Busy Is the New Black: Why – and How – to Conquer Your Stress

Stressed is the new busy. Not long ago, I noticed that “busy” became the new stock response to questions like, “How are you?” and “How's the family?” Busy. Everywhere you go, it seems, families are busy.

Sometimes it feels like a competition. Have you ever overheard a busy comparison chart between families? I have. Just hearing the amount of events some families manage to pull off on the weekend makes my head spin. We are low activity by choice in this house, but every family is different.

The tides are turning again, though, and not for the better. Lately, “stressed” seems to be the new normal. Families are under stress for a variety of reasons — I see it in my practice every week. Something else I see? Parents often push their own stress aside to deal with the myriad of stressors that pop up within the family each week, and that only increases the overall stress level in the home.

When I caution parents to revisit their schedule and make some changes, they tend to respond with “But she wants to do all of this stuff.” I get it. Some kids get caught in the whirlwind of available activities and feel like they want to do it all. You know what I see on my side of the couch? Kids struggling with anxiety and depression because they can't stop — they are overloaded and stressed out. Often, that stress begins at the top. 

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It's exceptionally difficult to tap into positive parenting when you're constantly under stress. Yelling, snapping, and checking out (emotionally) tend to occur when parents feel like they can't get a break.

Parents experience stress for a variety of reasons, but there are some common triggers to consider:

  • Lack of time
  • Relationship issues
  • Lack of social support
  • Financial concerns
  • Medical issues
  • Lack of self-care
  • Lack of sleep

What can stressed-out parents do to relax? Try these tips:

mutitasking mother
Image via iStock

Know the signs and symptoms.

I find that many adults are knee deep in stress before they even recognize that something might be wrong. There are a few signs to watch for. If you feel like any of these symptoms impact your daily living more often than not for more than two weeks, stop what you’re doing and seek help:

  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Difficulty making decisions
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Forgetfulness

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Prioritize self-care.

I'm not sure when self-care for parents became an indulgence, but I find that parents joke about this often. Lack of self-care and stress is no laughing matter. Make no mistake — stress can cause long-term damage. A few tips for keeping self-care on the top of the to-do list:

  • Pre-pack healthy snacks in individual bags in an easily accessible place so you always have something to refuel when you need it
  • Set an alert to begin your bedtime routine (and put that phone on DND right after the alert chimes)
  • Get up twenty minutes before the kids to take a shower, have some tea, or just sit and enjoy the quiet
  • Enlist help: Your kids can help pack their lunches and snacks and fill their water bottles. You don’t have to do it all!

Commit to the daily 20.

Twenty minutes of daily exercise decreases stress and increases self-confidence. One of the benefits of technology is that there are tons of exercise programs that can be done in the home. I love the Down Dog app to get my yoga fix. But get outside when you can!

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You don’t have to be a marathon runner to reap the benefits of outdoor exercise. You just have to put one foot in front of the other and start walking. I find that a solid routine helps. On days when work or other commitments make it impossible to get to the gym (or outside), use an app or other home program.

Release emotions.

I spend a lot of time teaching kids how to release their emotions, but I spend just as much time teaching their parents to do the same. Here’s the thing: Stuffing emotions leads to anxiety, depression, and/or increased stress. Journal it. Get in a hot shower and vent over the sound of the water. Call (yes, call) a friend. Learn the art of deep breathing (and use it).

Call in the village.

We've become a generation of “don’t worry, I got this” parents. Why we feel the need to solve every parenting dilemma and put a gourmet meal on the table each night is beyond me. The village exists for a reason: Parenting is hard – help is good.

Trade childcare to make errands easier. Trade errands to get extra time with your kids. You get the point. Call in the village to help in times of need and answer the call when another villager seeks your help. Divided we stress; united we thrive.

Stop overscheduling.

Only you can make the decision to stop the overscheduling — something that is often forgotten in this time of raising super kids: Decision-making is a valuable skill to have. Teach your kids to manage stress by making important decisions. They don’t need to do it all; they simply need to learn how to stop.

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Busy Is the New Black: Why – and How – to Conquer Your Stress

Katie Hurley, LCSW is a Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist and writer in Los Angeles, CA. She is the author of "No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls" and "The Happy Kid Handbook: How to Raise Joyful Children in a Stressful World". She earned her BA in Psychology and Women's Studies from Boston College and her MSW from the University of Pennsylvania. She divides her time between her family, her private practice and her writing. Passionate about he ... More

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