Read these 60 Stress Management Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Single Parent tips and hundreds of other topics.
Exercise! One of the best stress relievers around is simply doing some type of physical activity, the more strenuous the better. Try running, power walking, aerobics, bicycling, rollerblading, etc. Vigorous aerobic-type exercise helps you to think more clearly and reduces your stress levels, not to mention the benefits to your body and overall health.
Set aside a time each week for yourself when you can be alone or do what you want to do. Do not feel guilty for abandoning your children. The break will do both of you good. You will have had the opportunity to renew yourself emotionally and they will have an opportunity to see that they can survive without you for a few hours and maybe even enjoy it. You will come back refreshed and better able to tackle the daily stress again.
To help keep things in their proper perspective, it may help to make a list of things that are most important to you and that you consider to be priorities in your life. Some suggestions: spending quality time with someone you care about (like your children), physical exercise for you and your children's health, and quiet times to meditate/pray to assist you in keeping your priorities in order. Having the latest fashions or the cleanest home are not priorities.
Do not clutter your life with papers. Handle each piece of paper only once, and throw away what can. Take your office skills and use them at home. Keep three file folders handy when sorting mail, notes from school, etc. Label one "URGENT," the second one "ASAP," and the third one, "TO BE FILED." Then deal with it in that order.
Tip from Shellee Darnell in article entitled Single Parents Raise Good Kids Too! “The single parent frequently feels overwhelmed by the responsibility, tasks, and emotional overload associated with raising children alone. It is extremely important to manage time wisely and to ask for help when necessary. Assign children appropriate chores and tasks. Arrange car pools when possible, and ask other parents for help when needed. My children would not have been able to continue in club soccer were it not for the kindness of other parents providing rides to practices and games.”
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff article by Richard Carlson,, Ph.D.: ¡§We live in a complex world. Most of us live complicated lives. We collect things and we collect achievements. Most of us believe that more is better, bigger is better, and faster is better. Somehow we believe that if we can get more stuff, achieve more often, do bigger and better things, make more money, have more experiences and so forth, that we'll end up happier. The problem is, when life becomes too complicated and full, it also becomes overwhelming. We have too much going on, too much to keep track of. The result is that we become stressed, irritated and more easily bothered and anxious.¡§
Your body cannot tell the difference between a positive or negative stressor. In either case, your body experiences the same stress effects. If you are not able to let off steam and relax, these effects can be harmful. You may feel tired, depressed, or anxious. You may experience physical symptoms such as a clenched jaw or backache. During periods of stress, take care of yourself by getting plenty of rest, eating healthy, exercising, and relaxing without alcohol or drugs. Your body will thank you for it.
Often when we are stressed with seemingly no way to alleviate it. Use your stress to be productive instead bottling it up or yelling. Give that floor or the walls a good scrubbing, weed that garden (pretend the weeds are things you are angry about and chop them into little pieces with a hoe or "weed wacker".)
Resolve to start each day with a clean slate. Before your day ends, find a way to release any built-up stress that has accumulated during the day. Take a brisk walk, shoot some hoops with your child, go for a daily run, or spend time in prayer/meditation. Physical exertion helps your body cope by rushing fresh oxygen into your body and releasing harmful stressors that have accumulated. Stress can accumulate in your body and cause serious illness and weaken your resistance to infections. So, dump the stress daily.
Save up the many short errands and odd-end jobs for a once a month or bi-monthly marathon. Devote a half day to accomplishing as much as you can. Ask a friend to come along to help with the kids or find a babysitter and have a day out with your friend. Consider rewarding yourself with a movie or a quiet lunch with your friend after your errands are done.
Children can be taught at a young age how to plan and organize their life to be less hectic and stressful. For example, in the evenings before they go to bed, teach them to select and lay out their clothes for the next day and repack their backpack for school. They can also plan what they will have for breakfast the next morning and can even set the table by getting out a bowl and spoon and the cereal if that is what they plan to have. Things will go much smoother the next morning and everyone can start the day peacefully instead in a frantic rush because they have nothing clean to wear, they can't find their homework, etc. Learning this lesson at a young age will help them plan and stay organized the rest of their life. Plus, it also teaches them how to behave responsibly, another valuable lesson.
