Stress Reduction Tips for Parents

The best way to reduce your stress is to really know what it IS, that is making you stressed! So sit down for a minute and think about last year. You can look at a calendar to remind yourself of events, or appointments. This may jog your memory, such as realizing that taking your kids to the doctor can stress you out. Stress can also grow from your surroundings. Are you disorganized? Are your drawers and closets filled with clutter? Do you waste a lot of time searching for items?

? Determine your stressors (flip through last year's calendar, talk to your spouse, look around your house, etc)
? List them (if you can) in order of what stresses you the most
? Divide them into categories (related topics, i.e. meals, errands, carpool, clutter)
? Determine how often a particular thing makes you feel stress (daily, weekly, monthly).

Now you should have a pretty good idea of what makes your blood boil. So your next step is to:

Get proactive

It would be nice if we could wave a wand and all our stress would vanish. Of course that's not going to happen, but finding a solution WILL lower stress. You must commit your time to take positive action ? get proactive! You can choose to do something about your level of anxiety or you can choose not to. It is not the kid's fault, the dogs fault, your bosses fault if you are continually in a stressful mode. It is your choice ? so choose to de-stress!

What will give you the most peace?

No matter what, you will run into stress. Yes you can reduce it in many ways, but a good way to ride through the little stresses in life is combating the big one. This will be different for everybody. You may feel grocery shopping is a nightmare. It is your biggest stress of the week? Well you HAVE to eat right? Can your spouse do the shopping? Is it worth hiring a personal assistant that shops for you? Maybe your 16-year old would love the chance to drive to the store? Give her a list and get her out of the house!

You may notice that you are late dropping the kids to school every day because you can't find your keys, the kid's lunch money, your son's football jersey, your daughter's flute. It is a fact that if you eliminate clutter you will reduce stress. A place for everything is crucial! But everything does not have to be in its place. This depends on your needs and your life style. Will you find peace if you stop running around in circles?

Come up with solutions

How much time do you lose daily just looking for misplaced items? Hiring a Professional Organizer can be a solution for many. Professional Organizers do more than clean out file cabinets. They help determine what aspects of your life are making you disorganized, whether in your home or office, and they find solutions that will make you more productive and less stressed. Often these solutions are so simple you wish you had thought of them years ago.

Here are just a few simple solutions you can try today:

? Teach your children to use an alarm clock
? Set up a dry erase board or "list" where everyone rights down items they need. (If they don't put chocolate milk or shampoo on the list, then you won't know to shop for it and they won't get it)
? Have a dirty laundry basket in a central location. (If someone needs a shirt for the next day, it better be in there or they wear something else)
? Create a "special place" (folder, drawer, shelf) for your child to put the papers he brings home from school
? Let the answer machine take a message (return calls at YOUR convenience)
? Keep extra supplies in your car. (put clothing, water, snacks, wipes in a bag that fits under the seat or in the trunk ? trust me this will come in handy more than you know)
? Pack lunches the night before
? Lay out clothes for school/work the night before
? Run errands a non-rush hour times (if possible)
? Limit what you can do in a day. (Train yourself to not bite off more than you can chew!)

Who can help you?

There are so many places to turn these days for help. Depending on your needs, you can find assistance in a variety of ways. Your child's school may offer free classes or support groups. You can network with other parents, who feel the same stress as you, when you attend an open-house, career day or even your daughter's soccer game. Your neighbors are a great source of help too. You may find a carpool, dog sitter or a new friend. Turn to your spouse, sister, and friends for support. You can also look at hiring individuals or a company for your particular needs. College students are often a good source for after school babysitting. Personal Chefs can do your shopping and cooking. Professional Organizers can restructure your files, closets and your lifestyle.

Categorize the problems

You may have done this already when you assessed your stresses. If not, then create categories now, and determine where your stresses fall. It is important to know whether something makes you very stressed or minutely stressed. Categories can include such things as; driving, shopping, phone calls, volunteer work, travel, kids, pets, other family responsibilities/commitments, house maintenance, finances, cooking, cleaning.

