Being a single parent can be a huge responsibility that leads to excessive stress. This is often compounded by problems that come up unexpectedly and not dealing with stress that already exists. As a single parent, how can you ensure that you deal with the stress you already have, so that you won’t reach the highest pressure point? There are a few methods that work, but before you employ them, you need to consider what causes you stress and how you can avoid those things.
When you are a single parent, you alone take on the responsibilities of running a home and raising your children. That pressure of making decisions constantly can amount to huge stress, but you can deal with it if you follow the following steps:
- Take control of your budget – one of the single biggest stress factors for parents, whether single or married, is money. When you think about your money and how it is managed, do you cringe and want to run and hide? This may be because you feel as though your finances are controlling you. Set up a budget for your home. Stick to it and encourage your kids to stick to it. If you don’t have a job, find a temp job to fill the money gap.
- Open the dialogue – by letting your kids know what is going on in the home, and how they fit in, they are less likely to push boundaries and test you. This can eliminate a lot of stress not just for you, but for them too. If you find it difficult to have that discussion with them, look for a support system, like a friend or therapist so that you don’t feel so alone.
- Ensure that you make time for the family and for yourself. You may think that you can cope with every type of pressure, but if you don’t have some quiet time to relax, you are much more likely to feel the ill effects of stress.
- Strict to your routine and enforce discipline – just because you are a single parent, doesn’t mean you should compromise when it comes to discipline in your home. If your kids misbehave, ensure that they understand the consequences of their actions, and then follow through. You may be stressed and tired, but if you don’t enforce discipline, you are setting yourself up for more stressful situations.
- Get some help – single parents often make the mistake of trying to do it all themselves. However, if you can employ a nanny, get daycare or hire a domestic worker twice a week, you will be a going a long way to reducing your own stress.
The Problems That Cause You Stress
Part of dealing with stress, is understanding what is causing that stress. Sometimes, even if you deal with the signs and symptoms of stress, you may fall into the same patterns causing more stress, because you haven’t dealt with those issues. Some of the most common issues surrounding single parent stress include:
- Legal drama – anyone who has ever been divorced knows how stressful it can be to go through custody battles and alimony fights. Even trying to organize a good visitation routine can be very stressful, both for the parent who has custody and for the parent trying to see their kids.
- Conflict with your ex – if you thought fighting with our spouse was tough when you were married, know that it is twice as stressful when you are divorced. Even if you were never married, there may be incidences when you don’t agree, and because you are not married and therefore not obligated to deal with those problems, it is easier to hold a grudge, which causes more stress.
- Loss of a spouse or partner – this is a situation where stress is compounded by grief. The single parent may have very difficult days when they think about how much easier things would have been if their partner were still alive.
- Loneliness – yes, being lonely can be stressful too, but this is often made worse by the guilt of trying to date or find a partner knowing that this may have an effect on your kids.
These are just some of the problems that single parents may experience that stress them out. The common thread in all of these is the emotional impact that the parent’s problems have on their lives. As such, it is vital that they find the cause of the problems and use techniques to fill emotional gaps or deal with those emotions.
Physical Manifestations Of Stress
People often think of stress as something you can’t see, thus is must be entirely in the head. However, as many single parents will know, stress often manifests in the body and has harmful effects that can get worse over time. Some of these may include:
- Headaches, backaches and neck pain – one of the most common manifestations of stress comes in the form of chronic headaches, debilitating neck and back pain and even certain muscles seizing up. Getting a massage is one way of dealing with these problems, but this deals just with the symptoms and not the underlying problem.
- Gastrointestinal problems – for many people, being stressed and worried has effects on the bowels. Whether it is chronic constipation or excessive diarrhea, stress can cause cramps, bloating and flatulence, all of which make you more stressed.
- Nervous system complaints – ever been so stressed you heart started racing, you got sweaty palms and your face started to tingle? Excessive stress can cause adrenaline to run through the body, causing the heart rate to increase and the body to go into fight or flight mode. This takes a very serious toll on the heart and the other cardiovascular system organs.
These are not the only effects of excessive stress. The physical effects of this type of stress can cause heart attacks and a host of other problems, which is why it is vital that they are dealt with.