The next time you get too stressed out, try phoning a good friend and talk about the craziness of your day. Look for the humorous side of things and you will both end up laughing. Sharing your troubles with an optimistic friend and having a good laugh can do wonders to release the tension built up inside of you. Plus you will probably brighten their day also, so keep in touch.
Relax and pay attention to your breathing. Breathe in slowly, breath out, and pause. Slowly repeat. Direct your awareness away from whatever is going on in the outside world. Tune into the out-breath, and visualize the tension and stress flowing out of you. It may take 10-15 minutes at first to get into a deep relaxed state, but with practice, it can be accomplished in a minute or two.
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff article by Richard Carlson: “We live in a time of hyper-speed. Despite a multitude of time-saving devices and incredible technology at our disposal, it seems that everyone is in an enormous rush most of the time. We keep finding clever ways to ‘save time,' but never actually feel as though we have enough time. (And once you've ‘saved' all that time, what do you do with it? You can't collect it in a basket somewhere for later.) Being in a hurry and worrying go hand-in-hand. When you're rushed, frantic, over-committed and constantly behind schedule, your state of mind produces anxiety and fear.”
Tip from Shellee Darnell in article entitled Single Parents Raise Good Kids Too! “It is critical for your children's well being for you to take care of yourself. There are times when you feel like you need a break. Ask other single parents to trade babysitting or hire a mother's helper. Pay special attention to diet, exercise, stress management, and getting a good night's sleep. . . . Take a walk, read a book call a friend, take a nap. . . . A stressed out parent results in stressed out kids.”
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff article by Richard Carlson, Ph.D.: “Often things don't turn out nearly as badly as we imagined they would. Although worry is at times, tempting, and it can certainly drain your energy, it usually does very little to produce results. This understanding is quite different from those who equate worrying with being wise and discriminating. If you think about it, you'll probably agree that when you solve problems, you likely do so despite your worry, not because of it….Many people would go so far as to say when you worry about something too much, you actually increase the likelihood that whatever it is you're worrying about will happen! In other words, your focused energy on the content of your worry draws it toward you instead of keeping it away. Reminding ourselves that worry is neutral at best, and self-destructive at worst, helps to keep our tendency to worry to a minimum.”
Make extra time on the weekends for you and your children. Try not to think of work and the hundreds of other things that you "should" be doing. Use this time to relax with your kids and have some fun. You will be more productive when Monday morning comes around as you will be refreshed. Remember your children are only small for a short time! Take time to enjoy them. They will not remember the piles of dirty laundry or the unwashed car, but they will remember swinging at the park or playing ball with you.
It is important to have family dinners as a time for the whole family to sit down and enjoy a meal together. But preparing an evening meal is difficult when the kids have ball/soccer practice, or dance recitals at that time. This is a great time to invest in or use a crock pot or slow cooker. Your dinner will cook while you are transporting kids to and from practice, and it will be hot and ready to eat when everyone finally gathers in.
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff article by Richard Carlson. Ph.D.: Make a “conscious, voluntary decision to simplify your life….Begin in small ways. Learn to say ‘no' more often, reduce, where appropriate, a few of your obligations, and stop taking on more—unless and until you counter your new obligation by eliminating a different one. Get rid of stuff you don't need. Consolidate, reduce your consumption, and think in terms of quality of experience, not quantity. Finally, learn to value space in your calendar. If you do manage to create some free time, try not to fill it up with something else.”
Retreat to a quiet place in the house, such as your bedroom, close the door, turn off the phone, and find a comfortable place to lie down. Teach your children that your closed door means you want some quiet time alone and you are not to be disturbed unless it is an emergency. Listen to some gentle music while you relax or focus on something that makes you feel lethargic and rested, such as lying on a sun drenched beach.
