7 Surefire Things Any Parent Can Do To Have Less Stress and More Joy in Daily Life
Do you ever get exhausted with the day-to-day stressors of parenting?
Let’s be honest: sometimes parenting can feel like 80% work and only 20% fun.
Lately I’ve been in a parenting funk. Feeling tired of the daily grind. Not appreciative of my kids’ unique personalities. Not taking time to connect. Not getting outside everyday. Working too much (see my serious work face below and note wrinkles of consternation between my eyebrows!)…and yes, I've been letting the kids sit on screens for way too long. (Yup…I admitted it.)
I told a friend how tired I felt and she asked me a simple question: “Are you drinking enough water?”
When I thought about it, I answered truthfully: “No.”
Very simple self-care practices can have a big impact on our day-to-day happiness and health as parents. Here’s a short list of super-obvious things that will make us all happier and healthier parents:
- Drink water! Dehydration will affect your energy and your mood. Find it hard to drink enough water? Using a straw has been noted to help increase liquid intake. In our home, we all started drinking more water when we got a Sodastream carbonator to make fizzy water right at home. Adding fruit or citrus is always a nice change too.
- Eat healthy whole foods during the day. A good strategy that works for me is to eat healthy during the day and let myself splurge on dessert at night (ice cream, chocolate, whatever gives you your fix!). During the day, focus on vegetables especially, because none of us seem to eat enough vegetables. Opt for easy-to-grab healthy snacks- an apple with some peanuts is my personal favorite. My favorite website for GREAT healthy snacks you can make at home is Angela Liddon's ohsheglows.com. I highly recommend her cookbooks- they are my go-to for healthy recipes… and she also has lots of recipes for sweet treats that aren’t as bad as traditional desserts.
- Exercise. It’s Sir Richard Branson’s #1 tip for improving productivity, and it can help you be a better parent too. Personally, I’ve never been athletic. I was always the last one chosen for the kickball team in elementary school. I’m clumsy, uncoordinated, and never exercised until college. Since then, I’ve dabbled in running, yoga, swimming, and hiking. I still love to do all of these things, but 9 months ago at 40 years of age, I started taking CrossFit classes at Grassroots CrossFit in Berkeley. I quickly realized: 1.) I wasn’t in as good of shape as I thought I was, and 2.) Vigorous exercise is key to being the best parent you can be. I feel stronger, more alert, and more aware of my own body. And I’m proud of myself- since I’ve never been an “athlete”, going to CrossFit is (still!) very out of my comfort zone. Accountability is key- so find a friend to exercise with, or enroll in a group class. I promise, if I can do it, you can!
- Feed your soul. Take time daily to read spiritual books, to reflect or journal, and/or meditate or pray. Even 5-10 minutes of spiritual practice a day can vastly impact how you approach challenging situations in your daily life. No time? Pretend you’re using the bathroom, lock the door, and just take a few minutes to calm your mind with some mindful breathing.
- Aim for daily time outdoors, preferably in nature. Gardening, going for a walk, taking the kids to the playground, or ideally, going to a nature area where you can unwind for a bit, even with the kids. Walking in nature allows the frontal lobes- the “thinking areas”- of the brain to rest, quieting our rumination and worries about everyday life. Also, a daily dose of vitamin D from the sun may have antidepressant effects.
- Continually remind yourself that your children are….well, CHILDREN. They have brains and bodies that are nowhere near fully developed. Recent research indicates higher level thinking areas of the brain don’t mature until well into our 20s. Our children have many years left to grow and develop into mature adults who live on their own and contribute in meaningful ways to society. I often remind myself of this in trying moments, and it (sometimes...not always!) gives me an extra boost of much-needed patience.
- Re-frame your thoughts into a positive mindset. Being a realist by nature (read: negative!), I have to consciously re-frame my thinking much of the time. How we think affects our day-to-day reality, and "training" your brain to think more positively can have a cascade of positive effects on your parenting.