It’s not easy being a dad. With juggling busy schedules at work and home, you can easily neglect yourself. How we handle our mental and physical health is vital to us and our families.
Your mental health affects your physical health. And your physical health affects your mental health. We know this, but it isn't something we consider daily. If you have a problem with your mental health, it will show up in your body. Likewise, if you have a problem with the health of your body, it will affect your mind and how you see the world.
Stress and its warning signs can take weeks or months to reveal itself. But, you can take steps today to handle stress better.
Here are 14 tips to help you handle stress:
1) Exercise: Oh yes, the "E" word. We said it. Working out increases your strength and stamina.
2) Eat Right: Stress and diet are closely linked. You know what you should eat. The key is eating it and not settling for unhealthy, fast foods. One Big Mac may not kill you, but a Big Mac every meal? It may be time to consider changing your diet.
3) Get Enough Sleep: Get at least six to eight hours sleep a night. Take naps during the day if you can’t get enough sleep. Even “power naps”—15 to 30 minutes of rest where you close your eyes—help reduce stress.Think you're too good for naps? Winston Churchill took naps. He claimed naps allowed him to get twice as much accomplishment in one day. Churchill said of naps, “Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.”
4) Be Flexible: Be less rigid and competitive. Be more patient.
5) Get Real: Think about all the “shoulds,” “woulds, “coulds,” and “musts” in your life. Figure out which are worth keeping and which to get rid of.
6) Be Happy: This is easier said than done. Try to look at the good instead of the bad in the world. When you always look for the bad in everything, you develop an unhappy view of people and their actions. Don’t complain about stuff. Our words have power. Note to the complainer, a simple adjustment of our words could be revoluntionary to our happiness. Consider the one-word difference of this sentence: "I have to go to work today." or "I get to go to work today." The difference in this sentence is more than one word, it is a completely different mindset.
7) Laugh and Have Fun: Laugh and have fun with your kids. Laugh and have fun with others and yourself to reduce stress. This is a little different than being happy like number six. Truly developing a sense of humor goes a long way in how you think and see the world, but how others see you. Think about it: who would you rather be around? The complainer or the person who likes to laugh?
8) Communicate Better: Share your feelings when it’s safe to do so and don’t keep things bottled up inside. Getting problems out in the open, talking about them, and solving them reduces stress. At NFI, we have a principle that flows throughout our organization: Speak the truth with compassion. This changes how we interact with co-workers. Work to create an envirnoment with your co-workers and family that is one of love and respect; we are not talking about blatant disregard of others' feelings here. But we are talking about a true sense of honesty and being about to share what's on your mind, even at work, instead of bottling things up inside to take home to your wife and children.
9) Get Rid of Clutter: Life can get so busy that it gets out of hand. Make a list of things that need to get done and knock them out. Don’t worry about the small stuff. Leave it alone and focus on what’s most important. Recall the Stephen Covey strategy of "big rocks first." Clean your office, your garage, and anything else that’s messy. Don't wait for someone else to do it. It's your job as dad (I'm repeating this one as I write!)
10) Leave Work at Work: Get away from work and leave it behind. Bringing your work home is a sure way to stress yourself and your family. Keep in mind that you can bring work home in your head as well as your hands. Leave your thoughts of work at the door and focus on your family. Stop your car in your driveway or do something to separate your mind from work before jumping into the house. Home has it's own work. Once you're home, it's time to switch gears and focus on your family.
11) Date your wife: What's the saying? Happy wife, happy life. Well, this holds true for handling stress too. Think about it, if you want to add stress to your life, simply stop communicating and spending time with your wife.
12) Spend Time with Friends: Friends have a way of making things seem better. They can help you get real and tell you when you’re full of it. If you have a choice to spend a night alone or with friends, choose friends. If you don’t have a lot of friends, be intentional about making some.
13) Volunteer: Helping others is a good way to reduce stress because it builds self-worth. It also has a way of showing us that our lives are not as bad as we think when we help someone in worse shape.
14) Find a Hobby: A hobby can help you get away from life’s pressures and relax. A hobby helps you focus your time and energy on something you really enjoy. Consider prioritizing your hobby based on interaction with family and friends. For instance, one of my hobbies is photography. Some of my most relaxed weekends from work happen when I'm with my family out somewhere simply taking photos of our kids playing.
Consider these tips today, whether you are stressed out now or not. As a dad, it's not a matter of "if" the stress is coming, but "when!" It's how you handle the stress that will change everything, from yourself to those around you.
What is one way you handle stress? Share your tips in the comment section below; your comment may help other dads.
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This post was excerpted and adapted from NFI's 24/7 Dad resource.
photo credit: Amy McTigue