No one is a stranger to stress in our modern world, but working parents face several unique stressors specific to juggling parenthood and career. The first is sleep deprivation, an issue that all parents–particularly parents of infants–are familiar with. Then there’s the stress that comes with juggling roles as a professional and a parent, which can sometimes feel like conflicting priorities. Finally, leaving home for long stretches every day can cause a feeling of guilt in even the most dedicated of parents.
Ignoring stress can lead to a range of health problems, from anxiety and insomnia to headaches and gastrointestinal issues. But you can alleviate some of the strain by being aware of your stressors and practicing these eight simple tips.
1. Protect Your Sleep
Make sleep a priority, and practice counting back: Calculate how long it takes you to get ready in the morning, how much time you need to sleep, and make sure you’re in bed 15 minutes before your bedtime. Just say “no” to one more episode of “Game of Thrones.”
2. Take a Softer Approach to You
Stop being so hard on yourself. Instead of viewing the time you spend at work as time away from your kids, take pride in how hard you’re working to be a provider and what a great role model you are.You’re doing your best, and that’s all any of us can ever do.
3. Practice Mindfulness in All Situations
When you’re at work, focus on working and don’t be distracted by softball games and dance recitals. When you’re with your family, stop checking emails and worrying about tomorrow’s work tasks.
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4. Re-Prioritize and Unplug
Choose your priorities and accept that certain aspects of your life have to take a backseat. You might not be able to go out for drinks with friends as often and there won’t be as much time for some of your hobbies, but enjoy the time you do have with your family. During downtime, unplug. Many people browse the internet or watch TV in their free time, not realizing that these activities aren’t truly rejuvenating. Read a book, go for a family walk, or spend time with your partner instead.
5. Stop “Hangriness” in Its Tracks
Beware of the “false moods” (irritability, anxiety, feeling overwhelmed) caused by lack of sleep and blood sugar crashes. Combat this by getting adequate sleep (most adults need seven to nine hours a night) and eating three healthy meals containing protein and fat and two snacks a day. As a safety net, keep unrefined coconut oil handy. A spoonful of slow-digesting coconut oil first thing in the morning and before bed can help keep blood sugar steady.
6. Wean Yourself off Caffeine
Cutting coffee consumption can also help ease stress. While it might sound daunting if you’re a sleep-deprived working parent, over the long-term, it can improve the quality of your sleep, lower anxiety, and reduce stress. If you’re still feeling sluggish or irritable, work with your health care provider to identify possible food intolerances like gluten, dairy, or soy.
7. Get Moving
Many people don’t realize that long, unbroken stretches of sedentary behavior are more detrimental to your longevity, metabolic fitness, and physiological health than whether or not you’re exercising. Break up the hours you spend sitting behind your desk; they’re doing more damage than you realize. Practice the Pomodoro Technique: Every 25 minutes (one pomodori), take a three- to five-minute break and do something active–walk, do jumping jacks, do some push-ups. Every four pomodori, take a longer 15- to 30-minute break. If you have less than three minutes, and you can only squeeze in two or three jumping jacks, go for it.
8. Deal with It
Accept that sometimes you’ll be tired and stressed. Recognize your false moods, be kinder to yourself, and understand that there’s no right or wrong when it comes to loving, mindful parenting. Reframe your thinking by practicing gratitude. Before bed, write down or tell your partner three things you’re grateful for from the day. And when you’re overwhelmed, know you’re not alone. Reach out to friends or family members who are in the same situation and read parenting forums if you find them helpful.
The One Medical blog is published by One Medical, an innovative primary care practice with offices in Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, the San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, and Washington, DC.
Any general advice posted on our blog, website, or app is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace or substitute for any medical or other advice. The One Medical Group entities and 1Life Healthcare, Inc. make no representations or warranties and expressly disclaim any and all liability concerning any treatment, action by, or effect on any person following the general information offered or provided within or through the blog, website, or app. If you have specific concerns or a situation arises in which you require medical advice, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified medical services provider.