Whether parents intend to or not, children are able to sense when their parents are feeling low, tired, and about to give up. The opposite is true when children see their parents face adversity with resilience.
However, resilient parenting is not doing everything to the point of overwhelm or exhaustion. Only a resilient parent knows how to break down problems into controllable elements and learn how to handle stress.
Step 1: Compartmentalize
Desmond Tutu once said that the only way to eat an elephant is by taking one bite at a time. The way man handles stress has yet to evolve from the survival response of the caveman days to modern living. We may see a problem as too big to handle, so we go into survival mode. But consider whether you are fighting against a real tiger or a paper tiger and learn that problems are resolvable and only short-lived, Greater Good reminded.
But when we break down our problems into smaller, more manageable problems, parents can act on one at a time, and parents may gain the perspective that it was not so bad as imagined. Also, parents do not have to constantly be thinking of finding a solution to the same problem. Remember, parents have a host of other responsibilities that demand their resources.
So, think of it this way: it is like creating a pie chart in your mind and giving each problem, each responsibility, a space of its own. Whether you are battling sickness, death, or grief, compartmentalizing your problems makes them more bearable.
Then you realize it cannot possibly take up 100% of your time, energy, and attention because you have many other things to attend to as a parent.
Step 2: Start a Journal
Writing down your thoughts helps narrow down your problems and nail it down to what it actually is because the mind can conjure up thoughts that your problems are bigger than they actually are. When you journal, it should not cause added stress, like something you need to knock out off your to-do list.
Rather, your journal is something you come back to every time you need clarity with your thoughts and emotions. It can help put things back in perspective. When you look back at your entries, there will be lessons to learn too.
Step 3: Conserve Energy
When stress and problems come at you, the response should be to STOP:
S - STOP: Hit the pause button on both your thoughts and action.
T - TAKE: Take a few deep breaths and bring yourself back to the present moment. (That means, no over-thinking, just be in the moment).
O - OBSERVE: Notice what is going on in your body, your emotions, and any assumptions your mind is making about your feelings.
P - PICK AN ACTION: Proceed with an intentional choice on what to do next.
The way humans faced stress during the caveman days was solely for survival. The same tactics employed now would be self-destructive. You can't respond the same way when an accident happens vs. when your child starts throwing tantrums on a day and time when you are just too tired.
Learn what can and cannot be fixed and avoid obstacles when possible, Parent and Teen advised. For example, do not go grocery shopping when your child is usually hungry or sleepy. Schedule your work time during kids' naptimes or when they are busy with schoolwork. As the saying goes, "don't cry over spilled milk," so choose which ones you give your full energy to and which stress you face calmly and which you let slip by.
Step 4: Turn Your Attention Away from Yourself
It is one thing to focus on self-care to avoid stress and overwhelm, and another to completely remove yourself from thinking about yourself and your problems. One of the best ways to stop feeling overwhelmed about your own problems is to spend your resources to help others.
It doesn't always have to be money. You can give time, refocus your energy on meaningful work or volunteer work, and giving back when you can. When you consider how resilient other people are despite lacking the resources you have, you start to be more grateful and are able to focus your energies more on what matters at present.
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