Any life-changing event like starting a new career, getting married or having a baby is inherently stressful simply because it really does change your life, and people generally find change stressful, even if it's a good change!
Being a parent can be incredibly stressful. Some stresses are easy to identify, like a crying baby or an over-tired toddler. High fevers, tantrums or trying to hold everything together on four hours of broken sleep is hard. So is rushing home from a stressful day at work only to find that things aren't much better at home.See if you can come up with any ideas ahead of time on how to manage these situations.
Some stresses are harder to identify and talk about. One of the stresses of parenthood is often feeling like you are constantly sharing yourself - giving yourself away, or losing sight of the 'old' you.
Recognising you are stressed doesn't mean you don't love your children, or love being their parent. It just means you are human - and there is nothing that taps more into our humanity than parenthood!
Take responsibility for your stress - give yourself permission to admit being stressed and work towards dealing with it. Work out what it is that stresses you and why and discuss this with your partner, or an understanding friend. If, despite your best efforts, you can't, then work on managing the stress build-up inside of you. Do not make the mistake of making your partner responsible for your stress. Doing so will leave you powerless to do anything about it.
- Have some time to yourself - have a cuppa, read a magazine or call a friend
- Talk to others who feel the same way so you know you are not alone in this
- Develop an interest or activity that is just for you and make some time regular time for yourself
- Get moving. Stress hormones build up in our system - but exercise gets rid of them. If you can't get out on your own, put the baby in the pram and go, go, go!
- Treat yourself to something nice.
- If you can find anything funny about the situation, go ahead and laugh - this releases stress hormones.
- Ask for help when you need it and let yourself accept help when its offered
- Make sure you eat well, exercise and rest on a regular basis.
- Nurture yourself - put on some soothing music, take a long bath or shower, or burn some essential oils.
- Learn some yoga, meditation or relaxation techniques. You can do this with a tape, DVD or on-line.
- Spend some time in nature - the local park, beach or in the garden.
- Have a good cry if you need to, this also releases stress hormones.
- Get a hug. Rules of hugging: the one who needs the hug is the first one to let go.
- Expect that each stage will have its challenges. The newborn stage is like an endurance sport. For 6-8 weeks you are physically exhausted, sleep deprived and have little time to rest and relax. The toddler stage can be both physically and mentally taxing. Teenagers too! Prepare yourself by reading ahead.
- Communicate with your higher power if you have one. Being in touch with your spirituality, whatever that means for you, is very comforting in lots of ways.
- Expect that you will both react differently to stress. Women often want to talk things through. Men often to want time to themselves to do something they find relaxing.
- Share the stress. When only one parent does particularly stressful stuff on their own it can lead to resentment. Sharing the load with your partner brings you closer.