Whether you’re a new dad or the seasoned dad of grown children, you now about stress. It’s not the same stress that comes from deadlines at work, staring at unpaid bills, or even forgetting an anniversary. It’s “Dad Stress”. Dad stress comes along with the responsibility of being a parent, and it can be just as difficult to deal with as “Mom Stress”.
In today’s world of working more and relaxing less, there’s never been a more important time to learn to manage your stress. Some men choose to hide their stress, fearing that others will see them as weak. Actually, it’s the opposite. Men who acknowledge and manage their stress are seen as stronger, better partners, and more emotionally balanced.
What is dad stress?
Stress is a physical or emotional reaction to internal or external events. Dads have a lot of opportunities to experience both kinds. They experience external stress when they spend sleepless nights helping take care of the newborn (and their partner). They are stressed when the teen gets the car keys for the first time. They’re stressed when a child gets hurt.
Internal stress comes when thoughts and feelings build up and are unexpressed, unexplained, or unanticipated. You stress because you wonder if you are doing enough to help your children cope with the world. You stress because you have no idea what to do with your rebellious teen. You stress because raising a child is harder than you thought.
Luckily, dealing with the stress is infinitely simpler than putting together that dollhouse or helping your child with basic algebra. It’s all about choosing natural things that you can make into a habit. That’s right, a habit. Something you do over and over again, on a semi-regular basis. Take a look at the short list below and choose a couple, your stress levels will fall and while life as a dad might not become more simple, it certainly will become more manageable.
1. Exercise more. It’s a fact that frequent exercise helps reduce stress hormones in your body, resulting in a happier, more balanced you. That means taking stretch breaks at work, going for a walk at lunch, sneaking away for some treadmill time at the gym, and getting the guy next store (or your kids) to shoot some hoops with you.
2. Sleep more. Yeah, you know. Eight hours of sleep a night. Even though this is nearly impossible in the first years of baby, it gets better. Quality sleep is the single most important thing you can do to combat the symptoms of stress.
3. Get your life in order. Being a dad (any any other human) means that you likely have financial stresses from not managing cash effectively or stress from walking over toys and wondering where junior hid the car keys. Taking time every day to do something that puts things in order makes a big difference. Find a place out of junior’s reach to store the keys, think about a job change and talk to your partner about it. Make a budget and actually stick to it. Surround yourself with optimistic, positive people. All these things can reduce stress significantly.
4. Force yourself to relax. Basically, make some “me time” for yourself every single day. Even it’s a precious 30 minutes where you process and reflect on what happened that day, it’ll make a big difference. Some stress is caused by our not taking the time to manage things and they just pile up. For LOTS of dads, grabbing an hour every week or so to get a soothing professional massage can be a significant stress-buster. While you’re in the session in the safe, comfortable environment, your external stresses disappear and in the precious 60 minutes of your massage, your mind has time to quiet itself and you can, without interruption, just RELAX. Lots of people even fall asleep. For dads, massage is not a luxury, it’s a necessity. On those rare moments when auntie’s babysitting, try a couple’s massage and you’ll BOTH unstressed at the same time.
5. Stay connected. This means both taking your dad responsibilities seriously, like taking turns caring for the baby, playing with your children, and being the father you want to be and taking time to be affectionate with your partner. Hugs, kisses and shoulder rubs can make a big difference (for you and your partner). Continue communication with your partner and your friends about your feelings, your needs, and your perceptions on the fatherhood experience.
Becoming a parent is a life-changing experience. By managing your stress and taking time to be more present and thoughtful, you’ll be happier, and so will your family.