It’s no surprise that since becoming a parent my life has become insanely busy. My to-do list is forever growing and there never seems to be enough time to get anything done. Sound familiar? If you’ve been feeling tired and stressed since becoming a parent, you’re certainly not alone.
While juggling all the responsibilities of family life, you may at times feel overwhelmed by the parenting stress. It’s important that you find some time to focus on yourself, otherwise your stress levels will continue to creep up and your productivity will begin to fall – you can’t pour from an empty cup.
As a parent you will always have a lot on your plate, there is no magic wand for that. But there are ways that you can relax and reduce stress levels as a parent. I’m going to share some tips that I’ve personally found helpful when the parenting stress has got the better of me.
Have a moment to yourself and just stop
It’s hard to imagine finding time to stop when you’re a parent, but I think everyone can find ten minutes in their day to just press pause. Mindfulness coach Michael Townsend Williams says, “The truth is we are not very good at doing nothing,” he suggests that “we need to allocate time to relax, time to simply be.” Try and factor some stop time into each day, make it part of your routine. Find somewhere quiet and comfortable to just sit, do nothing, rest and relax.
Do something you enjoy or that relaxes you
I personally find a nice hot bath incredibly relaxing. Since becoming a parent, I tend to opt for a quick (and rushed) shower each day, but I try to make time for a relaxing soak occasionally. A hot bath reduces my stress levels and helps me to really switch off and relax. Sometimes I’ll go all out and light some candles, put on some classical music and throw in my best bath salts!
I also love to relax at the local spa, it’s not something I can do regularly, but every now and then I make time for it as a treat. It’s important to pamper yourself once in a while, in my opinion it’s one of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety.
Mindfulness is about being in the present moment and taking more notice of the world around you. When stressed or anxious, you can often feel like you’re stuck inside your own head, mindfulness can help with this. When I take a moment to practise mindfulness, it stops my mind from wandering back to that to-do list again, it makes me feel calm and reduces my stress levels.
One way to practise mindfulness is to become more aware of your senses. Try paying more attention to some of the things you can see, smell, hear, feel and taste.
Reduce your screen time
We all need a digital detox from time to time. It can be difficult to achieve when you work at a computer all day, but you can make small changes to ensure your overall screen time is reduced. Michael Townsend Williams advises that, “So much of what we do to relax has the opposite effect…most of us watch films, play games, interact on social media and, in doing so, continue to overstimulate our nervous system at the time when it desperately needs a rest.”
If you tend to watch TV or play on your phone to relax, perhaps you could occasionally read a book or listen to some music instead.
I’m personally working at cutting down my phone usage. My phone stays downstairs at night so I’m not tempted to look at it while in bed and at times throughout the day I leave it out of reach. It may also be helpful to alter your notification settings to minimise the distraction. Phones should certainly be banned from your ten minutes of stop time too.
Go outdoors and exercise
This is a big one for me. Being outdoors, breathing fresh air and being around nature is one of the best ways to reduce stress and anxiety. Don’t you always feel better after a short walk to clear your head? Exercise is also incredibly important for reducing stress and anxiety. You may not always have the luxury of doing this alone, but if you’re looking after your children all day then it’s beneficial for all of you to get outside, even if for a short time.
When you’re home with young children, it can feel like a mission to get everything ready to leave the house, especially when you have nappy bags and buggies to lug about, but the effort is always worth it, particularly if you’re feeling that parenting stress. If you’re unable to get out for a walk, then time spent in the garden will also help you to relax and ease the stress.
Spend time with your partner and your friends
It’s so important to take time off of your parenting duties to spend some quality time with the important people in your life.
Last night Ben and I sat and had dinner together at the kitchen table, just the two of us. We never do that, it’s often dinner on our laps, in front of the TV (that screen time needs addressing!). It was such a lovely thing to do, we actually talked and caught up about our days. We haven’t had much time just us since Pip arrived, but the odd date night is important, you need to make time for each other.
It’s also essential that you spend time with your friends. When Pip was a baby I suffered from separation anxiety and found it difficult leaving her. But seeing friends, even for a short time, was hugely beneficial for me and over time the anxiety of leaving her has eased. I enjoy the different conversation that I have with my friends, we make each other laugh and we have fun.
During the current Coronavirus lockdown I’ve been making time for group video calls with my friends. I’m really missing them at the moment, but seeing their faces and hearing their voices has lifted my spirits during some difficult times.
Remember that you have a life outside of your family home, it’s important to nourish that too.
Wind down before bed time
Getting a good nights sleep is essential. If you’re feeling stressed you may find it’s affecting the quality of your sleep. Sometimes our thoughts can keep us awake at night, particularly if you go to bed with a very active mind. Try to give yourself an opportunity to wind down properly, away from the screens, before you go to bed. Perhaps this is a good time for some mindfulness.
You simply can’t do it all. It’s important that you remind yourself of that fact, especially when that to-do list is weighing you down. Organise your time and set realistic goals for your week, but if you don’t manage to do those things, it’s okay, there is always next week. That to-do list will never end anyway, so find a way to feel more at ease with it. Do what you can, be pleased with what you achieved and be kind to yourself.
Ask for help
Many people struggle asking for help, myself included, but it’s really important that you do, especially if you’re struggling and feeling overwhelmed by the parenting stress. You may also need some support in order to do some of the suggestions above. We have a tendency as parents to feel like we have to do it all ourselves and that really isn’t the case, it takes a village to raise a child after all.
I hope you find these tips useful. Finding time to relax and reduce your stress levels as a parent can be hard, but once you begin to regularly factor in some ‘you time’, you will find that everything else feels a little easier as a result.