Stress is inevitable; we can't avoid it. In fact, it can be argued that stress is the spice of life. Without some stress, life would be dull, indeed. Major life events - the birth of a child, the death of a parent, relocation or retirement - can increase stress. Some of these events are positive and some are negative. Too many major events in a short period of time can lead to stress overload. Likewise, daily strains such as rush hour traffic and cranky children can pile up and raise our stress level to the danger zone.
Daily strains and major life events are called stressors. Stressors trigger a stress reaction but do not necessarily cause stress. Each individual has a different stress reaction to a particular stressor depending on:
For example, one parent may perceive a child's defiance as a personal affront, while another parent may see the same behavior as a normal part of development. The parent who takes defiance personally may experience strong emotions, including stress.
Some coping techniques are not helpful. Some parents fight. They argue, yell, hit, or throw things. Others withdraw. They sulk, oversleep, overeat, watch too much television, or get drunk. Healthy coping techniques that enable us to adapt to and regain control of a stressful situation are helpful. Some effective coping techniques include:
Become aware of your stress symptoms
There are many physical, emotional and behavioral warning signs when stress strikes. You may have an upset stomach or a headache. You may feel angry or lonely. You may procrastinate or take medication. Some people have typical stress reactions like migraine headaches. When you notice these symptoms, ask yourself, "Why am I stressed out?"
Identify and clarify stressors
After recognizing stress and its symptoms, try to determine what's triggering the stress reaction. Try to look at stressors rationally and decide (a) whether or not there is a problem and (b) how much control you actually have. For example, you may have real concern but little control over grandfather's terminal illness. Continuing to be upset and stressed out by his illness is not helpful. What you can control is how you spend your remaining time with him.
Reduce tension and relieve pressure
When stress strikes and you feel like lashing out or running away, STOP. Don't do something you'll regret later or will cause you greater stress. And don't take it out on your family. Try these stressbreakers instead.
Take care of yourself
Fatigue, caffeine, smoking, alcohol and overeating can increase the intensity of your stress symptoms. Take a look at your daily habits and try to make the following changes:
Make a commitment to change
In addition to changing your daily health habits, you may want to make other changes to reduce stress. Here are some changes that can help parents.
When stress strikes - and it will - parents must be prepared to cope effectively to reduce its impact on the family. Chronic or overwhelming stress can ruin relationships, health and our ability to parent.
Source: Tim Jahn, Human Development Specialist, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. Parent Pages was developed by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County. HD 35
Last updated July 10, 2020