How to Reduce and Relieve stress

Updated: May 22, 2020

Firstly, always remember, you are not alone! Everyone (let alone a parent) is affected by various degrees of stress and may struggle to cope at different times in life.


Today there is endless information available on stress management and stress relief. However, often these suggestions can fall short in the translation from theory to practice and so, are easier said than done! Perhaps this is why one should not first aim to eradicate stress, since the factors that cause stress in most people's lives cannot simply be removed from their existence. This is especially true for parents.


A considerate parent will not just walk away from their work or home-life related pressures. So what can a daddy warrior do in order to relieve their self of stress and reduce the impact it has on his life (and ultimately that of his family)?


According to most credible sources, this is the list of key measures one can take:


  • Solving the causes of stress

  • Avoiding stressful situations

  • Changing your mindset (positivity vs. negativity)

  • Meditation / prayer

  • Exercise

  • Eating, drinking and sleeping well

  • Hobbies / pastimes

  • Counselling


Solving the causes of stress

So let us begin with solving the causes of your stress. Well, this may not truly be possible for most (if not all) of your factors of stress.

If the problem is in the relationship, whether regarding intimacy or communication then what one can try do is improve their circumstances as discussed in the article improving communication with your partner.

If the cause is mainly financial in nature then one can try and find ways to increase their income, whether by seeking new employment, a change in career, applying more effective methods of economizing, by downsizing (reducing lifestyle overheads) or creating additional revenue streams.

However, resolving these may not truly be an option. Perhaps it is not possible to reconnect with your partner due to incompatibility. Financially speaking, perhaps you are receiving the maximum sallary that your education / skill-set allows or perhaps you have a disability and in eitehr case, are already economizing in ways that means your family is living on the very basic essentials. It is for these reasons that I'd like to focus on the other ways listed as means to reducing and relieving stress. In other words, to focus on aspects that improve our well-being!



Avoiding stressful situations

I've come to understand that this has two sides to it. At face value, one can talk about avoiding social situations that increase stress and raise anxiety levels. However for many people work and home are such places and obviously cannot just be avoided. Nor can any social interaction that the well-being of your child requires. So what's the point in being advised such things if you are a dad? If you are not a parent and struggle with stress, anxiety or phobias then that is one thing but if you are a father, it is an entirely different matter. So for many daddy warriors it is taking the opposite course of action and facing those stressful situations. And what better motivation can one have than their children?

So what stressful situations should we avoid? Well if and where possible, conflict with other people. And what better place to start than your own home. This can be done by improving communication with your partner (conflict management) or perhaps at the other end of the spectrum, by divorce. One can only hope that it need not lead to that but a reality many people have to face for their own well-being.

A less obvious one is the negative people in our lives and the negativity that derives from our online activity. This truly is about changing our mindset.


Changing your mindset (positivity vs. negativity)

It is hard to fathom that a major contribution to our stress is derived from people in our lives and our favourite technological development - the internet!

Starting with the latter, our increasingly interdependent world of smartphones and online social platforms very often are adding heaps to our stress levels. It is increasingly being understood that people spend far too much time on platforms such as FB often without understanding the negative impact it has on their mindset and therefore, their own well-being. Not only does negativity float about FB like a disease but for many it becomes a lifestyle (success and accomplishment) competitive measuring stick. This often false onlook into the seemingly wonderful lives of others not only creates internal negativity (such as feelings of inadequacy, envy or ideological conflict for example) but it also consumes your time in a wasteful manner - time that could be spent improving your own life and well-being or perhaps even, your scope for personal success and/or accomplishment.

Mind-numbing games and apps on your phone and wasted hours reading the useless updates of other people, whilst in the short run may in fact offer some level of entertainment and escapism, in the long-run can create a level of disconnection from your very own life - the only life that matters to (that truly has an impact on) you and your family. Porn and FB especially can offer major detachment to reality, blurring your understanding of your true priorities and provenly adding to depression! The impact of FB and watching porn on your life and relationships is a matter we will be revisiting in greater depth in another article soon.

Well, what about the negative contribution the people in the non-virtual world have on our lives? Colleagues, acquaintances, friends and family members also often play a vital role in our lives and therefore, our well-being. However it can be very difficult to even identifying these let alone the challenge of distancing ourselves from their negative influences. It is important to be honest with ourselves when identifying who amongst these individuals do in fact have a negative impact in our lives and distancing ourselves from them the best we can.

However, when it comes to colleagues and family members, genuine distancing may not be a viable option. In this case we must try the best we can to be thick-skinned and not take much of it onboard. This is where meditation or prayer can prove very useful.



Meditation / prayer

To me these are similar in terms of the end result. This being looking inwardly. Whether you do so through prayer or other forms of meditation, you are taking time to self-reflect, find mental and physical calm and clear your mind. It takes self-discipline and can be immensely rewarding. But if for whatever reasons you struggle with either concept, in the very least, give yourself some quiet time.

For the sake of well-being and thus, for the sake of your family, make a little private isolated space for yourself, ideally at least once a day, be it only for half an hour. During this time, take a few deep breaths and clear your mind. Allow yourself to process your feelings and put your thoughts in order the best you can. Even reflect on your own choices, reactions to circumstances and overall behaviour. Identifying our mistakes and weaknesses is a great weapon to combat stress because it can allow us to see means by way we can improve our circumstances.

