Stress is a normal part of our daily lives. In fact, a recent study found that 70 percent of Americans report experiencing stress in the last year and 44 percent of Americans report that their stress levels have risen over the past five years.
Stress can come from a variety of factors, but awareness is the key to managing this overwhelming feeling. Stress Awareness Month takes place each April in an effort to educate the general public about this experience and ways for managing it.
Common Stress Factors
Each person deals with stress differently, and may experience stress feelings for a variety of reasons. Stress is best defined as the psychological perception of pressure and the body’s response to it. It can play a huge role in health and happiness, and can escalate quickly if not managed.
For adults, common stress factors can include finances, work-related conditions and relationships, poor health, lack of work-life balance, or family traumas and complications like death, illness, divorce or childbirth.
For single parents, stress is escalated as the budget becomes tighter, money impacts the ability to make healthy choices, and guilt creeps in. Parents and adults often feel the pressure of being responsible for someone else and end up putting themselves last on the list. They ultimately prioritize career advancement, their children, or other people and often can’t balance the scope of their responsibilities.
Children Experience Stress Too
Make no mistake, children also experience stress. Stress is especially prominent in the teen and young adult years. Teens are especially impacted by peer pressure and may experience bullying. They are ultimately trying to figure out who they are and how they fit into the world.
Adolescents may experience stress due to their physical appearance or body changes and may spend an excessive amount of time comparing their own performance to that of their peers. They may also be subject to social pressures like drugs or sexual activity and may be put in a variety of uncomfortable positions that require tact and good decision-making.
Parents also impact their children’s emotional health. They often overschedule their children and put an immense amount of pressure on them to perform well in all of their activities. Children are expected to grow up quickly and are asked to have the time management and organizational skills of an adult. While it is okay to give a child some level of responsibility for their work, parents must walk a fine line and make sure not to overburden their children with too much.
In addition, children are emotionally intelligent and are very perceptive to the emotions of the adults in their world. Children may not have all the details of a nasty divorce, or the health condition of a sick parent or grandparent, but they intercept negative energy and pick up on various cues.
As a parent, you should be well-educated on the signs of stress. Signs include fluctuation in weight or body mass, flat affect, isolation, irrationality, or lack of sleep. You can make note of these signs and, if necessary, seek emotional support for you children.
Ways to Cope
The most important piece of the puzzle for both children and adults is finding a way to manage stress in a healthy way. There are a variety of ways to manage stress. Here are a few of methods that might work for you:
- Meditate – It has proved to be a good form of detention in some schools, because it affects self-control and attention. It’s a great way to transfer negative energy and curb anxious or stress-related behavior into something positive. You can practice together with your children in the comfort of your own home. Set the mood by dimming the lights, lighting candles in a way that is not a hazard, and use some essential oils and moody music to round out the atmosphere.
- Journal or Blog – Maintaining a journal or online blog is a great way to circumvent stress. Writing will help you clarify your feelings in a positive way and might help you come to grips with a solution. You’ll also be able to establish connections with other people who may relate to your writing. Make sure you remain anonymous so you can safely and freely write your thoughts.
- Read – Blogging will naturally lead you to read material that relates to your current situation. You’ll want to be careful you don’t get lost in the content of others. Try to schedule 15-30 minutes each day to read and research. This will keep you occupied long enough to find productive material without ignoring any problems.
- Invest in a Pet – Animals have a very calming effect. They love unconditionally and provide you comfort in times of stress. They also require some maintenance which will provide a bit of structure and routine in your life. Research suggests that animals have tremendous health benefits including reduced blood pressure and stress. Animals are a great source of happiness and may help conquer stress; however, you’ll want to make sure you have the time and resources to care for them properly.
- Spend More Quality Time Together – This simple step can have a huge impact on the happiness of both you and your family. It’s important that you create a safe and loving environment for your children and your partner. This means creating regular, open, and honest dialogue and scheduling time to do get out and do things together. Make this a routine so that the home unit is a source of support and comfort.
- Request Remote Work – Many employers are open to the idea of occasional remote work. Technology has made this option more feasible than ever, so check with your employer about this possibility. Working from home occasionally might increase your work-life balance and reduce the stress caused in this area. You might also find you are more productive and creative in a comfortable space.
Stress is something we all have in common. There are many healthy ways to combat and manage it – it’s just a matter of not stopping until you’ve found the one that works best for you and your family.