Your kid is begging to go on a field trip, but the credit card bill is due and you can’t afford both. Your child is sick and school is sending him home for the day, but your boss has already warned you that you’re on your last chance. Sometimes, the sources of single parent stress feel endless. It’s a normal feeling, and unfortunately, there’s no easy solution to the many challenges that single parents face.
Yes, you can change your situation. You can cut costs, search for a better-paying job, go back to school, or apply for financial help. But those solutions take weeks, months, or even years to have an impact, and you need stress relief now. This is what you can do.
When stress is mounting and you feel yourself growing short with your children, it’s time to step away and take a breather. If you can go for a walk or take 30 minutes to yourself in your room, do it. But if you’re in the middle of something you can’t leave for more than a few minutes, these instant stress-relief strategies can help:
- Breathe deeply: You may not realize it, but your breath becomes quick and shallow when you’re anxious. You can stop stress in its tracks by taking control. The practice of 4-7-8 breathing is an effective breathing exercise for eliciting relaxation. You can learn how to do it at Livestrong.
- Strike a pose: Because yoga opens the chest and shoulders and reduces tension, it relieves the physical manifestations of stress. Child’s pose and forward bend are relaxing and easy for beginners to do.
- Pet your dog (or cat!): The act of petting your dog or cat relaxes you by releasing endorphins, according to Today. Plus, appreciating your pet’s unconditional love is a great way to remind yourself that things aren’t so bad.
Reducing Stress for the Long-Term
In addition to arming yourself with strategies for taking the edge off in the moment, it’s important to find ways to minimize the stress your lifestyle causes.
- Make a budget: Making a budget won’t create money where there’s none, but it will increase your financial confidence by letting you know exactly how much you have to spend without putting yourself in the red, which gives you a solid foundation for financial goals.
- Balance your routine: If you feel you can’t keep up with everything you have to do, it’s time to take a hard look at your routine. Create a daily schedule for the family, and hold your kids accountable to their responsibilities. Divide your to-do list into a few tasks each day so things don’t pile up. If you chart everything out and there’s still not enough time, something needs to go. It hurts to tell your kids they have to miss out on something, but your mental health is important.
- Tag out: Make a deal with another parent where you take turns hosting each other’s kids for a day. While having extra kids in the house means a busy day for you, one or two extra kids isn’t that much more work, and you’ll get to enjoy an entire day to yourself when it’s the other parent’s turn.
- Go easy on yourself: No one is a perfect parent, and holding yourself to unrealistic standards only adds to your stress. Accept that imperfection is OK, and just do your best each day. When you slip up, address it and move on. Stop holding onto resentment and guilt, because they’re not making your job any easier.
Despite taking steps to reduce your stress in the short- and long-term, you may still hit days where you want to pack up, wave goodbye, and take off for a week-long vacation. It’s fine to feel overwhelmed by single parenthood sometimes—it’s a hard job, after all. However, if you can’t seem to get a hold on your stress, it’s time to ask for help.