Reward and praise your children when they do their chores properly. Since they helped you get the household chores and cleaning done quicker, you now have time to do some fun activities with them. Reward them by going and watching their soccer game, take them for a fun afternoon at the park, etc. Do not make your children slaves, but instead make them partners on your team. Children like to feel they are part of a team and they want and need your praise for their accomplishments, even if it is helping around the house.
Just as the commercial says, retreat to the bathroom and take a long hot shower or fragrant bubble bath. Try using fragrant aromatherapy oil or bath gel in soothing scents. If your children are older and you do not have to be concerned with their safety, try spending 20-30 minutes soaking your cares away. For a special touch, turn off the lights, light a candle, and bathe by candlelight. Indulge, you deserve it.
Recognize that some of your time will be spent in activities out of your control. Getting upset while waiting in traffic or sitting in a doctor's waiting room, is a waste of time. In fact, "waiting," might be the best time to relax, read a book or magazine (do NOT read in the car), plan a meal, or meditate. A few "surprise" moments for yourself will often re-energize you for rest of the day.
Stress is like body temperature: if it is too low or too high, you have a hard time surviving, but the right balance can keep you going strong. It makes sense to use stress energy positively, to meet the challenges of life, experiences, and goals. Stress is not all bad. In fact, positive stress can make life both rich and satisfying. Find ways to make it positive.
When you start feeling really stressed, take a break and go for a brisk walk, run, or bike ride. Find a way to release that energy so it does not build up inside of you. The fresh air will get more oxygen pumping into your brain, which will help clear your thought processes. You will be better able to put things in perspective.
Make a list of tasks that need to be done and let them help you decide what tasks they would like to be responsible to do. It will probably take longer at first for you to teach them how to do the chores properly but after a few times they will catch on and will eventually be able to complete it with minimal supervision.
Prioritize and compromise. Do the most important things first. Are clean clothes more important than spotless floors? Then skip the mopping and do the laundry. Save the mopping until next week. Try to do grocery shopping every other week rather than every week. Alternate home jobs so you are not doing the same thing all the time. Do what¡¦s most important first and schedule the other things on alternate schedules. Do not try to be "Super Parent". It is impossible and you will find yourself burning out quickly. You are not expected to be perfect, so relax and enjoy life, not just endure it.
Make bedtime a special time. With younger children, read them a story from their favorite book. With older children you may want to talk about tomorrow's plans and any arrangements that need to be made. Some families like to have a family devotion and prayer before retiring. Do what works best for you, just make it special and enjoyable. A hug, goodnight kiss or smile will provide more pleasant dreams than arguments.
Make a list of the priorities in your life. Make a second list of how you spend your time, and compare the two. Unfortunately most of the time we are busy responding to pressing, unimportant things rather than the things we feel are important, but are not urgent at the time. Somehow the unimportant things become our priorities and we need to resolve to give them their proper place.
Designate a place for snacks in your kitchen, such as a drawer or shelf that is accessible for young children. Keep it stocked with healthy snacks such as dry cereals, breakfast bars, graham crackers, and peanut butter. You can also designate a drawer in your refrigerator for fresh fruits, boxed juice drinks, already-washed fruit, or cheese sticks. Store plastic cups, bowls, and plates for kids to use on shelves they can reach and let them help themselves.
Do not be afraid to ask your children for help around the house. Get the kids to pitch in (yes, a five year old can help set the table and fold laundry). Assign chores to everyone in the household within their capabilities. And be sure to include a reward system. Base their allowance on the successful completion of their chores. Assign monetary values to each chore, such as 25 cents to unload the dishwasher, 10 cents to take out the trash, $1.00 to vacuum the floors, etc. Prepare a weekly time sheet for them to complete which lists the chores assigned to them and the monetary value associated with it. This will teach them responsibility, give them an opportunity to earn their allowance, and give you much needed help with household duties without having to nag.
Go shopping with a friend (without the kids along). Go out on a date or to the movie with a friend. Guys may want to go fishing, hunting, or golfing with a friend. Just make some social time for you without the children in tow. You may want to get your hair done, a facial or massage, or maybe just sit quietly in the park or by a lake for a few hours and just enjoy the beauty of nature. It will help get some perspective back in your life. It is amazing how much clearer your thinking can be in a stress-free environment.
