Stress is something we all have to mange, yet without secure strategies in place, it can rule us, rather than us managing our stress levels.
What is stress?
Stress is our body’s reaction to stress triggers or stressors – people, places or situations that we perceive as a threat. In this way, things that cause us stress can be real or imaginary , and can become exaggerated because we worry so much about them. Stress can be related to anything – what we think other people are saying things about us, worry about failing, fear we aren´t good enough, money, time, illness, family, children, and work stressors can all build up and can make our lives very stressful
In small doses, stress can actually be good for us – it motivates us to work at a faster rate and get things done. It can provide motivation and enable us to operate at peak performance. However, too much stress, coupled with no strategies in place to manage it, can be overwhelming and actually impact on both our emotional and physical health.
Too much stress can:
- Make us sleep badly which can lead to multiple issues with our physical and emotional health.
- Make is become agitated and “snappy”.
- Stop us communicating effectively and negatively impact on our relationships with family, friends and work colleagues.
- Impact on our physical health, as well as our emotional stability.
- Make us less productive.
Causes of stress
Research shows that there are 4 key causes of stress:
- Fear of uncertainty.
We are in a new situation, we do not know what is going to happen and that means we can feel very out of control as we have little or no power or influence over the situation or the outcome. For example, waiting for a decision to be made by someone else that will impact on us or our family.
Even if it is change that we choose, change can be stressful, as once again, it is the unknown and we are out of control. If we did not choose the changes (e.g. our bodies, work environment, health etc) this can be even more challenging and stressful. Change can often be positive in the end, yet sometimes, the process of going through that change can be emotionally and physically difficult. Sometimes we convince ourselves change is for the better, even though we really are not sure. When our head and our heart say 2 difference things, that is a huge stressor.
3. Unrealistic expectations.
come on, hands up who is “guilty” of this one? Yes, we really can be our own worst enemy, can´t we, putting far too much pressure on ourselves and not giving ourselves enough credit for things we HAVE done. It´s all too easy to focus on what still needs to be done and compare ourselves unfavourably with others. We think we need to look and act a certain way, have a certain image and keep up with the other mums and families. Social media is not your friend here either!
4. Perception – negative thinking – the glass is half empty.
Once we start to feel stressed, it´s a slippery slope to feeling bad about ourselves, as the world around us is seemingly perfect. Everyone esle´s children are better behaved, (are you 100% sure about that?), they don´t get into shouting matches at home, (yes they do) they are happier, (what are you assuming here?) therefore it must be you who is wrong and not doing a good enough job. We worry about what people think of us. The number of parents I talk to who say NOTHING of their concerns for their child because they are simply too embarrassed to mention it to their social circle for fear of being judged and ostracized.
What you and your children can do
- What happens in your body when you get stressed – do you pull your shoulders up, bite your nails, get a funny tummy? Learn to listen to your body´s response to stress so you can then take measures to calm down.
- Stop what you are doing and breathe in and out slowly. Take long, slow deep breaths.
- Say something calming – like a mantra, “I´m OK, I have this, stay calm” over and over. Find something that works for you.
- Smile – might sound strange yet the feel good neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins and serotoninn are released when we smile, and will help us to feel more balanced.
- STOP – take a minute to stop what you are doing. If you´re rushing around, chances are you´ll make a mistake, leave something behind, do or say something you should not and that will end up being more stressful.
- Do something completely different and then go back to it.
It´s all too easy to work too hard and do too much for other people.
- Make sure you are building in, even if it is literally 2 minutes a day, when you are calm and peaceful. This goes for children too – they lead very busy lives and the ability just to be calm and quiet is a very powerful tool to have.
- Exercise – at least twice a week, even if it´s a walk or some stretching – get your body moving and it will calm your mind.
- Sleep – the importance of a good night´s sleep cannot be underestimated – and children need between 9 -12 hours sleep.
|Age||Recommended||May be appropriate|
|Toddlers 1-2 years||11 to 14 hours||9 to 10 hours 15 to 16 hours|
|Preschoolers 3-5 years||10 to 13 hours||8 to 9 hours 14 hours|
|School-aged Children 6-13 years||9 to 11 hours||7 to 8 hours 12 hours|
|Teenagers 14-17 years||8 to 10 hours||7 hours 11 hours|