You had a frustrating day at work. You fought the crazy traffic to pick up your kids from daycare, school, or soccer practice. Two of them fight with each other in the back seat while the other child tells you they need supplies tonight for a project they forgot is due tomorrow. Is it any wonder you shuffle into the house, mumbling to yourself, “Why do I feel so overwhelmed?”
You know the answer. However, you might not know what to do about it.
In a world of increasing risks and demands on families, parents are under so much stress these days. Even in households where both parents are present, it’s likely they both work and spend more time out of the house. If it’s a single-parent home, the pressure can be even greater. Stress in a parent can show up in various ways. One of the healthiest ways to cope is to learn the signs of stress so you can find solutions and not feel so overwhelmed.
Learn the signs of stress
- Excessive worrying
- Always on the verge of crying
- Feelings of hopelessness
- Shorter fuse than normal/angry mood frequently
- High anxiety
- Unhealthy diet (stress eating)
- Disruptive sleep patterns
- Physical symptoms/headaches, high blood pressure, digestive issues, etc.
Recognizing these signs of stress early on gives you the best chance of finding ways to manage it.
Acknowledge and accept your limits
It’s no secret that parenting is hard. Yes, it has many joys and rewards, but those needy toddlers and moody teenagers could zap the very strength out of Superman and Wonder Woman. Even they would feel overwhelmed. The best way to know your limits is to confront reality and identify the sources of your stress. Knowing your breaking point will allow you to make more healthy decisions when you feel yourself heading in that direction.
For example, you feel stressed because:
- You have a colicky baby that won’t quit crying.
- Your precious little cherub is in the middle of the “terrible two’s.”
- Getting the children ready and out of the door in time for school is a major battle.
- You’re trying to juggle your children’s different after school/weekend activities.
- You’re a single parent and feel like you are drowning in responsibilities.
- Finances are tight, and your children need new clothes and school supplies.
- Children’s bedtime routine is a war of wills.
- You go through the fast-food drive-thru too often, but the thought of making a meal after work is just too overwhelming.
The possibilities are endless and unique to each family. So if you can zero in on what makes you feel so overwhelmed, you can then start to work on solutions. If your list is long, do not get overwhelmed thinking you have to tackle them all at once. Set some goals and break your problems into small manageable pieces. When you realize your stressors are only temporary challenges that you have the power to overcome, motivation will set in to make the changes you want in your life.
Connect with fellow parents
When I raised my children, I found it helpful to connect with other families with kids similar in age to my kids. Being able to relate (and commiserate at times) with them helped me not feel alone. It also allowed me to normalize my feelings of stress. By talking with them, I found that everyone goes through similar stressful situations. And many times, we were able to bounce ideas off of one another to tackle particular problems.
Know when it’s time to take a break
Even if you’ve reached super dad or mom status, you’re still human. Everyone needs to recharge—no exceptions. And taking care of yourself is just as important as taking care of your children. Even if it’s just an hour in the evening after the children go to bed, take the opportunity to “recharge” by reading, watching a good movie, taking a long bath, etc. You know what works for you. Do something relaxing and enjoyable!
Obviously, at times you’ll need more than an hour to get a substantial break, so plan a night out with your spouse, friend, or partner. Don’t be afraid to ask your family, friends, or trusted babysitter to watch the kiddos for the night. And don’t forget that it’s essential to get a good night’s rest at the end of the day. You don’t put half-charged batteries in a flashlight, so why would you think you can successfully run a family on your run-down battery.
Strive for a well-balanced life
Undeniably, life with kids is going to be unpredictable. There will be times you want to throw your hands in the air and scream, “I am so overwhelmed!” Been there, done that. We have to remember that sometimes no matter how much we plan, there will be days where the stress becomes too much.
However, we can help ourselves by not over-scheduling ourselves and the kids every day and on the weekends. Yes, kids need activities. But when their schedules are overloaded, it will stress them out and put undue pressure on the parents as well.
I believe these strategies I’ve listed will be most helpful to you. However, another great way to learn how to manage stress is to work with an anxiety coach. They can help you discover and master new ways to handle stress, which in turn, will allow you to make better decisions so you can experience the real joy of parenting.
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, let’s work on strategies to manage the stress that comes when raising kids. I’m confident the more you experience the good times with your kids, the easier it will become to handle your parenting challenges with grace.