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3 Quick Tips For A Less Stressful Week

With Halloween weekend and trick-or-treating last night, I’m sure many moms are feeling exhausted. When any kind of holiday throws off the routine, it affects children even more than parents. It makes getting everyone off to school and to do things like homework way more stressful when you are dealing with exhausted kids (who have probably had quite a lot of sugar).

Over the past weekend, I was talking to a mom who called me in a panic. She said her 3-year-old was driving her crazy. After venting for 15 minutes, she told me she felt terrible because she felt like she sounded just like her own mom, and that made her upset. She didn’t want to always feel so annoyed.

Together, we came up with a list of three action steps she could take to alleviate her stress and turn her interactions with her daughter into more positive ones. I think these are particularly relevant for any parent who is feeling extra exhausted or on-edge, especially when maybe your kids have been particularly busy or are acting out.

  1. Don’t take things personally. In general, people who don’t take things personally are more easy-going and less stressed as they don’t let situations affect them. Especially when it comes to being a parent, you can’t take your kids’ actions personally. If they are exhausted and yelling at you, this is not a reflection on you as a parent. Kids’ emotions and temperaments can be so fragile. Keeping this in mind and not blaming yourself as a parent will help you stay calm.
  2. Forget about perfection. As parents we often expect our kids to look and act “perfect,” whatever that means to each parent. When we stress out over the fact that our children don’t want to wear the outfits we picked out for them or stayed up past their bedtime or perhaps the house hasn’t been cleaned – we aren’t forgiving ourselves for being human. Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a perfect parent.
  3. HAVE FUN! We often forget that it is ok for parents to also have fun and enjoy parenting. If you think about what you do as a parent and review the past week in interacting with your children, your list will be similar to most parents I work with. When I have parents list it out, their interactions are basically a series of commands to their kids. Particularly on a fun week like this one, where there is a holiday and our kids are dressing up and acting fun, remember to take part in that joy with them. Experiencing the joy simultaneously will not only be a bonding experience, but it will help you keep focused on what’s really important.

Stress Free Parenting Part 3 – How To Cope With The Big and Small Things

Rona was a client I worked with for two years. She has twin girls, who she tried to conceive for four years. As you can imagine, the whole process of trying to get pregnant will create an enormous level of stress for anyone, but for Rona who is the also the Chief Medical Advisor for a big medical practice, it was a particularly great stress.

She sought help only after her husband left her for another woman, when her twin girls were 6 months old. When Rona called me, her twins were 3 years old, and one of them had been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). People with ASD tend to have communication deficit, such as responding inappropriately in conversations, misreading nonverbal interactions, or having difficulty building friendships appropriate to their age. People with ADS can get highly dependent on routines, extremely sensitive to changes in their environment, or intensely focused on odd items. As you can imagine, Rona’s life became a lot more stressful after she found this out.

For those of you unfamiliar, or for those of you who are dealing with a very similar situation, I’ll give you a brief overview of some of the behaviors your child with ADS will exhibit.

In order to be considered ASD, there are two main areas where people must show persistent deficits:

  1. Social communication and social interaction
  2. Restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior

To put this in perspective, the CDC said in 2014, 1 in 68 American children fall on the Autism spectrum – which is a huge increase from previous years. Autism is way more prevalent in boys than girls. While no one really knows why, increased diagnosis and various environmental factors are believed to be part of the uptick.

So Rona asked me to help her come up with some simple strategies to alleviate the overwhelming feelings of stress she was dealing with, and upon further review, I found that these strategies aren’t all that specific to just Rona. Most parents can use these strategies to help them deal with their specific problems and stressful moments.

