Friday, September 16, 2005

Stress and the Family

By Christina VanGinkel

Taking time out for yourself is important whether you have a newborn, toddler, or even a school-aged child. If you neglect your own personal well being and happiness, there is no way you can function for any length of time at a level where you will be doing you family any good. Sometimes finding this time surprisingly means spending more time with your children, unbelievably.

Whether you work outside of the house, or are a stay at home mother, your day is most likely filled with childcare tasks including, but not limited to diapering, bathing, feeding, shopping, watching your children to keep them out of harms way, and teaching them how to grow up well adjusted amid all of life's struggles and joys.

Add to all of this the stress of dealing with spouses, co-workers, newscasts broadcasting disasters both huge and small, some far away, and many right on your doorstep. It can be so overbearing at times that all you may want to do is shut the door on it all. Take heart in the fact that everybody has days, even large stretches of time, where they also feel the same. Try to take stock of exactly why you are feeling overwhelmed. Consider if there is anything you can do, immediately, to bring the tension and stress level of your daily routine to a more moderate, or even non-existent level. Be realistic when searching out what it is that stresses you, and do not overlook even the smallest signal. Talk to your spouse, tell them how you feel, and see if they have any suggestions. Sometimes they may be more open to your feelings, because they are dealing with many of the same issues.

While you may want to watch the news to keep abreast of what is going on in the world, if watching day in and out is achieving mostly the rising of your blood pressure and stress level, shut it off. Give yourself permission to flip the switch and take a walk. Or turn the channel to something light, or even better yet, a music channel that is playing something corny like show tunes. Get your kids together and dance. Be warned, younger kids will dance around and have a blast, slightly older kids will think you are as corny as they come. Either scenario will leave you laughing which is one of the best stress relievers of all time.

Consider hobbies both old and new. If you have ever been a reader, or would like to be, head to the library or bookstore. Take up a sport that you have always wanted to try. Not enough hours in the day you say, or money, then had the children to your spouse, lock yourself in the bathroom with a music station turned up loud on the radio, and take a bubble bath. Simple really works best anyways. I personally used this last idea from the time my oldest was an infant, all the way until now, with my youngest almost a teenager. By simply shutting the door to everyone for just an hour, soaking in the hot water, I come out of the bath much more calm and serene.

All right, I know some of you are saying that even that is not an option. Then gather your child (or children) into your lap and read to them. If they are racing along life at speeds that just make you, want to pull up the brakes, take a deep breath to start. Then, remind yourself how sweet they were the day they were born, or on their first birthday, whatever moment you can recall where they were just the sweetest little things, and help them get back to that point. Read to them something fun, something soothing, and something silly. You will find calm, and so will your kids.

Another scenario that I know plays out in homes all the time that brings on a lot of stress is screaming. You heard me right again. If you are a screamer, stop. Not tomorrow, not after the kids are in bed and the homework is done, but right now. If you are a screamer, you may feel as if you are releasing your stress, but it is really just building more stress up around you to press in on you from the outside. Screaming does no good for anyone, other than when they are trapped in a burning building.

If after all of this, you still feel like crawling under a rock, or worse, seek professional help from your family doctor, minister, or other professional. It may not only help, it can actually be liberating to share your worries with someone outside the family unit.

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