alone. Often, you’ll also find it helpful to take a parent pause and consider your children’s age to make sure you are not putting too high expectations on them.
3. Don’t put too much faith in social media
Think about how many take it takes you to get the perfect picture good enough (in your opinion) to post on Facebook. Do you really think all those perfect pics of your friend’s kids were taken on the first try? No way! And no one posts videos of their little Bobby’s royal meltdown in aisle three because he had to leave the toy at the store. Remember, you don’t need to compete with the neighborhood parents to see whose kids are having the most magical childhood. Keep your focus on where it belongs—your family.
A surefire way of becoming overwhelmed as a parent is always to put yourself last. I know it’s easy to do with all the demands on your time, but you can only fill so many glasses of Kool-aid before the pitcher runs dry. In other words, it’s important to direct some attention on yourself regularly before you run out of steam.
Do something that helps you to relax. Take a break from your children and go out for coffee with a friend or go to the store and wander the aisles unencumbered. Whatever it is that gives you pleasure, you’ll come back with renewed energy, ready to keep going again.
5. Use humor
Did you know that the mere physical act of putting a smile on your face causes your body to release endorphins (feel-good hormones)? Who knew? So to reduce stress, even if you have to “fake it until you make it,” put a smile on your face. Besides, a fake smile tends to lead to a genuine one—meaning that laughter will come more quickly, helping the stress to melt away more freely.
Now I’ll admit, after coming upon my son standing there at the top of the stairs in all his glory. And seeing the aftermath of his “experiment,” my first thought was not to put a smile on my face. But after I cleaned up the mess and calmed down a bit, I had to laugh at the situation. Sometimes being so overwhelmed by our circumstances, all we want to do is cry. If we can find some humor amid the crisis, it can help us find a fresh perspective to put the whole mess back in proportion.
“Life is an awesome journey; it’s a privilege to go through it with kids.”
Suppose you find yourself feeling overwhelmed the majority of the time. In that case, I believe you can change that pattern by using these five coping techniques. Another great way to learn more strategies to manage stress is to work with an anxiety coach through breakthrough coaching. They can help you discover and master anxiety relief techniques that will enable you to navigate the challenges that family life brings.
Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. The easiest way to start taking control of your anxiety is to take the FREE 5-Day Anxiety Detox Challenge. If you would like more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or make an appointment online. Together, we can work on strategies to manage the stresses that family life can bring to become the happy parent you want to be.