Following the earlier posting below on “Why teachers are stressed today?”
Some parents have e-mailed me and ask how to manage stress in their busy life. I do not claim to be someone who is an expert in stress management (that should goes to my doctors colleagues who specialised in psychiatry), but as a doctor and a parent, I can offer some advice on how to manage stress for busy parents.
First of all, we need to understand why our lives are more stressful. If I look at my life as a secondary student more than 20 years ago and life now of a secondary student, I can see the stress have increased quite a lot. Back in those days, lessons start at 7.30am and finished at 1pm (even for upper secondary students) and now Primary 1 students are ending lessons at 1.30pm, which is half an hour longer. The contents of each subjects have also increased substantially. The children need to go for regular tuitions to catch up with what is taught in school. Many of my classmates, including myself, do not have tuition in secondary school and in junior college, and we were in Raffles Institution and Raffles Junior College, where the academic demands were already very high then.
Similarly, for us parents, compared to our parents generation, we are working longer hours, (going back at 5pm sharp used to be the norm then, going back at 7pm now is the norm today and many parents actually work later than 7pm), more e-mails from work, more telecons meetings with overseas colleagues and clients etc.
With inflation, prices of cars and apartments/flats have also gone up substantially. Parents need to work harder and longer hours to earn more, some even taking up part-time jobs to supplement their income. Many parents also have to take care of aging family members due to smaller family structure now.
All these add to the tremendous increase in stress in our lives as parents. Some of the “tricks” which I do to reduce stress, and which I normally advice other parents to do are:
1. Many times, you cannot control what happen to you, but you can control how you react to the situation. For example, when you are driving, an impatient driver jumps queue and cuts in front of you. You can either come out of your car, shout at him, and risk a fight which both of you may end up in jail for road violence, or you could just take a deep breathe and ignore him and continue driving. If you chose the latter, it will reduce your stress.
2. Exercise. This is underrated by many busy parents. If you have a chance to take a walk for 20 minutes every morning or evening (most of us are too busy rushing in the evening). The exercise will help to reduce your stress.
3. Enough sleep. Most of us do not sleep enough and thus this will add on to our daily stress which makes us more irritable and tired.
4. Do less. We tend to do a lot of things in our lives, both work related and family related. Its important to review the list of things you do everyday and see if some of them could be reduced. For example, if you normally sweeps the floor everyday, can you change it to once in two days? The floor maybe a bit more dirty, but then you are reducing work and stress. Similarly, if you are going to do grocery shopping twice a week, can you do it once a week?
5. Do not get angry quickly. If your child is getting 85 marks this semester instead of 95 marks from his last semester test, you can either jump up, get angry and scold him, or you could sit down, calm down and anaylse why. Perhaps his marks dropped because he was careless in one key question, where you can advice him to be careful and move on. There is no need to lose your temper in this.
6. Demand less, expect less. Some parents maybe lucky to be offered a better paying job. But that may means more business travel and longer working hours. Perhaps you need to consider whether that increase in pay is worth the extra stress? If you have a simple and happy lifestyle, the increase in pay will make you more stressful.
Although it is impossible to totally eliminate stress in our lives, it can be reduced with proper planning and management, and this will make a big difference in our lives.