Parenting and raising a family is one of the hardest jobs there is. And during certain seasons, especially when children are young, it can be difficult to find time to care for yourself. However, when stress goes through the roof, often your self-care is one of the first things to go.
Check out the YouTube video where Foundation FIT’s Sylvia Darby (gym owner and homeschool mama of 3) gets real about stress in raising her family.
Sometimes it feels like the best ways to lower stress are an extra glass of wine, a pint of favorite ice cream, or relaxing in front of the TV. But those short-term “solutions” often end up helping avoid the actual core of stressors and just delay it for another day.
How Does Stress Impact Wellness?
Stress is a huge component of overall wellness, and it impacts everything from your immune system to your ability to make decisions. If you ignore stress management, it can even lead you down the path of disease and worse health outcomes in the future.
Some years raising a family may have more or less stress. As stress ebbs and flows in your household, you’ll need to be intentional about finding ways to alleviate it.
10 Ways to Lower Stress When Raising a Family
Here are 10 ways to lower stress when raising a family. And if you don’t yet have a family, hopefully, you can use some of these ideas to create routines to lower stress in general.
1. Figure out the best way to budget your time.
How many times do you find yourself saying, “I don’t have time for that,” or “If only there were more hours in the day.” Time pressure is a universal stressor, and this stress bubbles over when you feel like you don’t have time for yourself, your kids, anything.
So think about when is the best time for you to get something done with your busy schedule? If you choose to tackle your to-do list on a day when the kids have five different commitments, and everyone needs a ride, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Instead, choose a weekday or weekend when you have childcare, or the kids are doing a quiet activity.
Is your to-do list just too darn long, and you’d need an army to get it done by week’s end? As you review, think about delegating and prioritizing. Do you need to do everything on the list? Could your spouse or older children help with certain things?
Sylvia finds the morning hours to be optimal for tackling the to-do list. The house is quiet, and nobody is pulling on you for this and that. Sylvia adjusts her bedtime around when she needs to get up to lock-in that time. Yes, this may mean you trade 30 minutes of vegging on the couch at night for 30 minutes at the kitchen table in the morning with a cup of coffee.
But starting the day earlier can give you an early win, and that accomplishment before the kids get up may be enough motivation to carry into the rest of your day as well.
2. Find practical sleep solutions.
Whether it’s the parents or the kids, it seems that someone is always running low on sleep in the course of raising a family. But every child is different and every family is different. Some kids aren’t easy to put to sleep and others won’t stay asleep.
That’s why it’s so hard to make generalized recommendations like, “just put your kids to bed earlier and you’ll be able to go to bed earlier too.”
Some families could implement that in a week. Others could struggle with it for months and find that it’s just not the right choice for their family.
What you can do is start to think of practical solutions to address the issues you have with sleep. It may be simply educating your kids on sleep. If they’re athletes or have an attitude of trying to be the best they can be, it’ll probably interest them to know the ways sleep can aid in recovery or make them feel less mental fatigue.
Consider introducing a wind-down routine for the kids and/or for yourself. Instead of TV and iPads, get them to wind down with a book, coloring, or similar activity. Think about taking your phone out of your room, cutting caffeine off after a certain hour, or making your room darker with black-out shades or a sleep mask. These are simple changes that could improve sleep and remove stress from your daily life.
3. Step back from the chaos and train kids to be self-sufficient.
Sometimes you’re in so deep every day that you struggle to see the larger picture and what you actually have control over. This could lead you to a mindset where you can’t see what you need to do to improve it. So take a step back to assess some of the areas where your kids may be able to step up and become a bit more self-sufficient.
- Put commonly-used items at kid level: If your kids are constantly pulling on you and asking you for things, can you put things at a reachable level for them? Keep cups, straws, and healthy snacks at kid-level so they can do it themselves.
