Stress busting for Dads

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Modern life is fast-paced and the challenges of finding work-life balance can leave many dads feeling stressed and over-stretched. Dealing with stress involves some here-and-now strategies to lower your immediate level of stress as well as looking at the bigger picture and thinking about tweaking that also.

It can be helpful to have a tool box of strategies that work for you and that help to reduce your stress as its happening:

Mindfulness
Recognise that having a baby brings many unexpected changes for you and your partner: give yourself time to adjust!
Life might be different, but being a dad is also a wonderful experience. Take some time getting to know your baby.
To reduce stress try deep abdominal breathing slows the heart rate, reduces the body’s release of stress hormones and also helps to calm the mind. Many people use mindfulness strategies that also involve thought observation techniques that allow them to pull out of the negative thoughts and find an inner calm and peace.

Get Active
Find 5 minutes and go for a walk? Find 20 mins and go for a run to get your heart-rate pumping and some fresh air?
Whatever activity you find time to do and for however long, it’s a great start. Complement your exercise with good food.

Planning and organisation
Don’t try to ‘take on everything’ or solve every problem: you are part of a team. If your mental ‘To-Do’ list is feeling too long making you feel way too busy, then take 5 minutes and make a real list.
Also, let others help you with some of the items on your list. Sometimes, you just can’t do it all and others can help – try to ask for help when you need it, it will make a difference. Life sometimes needs some planning and organising skills – if you are feeling you may need a refresher look at doing a time management course or search for additional tips and strategies online. Skills like these last a lifetime.

Tackling the bigger picture
When the source of stress is more complicated and feelings are intense such as a relationship breakdown, a miscarriage, or financial problems, you may be best to look for help from a professional counsellor, a trusted friend or family member. ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’ is an age old truism that is seen to reflect we humans as social beings, something asking for help also does as it can connect you with that friend, family member or workmate that helps out. Think about taking the first step towards feeling and living in a less stressed environment – this can help you to be the best you want to be.

How are you Sleeping?
How are you sleeping (unrelated to baby’s sleep)? A common issue with all new parents is sleep deprivation. Of course the normal 7 – 8 or so hours of sleep is not going to continue when a little person needs to be fed and changed overnight. When these early days settle down and you are in a more regular feeding routine it is important to look at your sleep. Are you able to sleep when baby is sleeping? If the answer is no, and you find yourself lying awake worrying, or playing conversations or events over and over again it is important you speak with your doctor.

Good sleep habits:

  • Avoid coffee, alcohol or other stimulants within a couple of hours of going to bed.
  • Establish abed timeroutine that works for you. Just like children benefit from routine, we adults do too. Maybe this is a cup of herbal tea and reading, a bath and some quiet music, or a relaxation exercise such as focussed breathing, visualisation or meditation techniques. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as it is soothing for you, and you feel you want to do it.
  • Spend time outdoors in natural light to help the body produce melatonin, a natural sleep promotion substance.
  • Engage in regular exercise to improve restful sleep.
  • Make sure your sleeping space is dark and any electronic devices (TV, computer, alarm clocks with bright light etc) do not interfere with the serenity of the space.
  • If you have had an interrupted night with many wakeful moments catching an hour or so when baby is asleep is a good way to ensure you are not too sleep deprive.

Sleep deprivation wears you down. Sleep is an important priority for the wellbeing of the family unit.  If you are a co-parent who is getting adequate sleep make it your mission to provide as much support as possible when you can so your partner can have a solid sleep overnight. With breastfeeding this can be possible by expressing or getting up and bringing baby to mum for a feed and being responsible for burping and resettling. There are many ways to work as a team to support each other to gain as much sleep as possible. This is a positive step to take to maximize your emotional and mental health!

Helpful Links
Smiling Mind – http://smilingmind.com.au/

Black Dog Institute Fact Sheets –  http://www.blackdoginstitute.org.au/factsheets/index.cfm

PANDA Fact Sheets – http://www.panda.org.au/practical-information/panda-fact-sheets