Stress less: How to reduce stress now you have a family

Posted in Family Health.

When you start a family, things can collide and stress can become an unfortunate yet predictable part of your daily life.

Stress less

Illustrator Matthew Johnstone and clinical psychologist, Dr Michael Player, put their heads together and produced a book, Stress Less, to help people deal with the stress in their lives.

“Stress has been around since we humans have been around and since animals have been around,” says Michael. “It’s part of the reptilian brain, and the stress response was created to keep us away from danger.”

But as much as stress is a normal part of life in our increasingly complex world, Michael says our stress levels can interfere with our enjoyment of life.

“Stress expresses itself in numerous ways, physically, mentally and emotionally, including through worry, anxiety, lack of focus and energy, sleeplessness, muscle tension, irritation and anger.”

Listen to Matthew Johnstone and Dr Michael Player on Feed Play Love: 

Are we more stressed than ever?

“We have a lot more psychological threats, and that is what we are reacting to the most,” says Michael. “And the other issue is that people use stress as a badge of honour saying, ‘I’m so busy’ or ‘I’m so stressed.’”

He also points out that if you feel stressed – you probably are. And if you think stress is bad for you – then it probably is.

It’s also important to acknowledge that stress is cumulative.

“We go about our days, adding lots of tasks to an ever-increasing to-do list. And these things just add up. So when someone comes to us and screams about something, it’s easy to lose your mind.”

Prevention is better than a cure

Michael says we need to be able to identify our stress triggers and counteract them by making sure we are doing some things in our day that ‘cool’ our stress levels down.

“Another way to manage stress is to practice ‘radical acceptance’ which means accepting your current situation as it is.”

Michael also recommends using mindful belly breaths as you’re going about the more mundane parts of your day.

“Just say you are washing clothes and hanging them on the line … try breathing into your belly and then release it. On the physical level, this is activating the parasympathetic nervous system. The thoughts become less prevalent and you become a lot calmer.”

You can also try self-compassion, which is not as hippy-dippy as it sounds.

“Self-compassion is really about accepting what is. Say to yourself, ‘This is bloody difficult, and I am really exhausted’ and then take some time out for yourself.”

Michael and Matthew’s stress management checklist

  • Eat well
  • Make good sleep a priority
  • Learn to communicate authentically
  • Exercise regularly
  • Know your limits
  • Take time out
  • Learn to quiet the mind
  • Make time for being in nature
  • Give of yourself and your time in helping others
  • Be around those who make you feel good
  • Have an occasional gut laugh
  • Rinse and repeat – often.

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