- Teach kids to resolve conflict: If you’re getting a lot of “she did this” and “he did that,” teach kids to handle it on their own without always having to run to mom and dad. It’s incredible the transition you may start to see when you teach kids how to solve problems for themselves. They may still come to you for some things, but they might be capable of talking some problems out themselves too.
- Teach kids your warning signs: Teach children to be intuitive and empathetic, towards others but also toward you and what you need! If you’re overly stressed, clearly communicate it to kids. Sylvia will verbally tell her kids, “Hey, mom is maxed out right now.” Her oldest has even said, “Mom, I can tell you’re stressed out right now, what can I do to help.” Holy moly, that might be every parent’s dream!
4. Cut out the noise, negativity, and fear that you can control.
Stress can be compounded by the constant worry, negativity, and fear that stems from the news, social media, or sometimes your own social circles. So assess if mainstream media, social media, or certain people have a place in your family.
If you decide it’s doing more harm than good, shut the news off. Keep the TV off unless it’s something you intentionally want to watch. Don’t let background noise create unnecessary stress for you or your children.
5. Get outside in nature whenever you can.
Nature is therapeutic. It doesn’t matter if it’s cold, raining, or so humid you start to sweat instantly. Stepping outside for a few minutes and taking deep breaths has the effect of naturally turning down our internal panic buttons. If possible, think about getting your family out to nature trails or day-tripping to the closest national forest.
If you’re in the Charleston, SC, area, there are plenty of amazing hiking trails nearby to enjoy!
6. Get out of your own head by finding motivation.
Have you ever had the experience of not being able to get out of your own head? You may be compounding stress by mentally re-hashing events. So do something to step out of that and put your focus on something better.
It could be starting a gratitude journal. Read a book about an inspirational story about someone who was struggling and how they got through it. It’s a great time to read a blog about setting goals. Anything you need to do to get out of your own head.
7. Exercise to reduce stress.
Exercise is an excellent solution for stress that helps to increase endorphins to boost mood while simultaneously limiting the impacts of fear, stress, or anger. Even if you’re feeling stress-related fatigue, doing something, whether it’s a slow walk, casual bike ride, or 10-minute yoga video, can help to lower your stress and make you better equipped to finish out a stressful day of raising a family.
8. Prioritize communication with your spouse/partner.
Whether you have a spouse/partner/co-parent or another person helping raise your children, communication is HUGE when it comes to stress relief. Maybe you need a date night or simply a time to catch up and talk about what you need to feel better supported.
On nights when Sylvia is super maxed out, the kids gather for an evening wind down in her bed. Then, once everyone is ready for bed after books, prayers, or just conversation, her husband steps in to handle bedtime. This gives Sylvia an opportunity to connect with family, but to do so from a position of relaxation and stress relief. It took her family a lot of communication to figure out how to make it work, and it will take the same for you. But just starting a conversation about what you need can lead to those types of helpful changes in your home too.
9. Lean into your circle of friends.
The mamas out there know that friends are amazing resources for getting advice, gathering suggestions, or sometimes just venting about the struggles of raising little ones. If you don’t have a circle of other supportive parents, seek them out. Look for meet-up groups through church or your neighborhood. You can also consider joining a local gym to find other parents you can talk to before or after class and leverage the existing gym community for friendship.
10. Create rituals of self-care.
In some seasons, you don’t have the luxury of being able to take a weekend vacation away. But maybe you have time to take a bath with Epsom salts, coconut oil, and apple cider vinegar to detox and relax for 30 minutes. Find the little ways to reward your mind and body and express care for yourself as you manage the ongoing caregiving for others.
The Main Thing About Lowering Stress When Raising a Family
You’re going to go through periods of stress when raising a family. But if you take one or two of these ideas for stress relief and be intentional about implementing them, the stress doesn’t need to be prolonged. The most important thing is that you make an effort to reduce your stress and not let it fester for years until it negatively impacts your body. Need help getting started? Foundation FIT is happy to help!
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