We know that stress is the natural response to external pressure that disrupts our balance, don’t we? But did you know that stress has a mind/body connection? It can affect every area of our life.
What is Stress?
Stress is a normal reaction to an outside stimulus that everyone experiences. In small doses, it focuses you to do well in tests, interviews etc., but when too much stress builds up it can physically and emotionally affect every area of your life.
If we are asked to do more than our body is capable of doing, we feel stressed, and let’s all agree that during this pandemic, we have all had more stressors in our lives…right? The adrenalin that is pumped in our body starts to affect us physically and it affects our immunity if we don’t look after ourselves. It is even more important to know more about stress and how to deal with it at times of crisis.
I’ve been hearing a lot of stories from anxious parents who are obviously feeling this coronavirus stress and parent stress is all over Facebook. Special parenting groups have been established specifically to support parents at this time.
Here are 3 examples from a stressed out mums in a Facebook group called “8 out of 10 mums….ask”. They wrote:
“Big sympathy as it’s so tough on parents who are both working and have childcare/ homeschooling etc. to juggle”
“I have got to the point where I have just had enough ? trying to work from home in a new role, hubby is working from home full time – I am literally the wife, cleaner, teacher, mum, dog mum and I feel like I’m going to blow ?!!! I’m just so tired! A whole day off – no kids, no husband, no work and no house work. Just me, copious amounts of tea and biscuits and Netflix! That’s all I want is one day!”
“definitely hard with the kids. I’ve also (got) an 8 year old who also thinks he’s 28 and tries to rule to roost…I wish (my husband) would do something in order to have a whole day on the PS4 but alas he doesn’t. I’m running myself ragged from some days 4am (depending on when the 5 year old gets up) doing literally everything including working on setting up my business and orders ?”
These posts triggered countless other stories of stressed parents who are spinning so many plates with no real work-life balance and struggling with their parenting. Some mums are also small business owners trying to earn a living as well as care for their families. Maybe you too can relate? Or, you know someone who might be going through something similar?
The World Health Organisation emphasises that too much stress affects our immune system and therefore we become too weak to fight the coronavirus. So, preventative care is crucial to improve our overall well-being as it will impact the well-being of the whole family. You have heard the cliche – If you are in an aeroplane and there is turbulence, you must put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you can help anyone else…well, it’s now time to put that oxygen mask on while we are still in this turbulent phase.
My argument is that the “oxygen mask” should be for you to gain skills in your parenting as soon as you notice a change in your children’s behaviour. If children are happy and content, you will find that the whole atmosphere will be so much more harmonious.
Here are some strategies to maintain your mental health and wellbeing of your family during this pandemic.
Strategy 1: Recognise Your Stress
The first step is to become aware and recognise when you or your children are feeling stressed, otherwise it will affect how you manage your stress.
Do you recognise any of these effects of stress in your life?
- Have you been feeling sad, confused, irritable, angry or had suicidal thoughts?
- Have you found yourself being unable to concentrate properly or be less efficient or productive?
- Do you sometimes feel like socially withdrawing yourself and isolating yourself (not because of social distancing or wanting time away from your family or going on holiday for a break)?
- Do you find yourself having body pain or tension e.g. headaches or painful muscles?
- Do you find yourself having less energy, or feeling tired, weak or fatigued a lot more?
- Has your sleep been affected? Do you have insomnia or are you having nightmares?
You would be surprised how many people feel these symptoms but carry on regardless.
It is easy to become complacent even if you do notice these symptoms and it is tempting to think you can just brush them under the carpet and just carry on with your daily activities – like being a mum to your children and running a business. The danger here is that you miss the crucial moment to do something about it before the stress becomes overwhelming – like when your children start to show behaviour problems like being angry, rude, slamming doors etc. or if you begin to make mistakes in your work.
I mean, if you saw the red light on your car dashboard telling you you need to change your oil, would you ignore that? These are the red lights to get some help.
