Stress busters for working parents

Written by on 01/24/2020

by Diana Hembree

More than half of all African-Americans report feeling
burned out at work, according to a
recent study by Comparably
, a national job research firm.

In this study, the main source of job stress was “unclear
goals.” Tied for second place among all workers 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 percent of Americans feel
stressed at work
, and 42 percent have quit a job because of it. Low
salaries, excessive workloads, little opportunity for advance, 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 percent 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 a 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 taking a short walk may
help restore your equilibrium. If you don’t have time for a yoga class, check
out some YouTube videos such as Shilpa Shetti’s 15-minute “quick-fix” yoga
workout
or Black and Brown Yoga’s 20-minute
yoga workout
.

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 drive to work,
Patrick Coleman of the dad’s parenting site Fatherly recommends listening to a
podcast to help detach from your job.

“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 [sweetie] a hug and grab your kids for a
quick wrestle … This physical contact will help ground you at home.” Some
working moms have a homecoming ritual of giving everyone a hug and then taking
five minutes of alone time (the kids can time them) to get centered before
settling in with the kids.

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 percent of workplaces have unions, compared to 20 percent
in 1983. If you do belong to a union, ask the union representative to commission
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. Remember,
your kids look 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 jobs of working 15-
to 18-hour days at a stressful job that he nonetheless enjoyed, his 6-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

Tennant C. Work-Related Stress and Depressive Disorders.
Journal of Psychosomatic Research. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0022399901002550

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

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

Diana
Hembree is a science writer for the Center for Youth Wellness. She is an
award-winning journalist who has worked at Time Inc., the Center for
Investigative Reporting and the Energy Bioscience Institute and has written or
edited for Forbes, HealthDay, the Washington Post, PBS Frontline, Vibe and many
other places. She can be reached at
stresshealthnow@centerforyouthwellness.org.

Source: San Francisco Bay View


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