We all know that we should eat better, spend more time away from our screens and exercise more.
Following these directives should help us reduce at least some stress, but for many working parents, anxiety creeps up silently in the form of physical illness or emotional pain. The reason for this is that many of us have not learned to recognize the signals that tell us we're in a crisis. A recurring health issue or a spontaneous sickness may be clues that we need to slow down and do a "check-in" on our emotional wellness.
The first step in creating an effective plan for stress relief is to take a thorough inventory of how you're feeling physically and mentally. There is an actual science to understanding your body’s instinctual need to mobilize energy in order to prepare for a stressful situation. In simple terms, it boils down to this: listen to your body. Secondly, once you've identified your symptoms, you must learn how to recognize the triggers that cause them.
For example, if you notice that you're suddenly having trouble sleeping at night, you may want to start thinking about whether your daytime activities, things you've been eating before bedtime or your night-time rituals could be the cause. Once you closely pinpoint the cause of the stress symptom, you can more easily come up with an adequate plan to combat the problem.
Here are a few more examples of common stress symptoms and some ideas for steps you can take to help relieve them:
For insomnia, create a sleep sanctuary and focus on improving your nightly routine. Try to wind down a little earlier instead of working or running around until the last minute before you lay down. Learning some meditation techniques may also be useful in helping to clear your mind before you go to sleep.
Clenched Jaw and Teeth Grinding
Stress is considered one of the most significant contributing factors in teeth grinding - nearly 70% of cases are caused by it. If you or your partner notice that you’ve been grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw at night and it bothers you, a mouth guard for teeth grinding can be a helpful temporary solution. To be clear, this is not a cure for teeth grinding, but it will offer some relief as you go through the process of reducing stress and, perhaps, having your dentist evaluate and address any long-term damage you may have done.
Over or Under-Eating
This is probably one of the most common symptoms of stress and/or repression. If you find that you’ve regularly been forgetting to eat or binge eating on a daily basis, consider visiting a nutritionist to help you get your diet back on track. You may even want to enlist the help of your spouse or best friend to keep you accountable by checking in with you each day to ensure that you’re sticking to a healthy nutrition plan.
Loss of Libido
Sex is an important part of any committed, intimate relationship and when there’s a disconnect, it could be a sign of a lingering physical or emotional problem. In such cases, it’s never a bad idea to start seeing a therapist or counselor to help you get to the source of the issue before it starts to wreak havoc on other areas of the relationship. Even if there’s a lot of stuff to work through, keeping the lines of communication open and being amenable to compromises can go a long way toward helping you and your partner weather this type of romantic storm.
The bottom line is that stress can easily get the best of you, so it's crucial to learn how to identify and release it before it does too much damage. After all, it isn’t only you that suffers - kids feed off stressful energy and your relationship with your significant other may also become strained when you're not functioning at your emotional best. Learning how to relieve the symptoms of stress is only the beginning, though. Once you’re aware of the problem and have successfully addressed the symptoms, you owe it to yourself - and your family - to take the time to plan for and create changes that will lead to a more balanced and emotionally healthy life.
Written by Tisha Berg for Working Mother and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.