Here are four strategies that I encourage you to try this week:

  1. Find support from other parents with similar situations. Whether your child is diagnosed with Autism, or you are having trouble conceiving, or you are simply having difficulty finding a compatible nanny or getting your child into a particular school, support is extremely important as one can share information, get advice, and offer an ear of understanding when it comes to personal and professional situations. Knowing you aren’t alone in a situation is proven to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
  2. Remember to stop and look after yourself. As parents of children with or without special needs, we often forget to find time for ourselves. Finding 10-20 minutes a day to relax, read a book or paint your nails – something that is completely for yourself – will give you a new energy to be the parent you need to be for your children.
  3. Accept that as a parent you will experience stress, and when you experience stressful situations, remind yourself that it is normal to feel this way. Maybe you can even become creative and call feeling stressed something else? How about, “I am feeling excited!” I tried this a few times, and it would always make me laugh when I labeled my stress in some other way. Instead of defining yourself as the “always stressed out” parent, try to come up with a different way of perceiving yourself, even if it is silly and only serves to make you smile.
  4. Be realistic with the demands you put on yourself. I remember when I went back to work, I thought that I had more time than I actually had; I had very high expectations of myself. I found myself disappointed over and over again. When I changed my expectations and committed myself to complete at least one task a day, I found that I was completing more tasks than expected. Don’t make to do lists a mile long and chastise yourself for not finishing everything. Instead learn to prioritize. What is really important? If you are getting your children fed and to school and they are healthy, does it really matter that you didn’t get to organizing your closet like you had wanted to?

I’ve worked with clients who have dealt with everything from incredibly unique diagnoses to everyday parenting worries, but the common thread is parents of every walk of life feel stressed out from time to time. Reaching out to find specific support and coming up with strategies that you can employ regularly will give you confidence and the ability to work through taxing situations.

Stress Part 2: Start Your Week Stress-Free With This Simple Plan

Last week, I wrote about a few general tools you can use to prevent stress in your daily life. As part of this four-part series, today I’m going to talk specifically about starting off your Monday on the right foot to set the tone for the rest of the week.

For me, Mondays are my most stressful days. When I start to think about why, my head spins. My list is long: I have three kids in two different schools, a husband who has a demanding job, I work as the director of an eating disorder program and am constantly networking in my field, I have a daughter with braces who constantly has appointments, I’m sharing a nanny and it requires a lot of coordination with the other family, I have to buy groceries, I have to organize and clean the apartment, my family lives in Israel so I am constantly making an effort to keep in touch with them as it is ver important to me, and the list goes on and on and on…

Thinking about your own list like this will no doubt make your head spin as well. For you, it might be another day that really seems to be the pinnacle of your stressful week, but I imagine the beginning of the week is stressful for a lot of people. I’ve been thinking about ways I can de-stress at the beginning of the week so I stop dreading Mondays so much and here is the plan I’ve come up with and it seems to be working.

  1. Every Monday I wake up 15 minutes earlier than usual. This means not just setting the alarm earlier but actually getting out of bed a full 15 minutes before I do the rest of the week. Think of it like extra time for your most packed day of the week.
  2. Every Sunday, I plan ahead. I set a reminder for myself every Sunday at 8pm to sit down and plan out my week ahead. I write down all my daughters’ activities, the school functions I need to attend, and the playdates I need to coordinate so it’s all listed out.
  3. I set a reminder to take time on Monday to meditate on what I’m grateful for. If you literally set yourself a reminder to think about gratitude and focus on being present and enjoying every single moment as if it were your last, you’ll approach your to-do list with a totally different perspective. I tell myself I’m healthy, my kids are healthy, my loved ones are healthy and they care about me and my well-being, I love my job and every day I’m doing the best I can. This simple frame of mind helps de-stress me instantly.
  4. I commit to exercising for a minimum of 40 minutes a week. If you think about it, 40 minutes over five days isn’t such a big challenge, but sticking to it keeps me sane. It’s so important to exercise your body and your mind for a few minutes each day.

If you wake up on Mondays feeling overwhelmed, try some of these tactics and see how you feel! Leave me a comment and let me know how you start your week off on the right foot!