Becoming a Stress Free Dad will help you roll with the punches
Stress? You don’t get stressed out because you are a man, right? Wrong. Stress gets the best of us, no matter how tough we think we are. It’s even worse if you deny you are stressed out and bottle it all up, only to unleash your frustration on your family at home – that never ends well. Find out techniques on how to identify signs of stress and what to do to relieve yourself in this lesson.
Stress gets the best of us, no matter how tough we think we are
Lesson 1: What Causes Stress
You have heard plenty about stress over your life but what is it exactly? Simply put, stress is either an external or internal factor that can affect you physically or emotionally. If it seems broad, it’s because it is. Everyone deals with things differently so there isn’t a way to pinpoint universal items. And from a biological standpoint, stress can be negative, neutral, or positive but we are going to focus on the negative stressors. External things that cause you stress include your job, home, relationships and literally every situation, challenge, difficulty, and expectation that you experience every day. Internal stress factors come from your nutrition, health and fitness level, emotional well-being, and even the amount of sleep and rest you get. You know, the things new parents don’t get a lot of. Stress is everywhere.
Stress is everywhere
Lesson 2: Risk Factors for Stress
As we said earlier, everyone responds differently to stressors and has different tolerance levels. You may also find your tolerance levels shifting, depending on the situation as well. Anyone can be negatively affected by the following risk factors:
- Childhood experience – childhood abuse can cause long-term abnormalities in the hypothalamus-pituitary system, which is in charge of regulating stress.
- Personality traits/emotional instability – Some people have personality traits which cause them to over-respond to stressful events, like angry people.
- Genetics – some people were born with genetic factors that may cause them to have more or less relaxation response, which can be connected with serotonin levels, or the “well-being chemical.
- Immunity abnormality – Rheumatoid arthritis or eczema can also impair your response to stress
There are also individuals who tend to be at higher risk for stress such as:
- Older adults
- Women, particularly working mothers
- Caregivers of family members
- Divorced or widowed individuals
- Less educated adults
- Those experiencing financial strain
- Isolated individuals
- Targets of racial or sexual discrimination
- People without health insurance
- People who live in cities
Big life changes or major life events (hello, new baby!) are also major stressors. Research also shows that people between ages 25 and 55, one third see work as their biggest stress. So, if you have a new baby and a demanding job, you already hit two of some of the biggest factors for stress.
Big life changes or major life events (hello, new baby!) are major stressors
Lesson 3: Warning Signs of Stress
Some stress is good. It can help give us a bit of courage to meet a deadline or ask for a promotion. It pushes us to get out of that comfort zone everyone is always talking about. But prolonged stress is bad for you. Have you ever ignored the “check engine” light on your dashboard for a little too long because you are definitely going to get to it probably later this week month? And what happened? You paid way more in part replacement than if you had just gotten the oil changed when it came on. Listening to these signs early could be the difference between needing a day off and a whole medical intervention. Early signs include:
- Headaches, muscle tension, neck or back pain
- Upset stomach
- Dry mouth
- Chest pains, rapid heartbeat
- Difficulty falling or staying asleep
- Loss of appetite or overeating “comfort foods”
- Increased frequency of colds
- Lack of concentration or focus
- Memory problems or forgetfulness
- Short temper
Don’t ignore the warning signs of stress
Lesson 4: Effects of Stress on Your Body
Stress can have an impact on nearly every aspect of your life if it turns into a chronic condition. Stress that is left unchecked or poorly managed is known to contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and suicide. According to the Mayo Clinic, these are some ways effects of stress show up on your body, mood, and behavior:
Common effects of stress on your body
- Muscle tension or pain
- Chest pain
- Change in sex drive
- Stomach upset
- Sleep problems
Common effects of stress on your mood
- Lack of motivation or focus
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Irritability or anger
- Sadness or depression
Common effects of stress on your behavior
- Overeating or undereating
- Angry outbursts
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Tobacco use
- Social withdrawal
- Exercising less often
Basically, it will turn your life upside down, leaving you incapable of functioning at a certain point. This will make you ineffective at work and at home and you don’t want to jeopardize either of these.
Chronic stress will turn your life upside down – making you ineffective at work and at home
Lesson 5: Become a Stress Free Dad
What can you do, then, to try to manage this difficult phase you’re in?
First, remember that nothing lasts forever. If you are having a hard time at work, seek advice from a mentor or trusted colleague. One of the leading causes of stress is also disorganization and procrastination so if you make a plan to combat whatever you are dealing with, it will help you feel more in control of the situation. If your child is going through a hard phase, like sleep training or teething, take a small amount of comfort in knowing it will pass. Promise. Also remember to talk to your spouse about things. They are your partner in crime and might be going through the same feelings as well. Managing your stress is also good for your overall health as well. Some techniques include:
- Regular physical activity (refer to your Fit Dad module)
- Relaxation activities, like deep-breathing, meditation, massage
- Keeping a sense of humor
- Socializing with family and friends
- Set aside time for hobbies
You might be tempted to plop down on the couch to watch television and surf your phone and that’s ok some times. It can actually increase your stress over the long term, though. Getting plenty of sleep and having a healthy and balanced diet are two other great ways to keep stress at bay. Excess use of alcohol and caffeine as well as any use of tobacco or illicit substances also won’t help but do the opposite.
Seek advice, don’t procrastinate, talk to your wife, exercise – find what works for you and more importantly make time for it
These are just some of the ways you might be experiencing stress. Like we said, everyone has different tolerance levels and will react faster, slower, or not at all. If you are ever unsure what is going on, always, always see your doctor so they can give you a professional diagnosis or opinion. You can also consider a counselor or therapist to help you identify the causes of your stress and some coping skills.
Let’s wrap this up
Stress is a serious issue Dads. It creeps up on you if you do not pay attention to it. It can ruin your life if you let it get out of control. Don’t let that happen to you. The most important lesson here is for you to make the time and do the things that relieve your stress. Take action and plan your stress relieving times into your day. We care about you Dad, now get some rest and hit it strong tomorrow. I hope this lesson has helped you figure out techniques on how to become a stress free Dad!
For more information on stress, check out some of the articles below: