De-stress your life – tips for busy parents

The picture-perfect image of parenting we share on social media is often far from the truth. In reality, parents are stretched thin trying to do it all and families are running on stress. While de-stressing your life isn’t complicated it does take more than scented candles.

Culture of busy
As a starting point, consider whether you are caught up in a ‘culture of busy’ – are you trying to do too much? Making time for downtime very important, it takes the pressure off you and your family, and restores a sense of calm. It might even avoid physical or mental health issues down the track. As a family you need to look at the weekly planner and decide what you can let go.

Plan your downtime
Careful planning will help you make the most out of your downtime – de-stressing shouldn’t feel like a chore! The trick is to think about what brings you joy and weave that into a daily routine that includes exercise, time with friends, time for your relationship, eating healthy and getting plenty of sleep.

Regular exercise
Regular exercise will help you stress less – and an hour a day is all you need. Exercise releases endorphins which flood the body with positive feelings. Walking the dog or swimming works for some people, while others need the extra motivation of team sport or a local fitness club. For some people running is the only way to blow off steam, and others are happiest dancing around the house.

Active friendships
See if you can weave friends into your exercise routine. Someone to talk to, a weekly walk or shared fitness goal will help you stay motivated. Local clubs, parks and nature reserves offer endless scope for active recreation. Whether you are kicking a ball around, exploring walking tracks or catching frogs, time out in nature is very restorative.

Get a (social) life
Relationship goals are also important. Make date night the first Friday of each month and schedule coffee dates without the kids. Why not invite friends over for pizza night once a month? Remember to keep it low key – the aim is a better social life not more stress.

For some of us, a glass of wine is welcome relief at the end of a long day, but what happens when a glass or two becomes a bottle? Self-medicating with alcohol and other drugs leads to dependency and health issues. For children, seeing mum or dad out of control can be very stressful. Certainly there are other ways to reduce stress that don’t risk creating additional problems for you and your family.

Eat well feel well
Healthy eating is vital for a stress-free life, and cooking is a wonderful way to relax and make sure everyone is eating well. If weeknights are too rushed, a big weekend cook-up (with everyone pitching in) will fill the freezer with delicious home-cooked meals you can heat up on the run. Your kids will love eating the food they helped prepare.

Get enough sleep
Lots of busy parents sacrifice sleep to squeeze more out of their day. However sleep is one way to ‘speed up by slowing down’ – you will be more focused and effective after a good night’s sleep. As a guide, adults need around eight or nine hours of sleep a night, while toddlers need around 12 hours, and three to six year-olds need 10-12 hours.

The whole family needs a regular relaxing bedtime routine. After dinner and bath, the aim is for peace and quiet, that is, no sweets, coffee or alcohol, no games, no technology or upsetting conversations.

Bedtime relaxation techniques
Bedtime stories are the magic elixir of sleep for kids of all ages, so try turning off the technology and reading a book. For some people meditation or deep breathing works. Lie on your back and take a deep breath, hold, and then exhale counting to 10. Repeat 10-20 times. As you focus on your breath, your mind and heart rate with slow down, and you will relax.

De-stressing your life requires conscious effort, and you have to make it happen on your own terms. Plan your life around the people you love, daily exercise, good food and plenty of sleep. When you stay connected you will feel more alive and joyful, and life becomes that much easier.

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