Stress and parenting. It's like peanut butter and jelly! Add ADHD, and you are all too familiar with those times when you start over-thinking, overreacting, over-doing, and become short-tempered, restless, and ready to run for it! Stress has struck again. You want to teach your kids to manage their emotions and resolve conflicts; now it's time to walk the talk with these three stress management tips for parents.
Why Do We Get Stressed, Anyway?
Stress is your body's way of protecting you. When it works, it helps you stay focused and alert, slamming on the brakes to avoid an accident, or putting a turbo boost in your step to help you run from danger – or towards it, if it's coming for your kid!
The problem is that our bodies don't know the difference between real and perceived threats. We treat a tense meeting, or an argument about homework, the same way we treat a charging lion. Beyond a certain point, stress stops being helpful and can cause major damage to your health! We feed stress with “comfort” foods! – and they can endanger your relationships, and your quality of life.
So what do we do about it? In some situations, nothing. A little stress can be good, as it can motivate us into action. But if we aren't paying attention, stress can cause some real and significant problems in our life.
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Stress Tip #1: Pay Attention to Stress
What are your stress triggers? How does your body feel when you are triggered? I can tell how stressed I am by the number of times I get up from my desk and look in the kitchen cupboard or fridge. Usually I don't take anything; I just go and look and then walk back to my desk! Awareness is the first step because it allows you to act.
Stress Tip #2: Breathe
Simple, but powerful. Breathing reverses the natural fight or flight response, slowing the heart rate and decreasing blood pressure. A few deep breaths should be enough to give you time to really figure out how you want to respond in the situation.
Stress Tip #3: If You are Going to Create a Story, Create One that Makes You Feel Good.
Even though our brain doesn't know the difference between a real threat and a perceived one, the stress response itself is absolutely real. The best example of this is “worry.” The reality is, we can't predict the future. The catch is, our egos want to know what's ahead.
When we worry, our brains create a “story” about the future so that we feel like we have some control. It's a completely normal response. Unfortunately, we tend to create a “worst case” story. We are making it up anyway. In all likelihood, the probability of a favorable outcome is just as high as the “doomsday” story that is totally stressing you out.
Stress Management Tips for Parents: It's a Process, but Worthwhile!
When you're feeling stressed, take one step in the right direction. We want to move from being stressed out to being completely stress-free and then start beating ourselves up for not being more successful in managing our stress. The trick is to take it slow. You'll get there. Not only does managing your own stress help you deal with the often-chaotic life in an ADD/ADHD family, it is a great way to help your kid manage their own stress. You're their living proof that there are effective tools – no, not carbs – to handle emotions and tame the chaos.