As in the stories above, it’s a bit like getting irritated and frustrated with your husband for leaving you to deal with the home, kids and chores but ignoring your frustration instead of perhaps saying something to your husband, your kids or even changing your mindset about the whole situation. Then as the irritation is bubbling under the surface something else happens in the day, you hear the news and the kids might do something quite minor, like dropping food on the floor. That frustration quickly turns to anger and before you know it, your reactions become overwhelmingly and inappropriately loud and shouty and your child then starts to get irritated or scared from your behaviour. Then in turn, their behaviour becomes too hard to handle as that starts another vicious cycle… So, if you implement these strategies when you first notice the above signs, then you are likely to reduce stress for yourself and your whole family.
Strategy 2: Acknowledge Your Stress
On the one hand it is really difficult to live with the unknown as updates about COVID are drip fed by the government almost on a daily basis, and on the other hand there is still uncertainty surrounding the virus which can make you anxious.
One thing to remember is that you can’t control what is happening in the world. So, for all parents, just focus on the things you can control. A key difference between stress and anxiety is that we falsely believe we have some control by over-thinking and worrying.
There are so many conspiracy theories out there and may not help with stress management and it is important to keep updated, but via reputable sources and follow the expert guidance to manage what you can and let go of the temptation to control what you can’t.
Strategy 3: Know Your Limits
As you begin to recognise the signs of stress in your body, you can benefit from changing your mindset, creating new habits and keep checking in with your emotions in order to avoid overlooking your stress and brushing it under the carpet. There is always something you can do.
Set a timer and reduce the amount of news you watch or reduce the time you discuss this with others in your life. Make a decision about what is a priority in your life right now. The world has forced us to be indoors but how important is cleaning and house work? Can you rotate which rooms you clean on a weekly basis? These days, both parents are working from home, is it possible to share the responsibility of cooking, feeding, tidying up? Draw up a rota…get the children involved with chores (if they are old enough). The parent in the story above mentioned that she had a new role – which could mean that she has a steep learning curve and needs time for that.
All this brings us to strategy four.
Strategy 4: Make Time For Self-Care
Self-care does not mean that it needs to be done in isolation. It is an active process and comprises skills that you use to get your needs met…you have to invest in your general wellness. It’s not selfish…it is actually an act of self-love. When you look after yourself, you are modelling this behaviour to your children. Self-care is about eating good nutritious food, staying active and getting enough rest…and gaining skills to manage your children’s behaviour through gaining parenting skills.
These skills then become your “coping mechanisms” that you use to moderate your own stress. It’s a bit like turning the volume down on your remote control. So when the ‘noise and chaos’ becomes too loud, you can use your stress coping strategies to moderate and turn it down. You could expand your repertoire of nutritious foods by using less processed foods and opting for organic whole foods, or using different exercises, for example, yoga, meditation or having short naps (even 10 minutes), and learn a new skill or develop an existing skill, perhaps parenting, to help to increase the coping ‘tools’ in your tool box.
I know it is easy for me to say this, but make the most of the reality you find yourself in. Change your mindset and focus on the things you can do rather than what you cannot do. Shifting your mindset like that is also a coping mechanism to moderate your stress levels as it eases the pressure you might feel.
What else can you do?
I’ve mentioned parenting a couple of times. It is an area I am passionate about. Children are our future and the way we treat them and raise them will impact them for years to come. They will become our future leaders in the community and that is why I am dedicated to coaching and supporting as many parents as I can to nurture and raise happy children.
I often run workshops and 121 sessions covering these techniques, but during this time of lockdown, I created an online program so I could share my knowledge with more people. I want to make my work accessible across the world and support as many families as I can.
Have you ever taken an online class? I love them because I can go at my own pace, rewind parts I want to rewatch and really soak in and it appeals to me as a visual and auditory learner.
If you are experiencing stress and want some practical strategies to overcome that and bring some calm and order to your home environment, then please take a look at my online course. I would love to welcome you into my private community to support you with whatever challenges you are facing. With an experienced guiding hand like mine, you can get through anything!