Stress is not something that happens to you, it is what you do with what happens to you. Take a few moments to relax and do some deep breathing exercises to help your body deal with the situation. Decide you are going to control the situation, not let it control you. And you begin by controlling how your body reacts to it, and calming it down. Then you can think more clearly and calmly, and are better able to deal with it or find a solution.
Be sure to include a reward system for your children who help you with household chores. Base their allowance on the successful completion of their chores. Assign monetary values to each chore, such as 25 cents to unload the dishwasher, 10 cents to take out the trash, $1.00 to vacuum the floors, etc. Prepare a weekly time sheet for them to complete which lists the chores assigned to them and the monetary value associated with it. This will teach them responsibility, give them an opportunity to earn their allowance, and give you much needed help with household duties without having to nag.
Weekends tend to be jam-packed with all kinds of chores that didn't get accomplished during the week for lack of time. For many single-parent households it is a day of cleaning, doing laundry, grocery shopping, running errands, etc. Enlist your kids help in completing chores. Even the young ones can help by picking up toys.
Rather than procrastinate, ask yourself, "Will something horrible happen to me if I do not do this right now?" It is best not to put off what can be done immediately, but if you answer "No," chances are you are too tired or stressed out and can probably save this task for another time when you are better able to deal with it..
Stress is defined as a response by your body to any demand made upon it. Your body responds to stress in many ways. Hormones, like adrenaline, surge. Your heartbeat and blood pressure increase. Your blood sugar rises. These effects, unchanged for thousands of years, helped prehistoric humans survive by helping them run away faster or fight harder, which is why we often call our body's reaction to stress the "fight or flight" response.
Using your muscles to alleviate stress will burn up that excess energy produced by your body to compensate for stress. Not only will this tire you out so you can sleep despite the stressors, you will get those chores done that you have been putting off. After about 30 minutes (dependent upon how stressed out you are) you will begin to really feel better!
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff article by Richard Carlson, Ph.D.: We should not "ignore problems or pretend they do not exist. A bright future requires that we do all we can to solve problems and make the world a better place, yet at the same time learn to acknowledge and appreciate the good that exists as well. A positive, grateful focus encourages more of the same in the future. Gratitude is a powerful antidote to stress. It keeps us hopeful and our spirits high. It reduces our tendency to worry, which keeps us wise and kind. Gratitude keeps us focused on solutions instead of riveted to problems."
It seems there is not enough time in an allotted 24-hour day. Here is a suggestion on how to deal with it: Tell your kids that the first 30 minutes after you get home from work belongs to you. You need time to wind down from your work day, check the mail, change clothes, and prepare for supper, homework, and the thousands of other demands the evening will bring.
Most people think of stressors, or things that cause stress, as negative, such as traffic, a difficult job, or divorce. Many people are aware of tense muscles, headaches or stomach aches during, before or after such situations. But stressors can also be positive experiences. Having a baby, bowling a perfect 300 game, or completing a satisfying project are all changes that can activate your stress response in a positive manner.
Every evening, give yourself some private time. Set aside at least 30 minutes a day to relax, exercise, cry, laugh, write in a journal, pray or read your Bible. Let your child know this is your time and you are not to be interrupted. Make sure young children are in a safe place with safe activities if they are not already in bed. (You may want to wait until bedtime to assure it will be quiet and no telephone calls to disrupt your time.) Just make sure you allow time to focus on you and improving yourself. I found the best time is to get up earlier in the mornings before anyone else is up and the phone is not ringing.
Naps are not just for kids, adults need them sometimes too. It is amazing how much a power nap of 15 minutes will do for you. Studies have shown that a 15-30 minute nap after lunch can refresh you and make you more productive. Sometimes a 30 minute nap on Sunday afternoons is what gets me through the rest of the week.
Things will go smoother in the mornings if your children plan ahead on what to wear, organize their school work, and pack their lunches. Everyone can start the day peacefully instead of in a frantic rush because they have nothing clean to wear, they cannot find their homework, etc. Learning this lesson at a young age will help your children plan and stay organized the rest of their life. It also teaches them how to behave responsibly, another valuable lesson.
Delegate when you can to others in the household. Do not be afraid to ask your children to help. You are not competing for the "Super Parent" award. Get the kids to pitch in (a 6 year old child can help set the table, fold laundry, and keep their room picked up). Assign chores to everyone in the household within their capabilities.
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff article by Richard Carlson, Ph.D.: When we get overwhelmed by having too much going on, or too much to do, we become “less effective and more prone to mistakes. Our learning curve, as well as our sense of appreciation, plummets. We have so much ‘on our plates,' and we are so over-extended that we end up not doing anything very well. And even if we did, we certainly would be too busy to notice! Our productivity, as well as our quality of life begins to suffer. Complexity, too much stuff, too much to keep track of, and too much going on, promote worry, anxiety, pessimism, and fear.” So eliminate some “stuff” in your life and emphasize quality, not quantity. You will be much happier.
Get everything ready the night before to avoid early morning hassles of getting reluctant children up and ready for the day. Select and lay out clothing for the next day, repack school backpacks, prepare lunches, set the breakfast table, etc. This helps to assure a good night's sleep and a more pleasant morning. Planning ahead smoothes out some of the bumps in the road, and helps you be better prepared for the unexpected that inevitably happens!
Children can be taught to help with household chores such as emptying trash, sorting clothes for the laundry, and can help folding and putting clothes away or at least deliver the clothes to the proper room. They can be taught to wash dishes or load or unload the dishwasher. Older children can be taught how to do the laundry properly, can vacuum, dust, change bedding, etc. And, of course, they can all be taught to pick up their own rooms. It may not be exactly the way you would have done it, but since it will get messed up again quickly anyway, it does not really matter.
Everyone needs a break now and then, so give yourself one, even if only for a few hours a week. A happy, relaxed single parent is much better than a stressed-out single parent. You and your kids will be much happier. Take a walk, read a book, or indulge in a hot bubble bath, whatever relaxes you and helps you feel good about yourself again.
Set up a good filing system for paperwork as this will save you countless hours in the long run. Fill your file drawer with manila file folders for medical records, tax information, warranties, etc. Be sure to label a few for important things related to your children such as birth records, immunizations, and mementos from school plays and programs, awards, or that impromptu refrigerator art.
Sit down with your children and talk about their part in household chores, such as keeping their room cleaned or picked up. Develop a solution together that both of you can agree with to get the job done. If your child helps develop the plan, he or she will have a better attitude and commitment to fulfilling their responsibility than if someone just simply tells them what to do. Involve your child in the process of developing a plan to keep their room neat. You will get much more cooperation
Take time to enjoy some of the simple things in life. Take pleasure in sitting in a quiet place and take time to enjoy the environment around you. Or curl up in front of the fireplace with a hot cup of apple cider, or hot chocolate. Eliminate as many distractions as possible.
Don't Sweat the Small Stuff article by Richard Carlson: “To slow down effectively, the changes in you must first come from within—acknowledging you are too speeded up and moving too fast, slowing down your thinking, learning to breathe, making a few inner adjustments and so forth. Those changes, in turn, will likely result in some external changes as well—things like learning to say 'no' more often and without feeling guilty, scaling back your schedule, allowing more time in-between activities, and so forth. Learning to slow down, even a little bit, pays enormous dividends in the quality of your life.”
Many people think of stress as another way of saying tension or pressure. Actually, stress is just the way we respond to change. Understanding stress and its effects can help you use it to your own advantage, and turn potential "stressors" into positive challenges.
For fun, sometimes my children and I would call out goodnight to each other from our bedrooms, and then someone would say "goodnight John-Boy" just as they did at the end of the TV show, The Waltons. That was the signal for everyone to be quiet and go to sleep. It brought a smile to the face of everyone as we cast off the world of cares and indulged in this light-hearted ritual.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|