Practical advice for new parents

Dealing with Stress

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No matter how patient you are, no matter how calm and wonderful your baby may be, there will be times when the stress levels start to rise and you'll age weeks in a matter of minutes.

Here then are a few stress-busting ideas to help you regain your sanity when it feels like the walls are closing in.

Tips for Dealing with Stress

Take a long, hot shower

Make it a bath if you can find the time, but a long, hot shower will help invigorate you. If you can spare the time for a bath, make it a luxury one. Try some aromatherapy oils, light some candles, and play some music in the background. Spoil yourself, even if it's for just a short while.

Put on your favourite music

Take the time to make up a CD of some of your favourite tunes. Have a variety of music on hand, such as soothing tunes, or tunes that rev you up, so you have music to suit what ever mood you're in.

Go for a walk

Fresh air and getting out from the house, even if for just 10 minutes, can make all the difference. If it's absolutely impossible to get outdoors, then go into another room and stare out the window. Let your mind escape, even if your body can't.

Try some exercise

A short exercise session will release endorphins into your system which are said to help in reducing stress (as well as contributing to a natural high).

Talk to someone

A problem shared is a problem halved, as they say, so don't bottle up your feelings and frustrations. Talk to your partner, family, friends, or even your health professional. Other avenues include the Internet, local community support groups, and local churches. There is always someone out there who will be willing to listen, so don't bottle things up. Quite often, just airing our frustrations can go a long way to diluting them.

Think of the positives

As hard as it can be, when you feel the blood pressure start to rise, focus with all your worth on the positives (or even humour) of the situation. Try to block out the reasons why you're feeling stressed, and concentrate on the many fantastic aspects of being a parent. And there are many.

Make time for yourself

Arrange it with your partner (or family) that you have regular 'downtime' and make sure that it's a schedule that you can stick to. While your partner is taking care of the infant, use that time to catch up on sleep, read a book, visit friends or something similar, but try remove yourself mentally and physically from any potential stressful situations. The idea is to use your time to relax and de-stress.

Make sure you're sleeping enough and eating the right foods

Lack of sleep and stress go hand-in-hand so you need to make sure you're taking care of yourself so you can take care of your baby. While getting enough sleep can obviously be a challenge, it's important that you don't underestimate the flow-on effects that a lack of sleep and a poor diet can have.

Don't stress about the small stuff

Things like undone household chores etc. can take on mammoth proportions when you're under a bit of stress, but when you're old and nearing the end of your days it's not likely you're going to look back on your life and wish you had done more vacuuming or that you had had more time to do laundry. So don't get worked up about the little things in life, as they normally have a way of working themselves out in the end.

Lower your expectations and avoid deadlines

Frustrations often occur when the parent has a pressing need to go somewhere or do something, but the baby has other ideas. If you're meeting people, avoid giving specific times to save yourself the stress of missing deadlines (instead give generalisations like 'we'll be there around 3-3.30pm). If you have to be somewhere at a specific time, leave extra early and allow for mishaps. When putting the baby to sleep, or at feeding time etc., get into the mindset that you're there until the job is done no matter how long it takes. All other matters will have to wait until the task is completed. Don't expect your baby to comply to your schedule. You'll never rush a baby to sleep, so why stress yourself out trying?

Things not to do when stressed

Don't take any frustrations out on your partner or people close to you. Working as a team is the best way to share the stress load. If one partner feels like it's all getting a bit too much, it helps immensely if the other is calm and in a position to take over while the stressed out partner takes a break.

Don't eat or drink to cope with the stress. Chances are, if you resort to snacking and drinking as a way to combat stress, then it's unlikely you'll be snacking on carrots or celery sticks. It's more likely to be junk food and chocolate. A bad diet will not give you the energy and nutrients that you need to get through each day, but more likely will leave you feeling lethargic and tired.

Don't ever take it out on your baby. Always remember that it's not the baby's fault. He or she only has very limited ways of communicating with you and, unfortunately, screaming at the top of his/her lungs is one of them.

Remember, parenting is a demanding job, and it makes demands 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Because it allows parents precious little time away from the role it's important to make sure you grab a few minutes here and there for your own needs - you'll be a better parent for it.