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  • Writer's pictureSecond Opinion Magazine

Parenting and Resilience with Suggestions

By Erin Kaspar-Frett, CPM, LM, MSM - Abundant Moon Birth & Wellness LLC

Stress definition (according to Webster Dictionary): 

1. Pressure or tension exerted on a material object

2. A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances

Both definitions fit parenting, right? 

At this point in our lives, we have heard the effect of chronic stress so often we may start believing there is no hope. In the short term: heart rate increases, adrenaline and cortisol are released and arouse the sympathetic nervous system while reducing the parasympathetic nervous system, digestion slows down, sweating ensues, and pulse and blood pressure increase. The long-term impact of chronic stress is associated with glucose metabolism issues, heart attacks, cancer, mood disorders and other ills. So how do we build resilience as parents, rather than JUST survival?

Stress is neither good nor bad. It simply is. What we do with the excess and how we balance the hormones created determines whether the impact is helpful or harmful. Stress does have some benefits. It helps us focus, run faster, move more quickly. As a midwife, I am very appreciative for my stress response when I need to act quickly or use my muscles. The stress response literally saves lives at times: the child that runs toward the street, or the ability to lift something heavier than our usual limits in an emergency. 

Stress elimination, in fact, is not likely possible. We might have financial strain, children with needs, co-parenting (you know, that person that you got into this job with) or single parenting difficulties, health issues, generational stress, and more. We can’t do much about most of those. You can certainly make changes to reduce extra stress, but that alone is not the answer.  

Rather than trying to reduce stress, I suggest stress resilience. Find the things that fill your cup. Retrain your focus onto the little things that bring you joy and allow gratitude to permeate your being. That does not mean ignoring the needs of your neighbors, family and friends in order to put yourself first. There is a time and a place for someone else’s needs to come before yours, but not continuously. 

Stress hormones are balanced in several ways: moderate exercise, mindful breathing, prayer and meditation, adequate sleep, nutritious caloric intake, comfortable social time (not anxiety-producing social time), support, and others. You could do self-care, such as spa day or massage, but those may not be realistic, feasible or even desirable right now. Instead, create a daily routine with the small things that bring you joy: touching base with a trusted friend, a good movie or book, a good cry, a bath or alone time. Sometimes it’s simply refocusing yourself, like appreciating your child’s laughter, even if there’s a mess to deal with. 

It’s okay to take time and respond to your changing needs in resilience, just as you would respond to your child’s changing needs. Then you can focus on gratitude for what IS going well. This may be impossible during times of crisis or increased stress, but try to do it when you can.

Breathe. Take a moment to breathe in and out of your heart space, think of something pleasant, and do your best to feel it. Research shows that simply just breathing makes a difference on the stress response of the body. 

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