Are you a parent battling stress? You’re not alone

Life with children can often feel like a game of jenga! Juggling the demands of home, work and a demanding baby can take its toll. April is Stress Awareness Month which raises awareness of the causes and solutions for stress. It’s time to talk about stress, remove the stigma and validate parental stress so we can recognise that we’re not alone when it comes to the rollercoaster of emotions and challenges. 

What are the key signs of stress?  

While community midwives signpost support, understanding our own stress triggers is critical. For one parent, breastfeeding challenges may prove significant, while for others, household finances could be stretched with a new addition. Perhaps returning to sleep after a midnight feed is elusive, or conflict with family or friends is keeping you awake. As a parent, stress can come from many sources, but how do we know when it’s getting too much? Some key signs are: 

  • Irritability
  • Feeling overwhelmed 
  • Inconsolable crying
  • Trouble sleeping (beyond the challenges of an infant!) 
  • Avoiding socialising 
  • Lack of confidence
  • Over or under eating
  • Increased drinking

What is the impact of stress? 

We all want to give our children the best possible start in life – but to achieve that we have to look after ourselves too. While these key signs of stress may seem all too familiar, don’t underestimate the impact: 

  • An accumulation of stress can cause physical, mental and emotional strain. Otherwise known as burnout. 
  • Stress can take a toll on our moods, bodies and relationships. 
  • People under chronic stress are more susceptible to illnesses. 

Here’s what we recommend to tackle stress…

Believe it or not, validating and recognising your stress is a really powerful first step. We can then put in place some realistic changes to help balance the inevitable stresses of parenting young children. Here’s some achievable tools to help: 

  • Listening to music can reduce your cortisol levels – your baby will love it too! 
  • Mindfulness and breathing – even just a minute – can help you recenter from the chaos around you. There are great apps and free podcasts available Calm app, Headspace, Mindfulness sessions
  • Establish familiar routines to encourage healthy habits for both you and your child
  • A balanced diet and some regular exercise (even a walk!) 
  • Don’t feel guilty about sleeping – where possible, sleep when your baby does to catch up on some much needed rest
  • Break down the daily ‘to do’ list into achievable goals – and credit yourself for finishing all or just one of them at the end of the day 
  • Share your stress – don’t let it weigh you down. Being honest about how you feel is important – others are almost certainly feeling the same. As the saying goes, “a problem shared is a problem halved”
  • Reach out for support with family and friends to carve out some time for yourself – your mental health is also a priority
  • If you have a partner, make time for each other. Stress can impact those around you and your relationships with them. Reconnect, relax and regroup
  • Care for your baby/child in a way that works for you. Every family is unique. Trust your own instincts and don’t let people’s opinions deter you from what is best for you. You know your baby better than anyone! 
  • Relax, recuperate, and reset to approach tomorrow with a positive mindset

The takeaway:

Nobody’s perfect. We all struggle at varying levels, especially when it comes to parenting. Just allow yourself to be, and accept that stress doesn’t have to be an isolating ordeal. Seek professional support if stress is controlling your daily life. Feeling stressed and emotional after a baby is normal, but postpartum depression is not, don’t be scared to ask for help.

For more information and support, visit Stress Managment Society

If you think stress maybe linked to postnatal depression then contact your health visitor or GP, or visit Mind for some useful help and support.

5 April 2023