Parenting is stressful. Not taking time for yourself to relax or decompress can have a negative effect on your health and keep your family on edge. Stress has been linked to depression, headaches, chest pains, sleep problems, and even heart disease and diabetes. It also impacts your mood and can make you anxious, restless, irritable, and unfocused.
Your excess tension may also influence your children. They may endure your yelling or feel the added stress because they’re late for sports practice or dinner isn’t ready. Your children could also internalize that stress. If they see that mom and dad are always tense or anxious, they may grow up that way as well.
When you are relaxed, so is the rest of the family. But stress happens to everyone. So here are 15 relaxation tips for parents to add calmness to your day and help your body and mind deal with stress.
1. Rise and shine
Get up a few minutes earlier than the rest of your family and before the demands of the day take over. Enjoy a quiet breakfast and a cup of coffee or tea. Gather your thoughts and relax your mind and body.
2. Indulge a little
Eating when stressed is a big no-no. But a little dark chocolate can help you feel calmer and lower stress hormones.
Other foods, with plenty of complex carbohydrates, calcium or good fats, provide several benefits to your mental health.
Whole-grain bread and pasta and starchy vegetables provide complex carbohydrates that can give you energy and boost the about of serotonin in your brain, which can have a calming effect.
Milk, leafy vegetables and soy products contain calcium that has been known to reduce tension and anxiety.
Fish, nuts, and seeds have omega-3 fatty acids, which can keep your stress hormones in check.
3. Just breathe
One of the easiest ways to de-stress and relax is breathing. But exhale longer than you inhale. Take a deep breath of five seconds, hold, and then exhale for seven seconds. Repeat this action ten to 20 times. A chemical change in your brain makes your heart rate slow down.
Doing this breathing exercise in reverse, inhaling longer than exhaling, can give you a little boost if you you’re tired.
Beyond simple breathing exercises, meditation and yoga can help you fight off stress.
4. Get physical
Exercising releases endorphins, which trigger a positive feeling in your body. Just 10 minutes a day can get your heart pumping and blood flowing, help you reduce stress, and feel better. Take your baby out for a walk. The fresh air will also do you some good.
5. Laugh it off
Your toddler just dumped their dinner on the floor while your newborn with a dirty diaper wails in their bassinet. The dog is barking madly at some unforeseen terror just beyond your front door. You’re just about to lose it. And not in a good way. But instead of blowing up what if you just laughed it off. If this scene was in a movie, would the audience laugh? If you are re-telling this story to your friends, would you all get a chuckle? Laughing can alleviate anxiety and lower your stress. There will be time to clean up and change diapers after you enjoy the absurdity of the moment.
6. Take a picture
Maybe even better than laughing it off is to document the moment. Grab your cell phone and video or take pictures of the madness. It’ll force you to slow down and creates some distance between you and chaos. And then you can laugh about it later.
Obviously, if someone is in trouble or hurt, you should take care of them before anything else.
7. Quiet time means “me time”
If your children have outgrown naps, create a mandatory quiet time during the day. They can lay down, play with quiet toys or flip through picture books. It’s good for them to slow down and gives you a mental break during the day. Use this time to recharge yourself.
8. Be positive
Family dinner is a great time to talk about the good things that happened to you during the day. Every member of the family can participate. Pick three positive events. There’s always something good going on in your life and in the lives of the ones you love. Sharing in these experiences can help reduce stress and keep you optimistic. Plus, it’s helpful for your kids to hear you talk about good happenings in your life.
Remembering the “good old days” is a great way to take a load off. Flip through an album of old photos. Your children as tiny tots. Simpler time with college friends. You’ll smile, laugh, and relax.
10. Fun and games
After dinner and baths, it may be a good time for a family game or puzzle. These activities can help you engage with your children and forget about your growing to-do list or work email inbox. Family bonding also has a positive effect on your children. Games and puzzles are much better than zoning out to the TV.
11. Skip the tube and read a book
It’s easy to flop on the couch and turn on the TV when the kids are finally in bed and you have some alone time. But the light and noise from the television can stimulate your brain and keep you awake longer. You may not get as much good rest as you need. Try reading a book instead. Even if you only get through a few pages before conking out, it’ll be better for your mind and body.
12. Be early
Being early for anything can be a challenge and just getting everyone where they need to be on time can be stressful. But try, every now and then, to arrive at a pickup a few minutes early. Take that time to relax, close your eyes, and savor the quiet moment.
13. Smells like calm
On the way home from work, stop for a bouquet of your favorite flowers. The smell of fresh flowers can trigger positive emotions and lower stress levels. Essential oils can also fill your home with soothing and relaxing smells. Try scents like lemon, lavender, and chamomile.
14. Play dates
Arrange play dates for your children. Make it a regular thing that rotates among families. You’ll get a break from parenting and can take the time to rejuvenate.
15. Ask for help
If there is one group of people who know that parenting is stressful, it’s parents. If the stress of handling your kids is getting too much, don’t be afraid to call a friend, neighbor, or family member and ask for relief. Even if it’s just for a short time. Or schedule a regular night for a babysitter so you can have a date night and time away.
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