This process in itself is rewarding. And if you really struggle with a lack of space at home, use your bathroom (even if you aren't taking a long soak in the tub that most of us dads can't remember the last time we did so). Otherwise, wait until the family is asleep and sacrifice some TV, internet or even sleep time, for this basic and fundamental addition to your arsenal for stress relief.



Exercise

Similar to looking inwardly (meditation, prayer or quiet time), exercise increases well-being. Not only does it burn-off that restless energy and those unwanted calories but it also increases blood flow and endorphins. However it also helps develop a state of meditation.

Whether listening to music, motivational speeches or neither, you are allowing your mind to take time out from the noise and ultimately negativity that clutters our mind throughout the day. Ideally this should be done with music that does not entail lyrics so that you are not exercising with the persistent chatter of singers and/or rappers (their opinions, emotions and ideologies) in your ears. Motivational speeches at least whisper certain positivity (depending who and what you are listening to).


But if you are able to exercise without either, you will set your own thoughts free and hopefully allow yourself to find that much needed peaceful place within your mind. Exercise also energizes your body. This means it will positively impact your mental health as your physical well-being has a direct impact on your state of mind.



Eating, drinking and sleeping well

Following on from above we understand that there is a correlation between physical and mental health. Now of course, ideally, sleeping well is a great concept. Unfortunately, for many parents and especially in the earlier stages of parenthood, this can be near impossible. So let's focus on eating and drinking.

To most of us the concept of eating well is fairly obvious. However, even men who can clearly grasp the concept of how healthy food contributes to physical and therefore mental well-being, the fast paced life of the modern world tied in with the demanding challenges of work and parenting very often results in having to forgo what we already know. Skipping meals, ready meals, late night snacking and fast food can easily become a way of life when we no longer put our own health as a priority. Certainly though, for the well-being of our family, we fathers must try and remind ourselves to do the best we can for ourselves so that we can live long-and-well enough to be of good use to our dependents.

There is more to just avoiding junk food and trying to consume healthier food. Drinking is a daily part of our lives. Whether caffeine, soft drinks, energy drinks or alcohol, we do also need to pay attention to what we drink and how much. Too much of any of these takes a toll on our well-being, whether we realise or not. Whilst caffeine, soft drinks and energy drinks may not have as obvious an impact on our mental health (although one may be surprised to what extent they cause shifts in our moods), alcohol is the culprit that stands out the most.

When considering systematic heavy drinking (alcoholism or alcohol abuse) not only does it have the most grave impact on our physical health (liver, kidneys, heart, pancreas, oesophagus, stomach, colon etc) with dire consequences but it also has a severe impact on our mental state. The question here is whether we can identify being in such a category and at risk. And for many high-functioning individuals and especially parents, it can be a very devious form of addiction (substance abuse) because of the difficulty one faces in identifying if there is a problem, to what extent and how to approach resolving/treating it.

Read more on the topic of addiction.

Hobbies / pastimes

If time allows it and especially if we have too much time available to us, then hobbies can help keep us focused and busy. Especially if these hobbies eliminate any of the factors mentioned above that contribute to our stress. For instance, a hobby that creates addition revenue (if considering financial stress). Or, a hobby that helps aid us in our efforts to live healthier (cooking or a sport for instance). Finally, any hobby that helps us combat addiction or prevents us from developing such issues. Although one can appreciate that most fathers do not have such time available to them. Yet very useful for any stay-at-home parent.



Counselling

For a variety of reasons, many aspects of these issues and suggestions discussed above may not be easily applicable to many individuals. Perhaps marital problems or addiction issues are too far gone. Maybe one has no free time whatsoever or is unable to express themselves. For many, tired stressed fathers imposing self-discipline may be the problem. Well, in any case, should we find ourselves struggling with finding ways of coping with stress, then perhaps counselling is the ideal solution. It can range from counselling for particular issues contributing to our stress levels, such as marriage or addiction support. Or it could be for general stress management. No matter for what, it can only be a good thing. If you can't resolve an issue by yourself, it is far better to seek help than to carry on suffering and risk the problem consuming you entirely.



SUMMARY & FINAL THOUGHT


Ultimately, when discussing how to reduce and relieve stress, we are talking about our well-being and splitting it into two categories. These are 'reducing' and 'relieving'


To reduce stress we can avoid, or more realistically limit our exposure to, certain circumstances that contribute to our stress. This starts with our own home and the relationship with our partner. Beyond our immediate family unit, it includes interaction with negative people both in the tangible world as well as the online digital world. In addition, we can take greater choice in what sort of music we listen to, what media we watch or follow and for how long. Finally, we can limit the amount of our time that we allow to be consumed by the lives (successes and/or problems) of others but rather dedicate that time to improving our own well-being and that of our family.


To relieve our stress, we can exercise, improve eating habits and make personal time to free our mind and look inwardly using any form of meditation / prayer. We can also limit our caffeine and especially our alcohol intake. Hobbies can help and should we find that we are struggling with any one of these or simply with being overwhelmed by stress, seeking professional help to aid us with reducing and reliving our stress is perfectly acceptable and not a shameful matter for any father out there.


Ultimately, in my opinion it is about both balance and drive. A balance is needed with regards to what we eat, drink and our time management (between work, family, exercise and our inner world). A balance however is not always 100% feasible due to time restriction so ultimately it is about finding a way to be and to remain driven.


Remember, you're not alone and what greater drive than our children to push us forth, doing the best we can within the circumstances we have, as daddy warriors!

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