Once you place your stressors into categories you can easily see where your biggest tensions arise. Then you can make changes to eliminate trouble spots. For instance, let's say you find driving the kids to school in the morning can become lost time, thus putting you into a "rush" sequence for the day. Maybe your husband can drop the kids at school on his way to work? Can he adjust his work schedule a half hour? Perhaps your children will have to chip in and start taking the bus or find a ride with a school friend.

Another example could be that you get home too late to make a decent meal. You feel obligated to make a nutritious dinner but you are too tired to spend an hour cooking. There are a few solutions. You may prepare meals over the weekend and freeze them for use during the week. You may find a cookbook or a website that offers easy, nutritious meals that you can prepare in 30 minutes or less. Find five or ten recipes you like and make them your weekday dinners. Maybe you give yourself a night off and every Wednesday you order out or go out to a restaurant.

You may find that you are simply not organized. It's not the cooking but knowing what to cook or having the right ingredients. Her are some ideas:

? Keep an "on-going" grocery list on the refrigerator and find a time to shop that works around your schedule.
? Delegate! Have your kids or your spouse cook one night a week.
? Create a box or file with only the recipes you like. Don't waste time reading through a cook book each night or trying to find a recipe in your "junk" drawer! Divide recipes into categories such as dinner, lunch, snacks, quick meals, etc.
? Change grocery stores and go to the store that offers already prepared meals. You can purchase whole, cooked chickens, pasta, potatoes, salads etc., and start eating as soon as you walk in the door!

Do whatever it takes to get the peace you need

Your home will only run as well as you do. It's important to do whatever it takes to get the peace you need. That often means putting yourself first. It is not selfish to take care of yourself, it is irresponsible not to. If you continue to build stress you will become ill. What good will you be to your family if you are in bed all day or worse, in the hospital?

Try something new and don't be afraid to change the rules

Too many times we fall into a rut. We do it one way because it was always done that way. Unfortunately many people fear change, simply because it's unknown. But if you are so stressed, tired, or disorganized, how can it get worse if you sincerely try to change to make it better?

For example, if you have a lot of clutter, I have a simple principle to help you reduce that clutter and gain control of your life. Love it or lose it!

Every item around you represents a choice you made. You either went out and selected it; or it came to you, and you accepted it. Look at that item, whether it is a piece of paper, a piece of jewelry, or a piece of furniture, and ask yourself do you love it? If you do not know that item to be useful, believe it to be beautiful or love it for personal reasons, it's time to get rid of it.

You may find this principle will work on other aspects of your life. Do you love to coach softball? If not, why are you doing it? The kids won't benefit if coaching stresses you out. If you are invited to potluck, do you bring the potato salad that the hostess asked you to bring or are you willing to tell her that you love to bake and would prefer to bring a cake? If making the salad stresses you out, then change the rules a little. The solution may just make everybody happy!

Post the new plan

You have a plan to reduce stress and you are doing a great job implementing it. But outside factors can get in the way. So POST the new plan. Keep your calendar in a place that everyone has access. Refer to a central location for information (stop leaving notes all over the house and in your pockets!). Plan ahead and keep the lines of communication open. Maybe it's time that your whole family carries a cell phone. Give them a specific time to check in with you so you know their schedule. Now you will know in plenty of time whether to cook dinner for two or four.

Stay in control. Assess the year as you go

Maintaining your success and keeping the process flowing is essential. Take a real look at the improvements in your life and the reduction of your stress. That should be incentive enough to keep up the good work. But if you need a bit more encouragement then look for a support group or a person that will hold you accountable. Maybe you buy your daughter new earrings every time you are late picking her up from band practice. Maybe she buys you a pair if she is late and you have to wait! You can also celebrate your success. If you manage to keep your desk top clean for a week you can treat yourself to a half hour soak in the tub. Of course your husband will have to watch the kids! Get him involved in helping you stay in control. One persons stress can easily carry over to another, but on the flip side, if you are happy, those around you will be too.

� Barbara Hemphill is the author of Kiplinger's Taming the Paper Tiger at Work and Taming the Paper Tiger at Home and co-author of Love It or Lose It: Living Clutter-Free Forever. The mission of Hemphill Productivity Institute is to help individuals and organizations create and sustain a productive environment so they can accomplish their work and enjoy their lives. We do this by organizing space, information, and time. We can be reached at 800-427-0237 or at

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