How To Cope With Single Parent Stress
If you have ever thought about doing some de-stressing activity and then thought, I don’t have the time, you might be boiling like a pressure cooker on a hot stove. As a single parent, it is vital that you make time for distressing techniques so that you don’t get to the point of collapse.
Your first technique, set your weekly ‘me’ time. If you know when you will spend time pampering yourself and being kind to yourself, you will start looking forward to it. Do not postpone this time unless there is an emergency. If you don’t make the time you need for yourself, you will keep devoting your time to everything else and you won’t deal with your stress. Do whatever you need to to take this time, whether that involves getting a babysitter so you can take a long hot bath, or leaving the kids with your siblings so that you can go to the gym.
Laugh and have fun whenever you can. Even if something gets on your nerves, laugh instead of getting angry. This will make it much easier for you to deal with certain situations and you will feel much better than you would have if you lost your temper. If you need something to start you off, play with your kids. Tickle them or tell them a joke and wait for the waves of laughter to take over.
Use relaxation techniques to help you slow down your heart rate and decrease your blood pressure. Some of the best calming techniques include:
- Buy a relaxation CD. With this, you can slowly meditate and visualize a better life, which will make you feel more hopeful about your future.
- Breathe deeply. Whether you do it to get to sleep at night or you take a few moments to breathe when times get tough, breathing can really help you relax, slow down your heart rate and generally help you think more clearly.
- Let your brain take a vacation. Imagine yourself somewhere else, lying on a beach, curled in front of a fire and focus on that moment. Don’t let the pressures of your life into your ideal scenario.
Another great way to avoid the stress of being a single parent is to employ a few daily activities that will make you feel much more in control. For example, if you can, get up 15 minutes earlier every morning. With those extra 15 minutes, you will be able to prepare better and will feel much less rushed and hurried. If you don’t want to get up at the crack of dawn, try preparing for each day the night before.
Ensure that you prepare for every emergency, so that if something does go wrong, you know how to fix it. As a single parent, you will inevitably be stuck in bank queues and at doctor’s offices, so make these experiences more pleasant by taking along a book, tablet or even video games.
One of the best ways to deal with the physical effects of stress is to cut caffeine out of your diet. By eliminating caffeine, you eliminate its negative effects. Also remember to say ‘no’ when you really cannot take on any extra responsibility. You might feel bad about not being able to help at your child’s bake sale, or about not taking on an extra project at work, but the amount of stress that you will have to deal with will make you feel worse.
No matter what you are working on, get up and stretch now again, or go for a walk around the office. If you work part time, go for short walks around the block and don’t forget to breathe. Sleep is also an important factor in keeping stress way so make sure you get enough. If you go to bed late and get up early, try to change your routine.
A great way to get rid of emotional stress is to write down how you are feeling. By putting your thoughts on paper, you will be able to get them out of your head, and probably be able to deal with them more easily. The same goes with talking. If someone does something to upset you, talk to them about it. By keeping it inside, you are just accumulating stress.
As the world spins faster and faster and out lives go at a quicker pace, we start to get more flustered and hurried, and when you are a single parent trying to do everything and make all of the decisions on your own, you get even more stressed. But why give in to the pressures of your day when you don’t have to? Too many people put up with stress when they can use a few simple techniques to deal with it.
Whether it’s your kids or your job, finances or dealing with legal issues, stress will always be there. You may keep telling yourself that you just need to get over one issue and then you will make time to relax, but everyone knows that this is rarely the case. So instead of giving in to tremendous stress and pressure, why not engage in one or two simple things a day to help you get past the stress?
No matter what your chosen form of stress release is, ensure that you make the time that you need to relax and replenish your resources. It may involve taking a long walk by yourself or with your kids, or even just having a half an hour of quiet time. You may decide that your form of relaxation is participating in sports or baking a cake. But no matter what form of me time you choose, you need to ensure that you stick to it. No matter what comes along to distract you from your relaxation time, stand firm in your resolution to de-stress and relax. It may not seem like the most convenient short term option, but it is the best long term one.