Stress Busters for Working Parents

Stress Busters for Working Parents

More than half of all Americans – and two-thirds of Latino and Asian workers — report feeling burned out at work, according to a recent study by Comparably, a national job search firm.

In this study, the main reason cited for job stress was “unclear goals.” Tied for second place was bad management and a long commute, with “difficult coworkers” coming in a close third. Participants also said work-life balance was a major problem.

Other surveys have shown up to 80% of Americans feel stressed at work. Low salaries, excessive workloads, little opportunity for advancement, little social support and lack of control over job decisions also contribute to work stress and burnout, according to surveys by the American Psychological Association, which recently added “worry over the country’s future” to the list. Job burnout, in turn, can lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses.

“Numerous studies show that job stress is far and away the major source of stress for American adults and that it has escalated progressively over the past few decades,” reports the American Institute of Stress. From its surveys, the institute concluded that a too-heavy workload accounted for nearly 50% of all work stress.

Working parents, among others, may find themselves increasingly short-tempered, anxious or depressed as a result of stress at work. This may be especially hard if you’re parenting with ACEs — that is, if you’re dealing with unresolved trauma from your own childhood. In addition, your children may be more vulnerable to the ripple effect of such work stress if they are dealing with trauma from abuse, divorce or other Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

What you can do

Set boundaries between work and home. “Any job can have stressful elements, even if you love what you do,” according to the American Psychological Association. To manage work-related stress, the association recommends setting some firm boundaries, such as not answering work texts and calls after hours.

Make time to de-stress. The APA recommends avoiding fast food and alcohol, getting enough sleep and exercise and “recharging” with your friends and family. A recent study in Psychosomatic Medicine found that people who make time for fun — including seeing friends, playing sports and enjoying nature — have lower blood pressure, a smaller waist and lower body mass index, and lower levels of cortisol, a hormone linked to stress.

Practice relaxation techniques. Mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, and meditation may help you better handle work stress. Try some mindfulness mini-breaks at work — even breathing “low and slow” and a short walk may help restore your equilibrium.

Create a homecoming ritual. Take a quick walk after work if you can. Instead of brooding about work as you head home on the bus or train, read a novel. If you commute by driving, Patrick Coleman of the dad’s parenting site Fatherly recommends listening to a podcast to help detach from work. “When you do come home, put down your phone and be present,” Coleman writes. “Remember, coming home isn’t something you have to do. It’s something you get to do. So give your [partner] a hug and grab your kids for a quick wrestle…This physical contact will help ground you at home.”

Support some big system changes. Workers would feel less job stress if they were all allowed to take paid sick leave and paid parental and medical leave. Did you know the United States is the only industrial nation that doesn’t mandate paid maternity leave? Let your government officials know what you need.

Contact your union. Today only about 11% of workplaces have unions, compared to 20% in 1983. If you do belong to a union, ask the union to do a work stress study and make recommendations. The union can also protect you from retaliation if you raise the issue.

Talk with your supervisor. A lot of work stress is caused by systemic problems such as unrealistic work schedules and goals, according to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Since work stress interferes with productivity, employers have a built-in incentive to manage it. If you have a good relationship with your supervisor, work with him or her to come up with an effective plan to lower work stress. If not, talk with your coworkers and approach your supervisor as a group.

Be a role model. Your kids are looking to you as a model to find joy and meaning in their future jobs. Even if you’re obsessed by frustrations at work, try not to overshare them with your children. Instead, talk about challenges you’ve resolved on the job and what kind of work you hope to do in the future.

If you’ve tried everything and your stress is still overwhelming, consider changing jobs. One working dad in Texas told  Fatherly that after several years of working 15- to 18-hour days at a stressful job he enjoyed, his six-year-old daughter told him casually, “Some days it’s like you’re not my Daddy.” He started looking for another job the next day.

References

Workplace Stress. The American Institute of Stress. Retrieved by https://www.stress.org/workplace-stress

Coping with Stress from Work. American Psychological Association. Retrieved from
https://www.apa.org/helpcenter/work-stress

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