Stress Management Tips for New Dads

Kyle Wiley is a dad who regularly blogs about his experiences on his website at www.fatherlystuff.com. He lives in Connecticut with his wife, April, his three year old son, and is expecting a 2nd addition to the family July 2013. In this guest blog post, Kyle writes about stress management techniques for new dads.

Stress Management Tips for New Dads

Like most fathers, I love my family more than anything and as a result, I often find that the majority of my waking time is dedicated to them. In addition to working a job where I work 40+ hours with nutcases (some people may call them “coworkers”) that sometimes drive me up a wall, my daily routine often starts with me waking up before sunrise and includes tasks that includes but not limited to: getting the little one ready for school, cooking breakfast, making lunch, buying groceries, appointments, picking him up after work, making dinner, giving him a bath, getting him ready for bed, reading a book, then putting him to bed. In between said tasks, I am expected to come to work with my game face on, ready to tackle any issue that comes my way. On top of that, if you’re like me, you have a significant other that is sometimes sympathetic but nonetheless (ahem) “demanding” of your time as well. I think you see where I’m getting at.

We all know that the demands of life can pile on your plate and cause huge amounts of stress. That’s normal. It becomes an issue however, when you can’t manage that stress the right way and affects your family dynamic. Children, even at the earliest of ages are more in tune with their surroundings than we sometimes give them credit for and they can sense if something’s not right.  I’ve been guilty of that and hopefully through these tips you can avoid the mistakes that I’ve made.

1.       Sleep (when you can) – I wanted to get this one out of the way since for most of us, it’s one of the biggies. You know the scenario: It’s 3:30 am and that lovely dream you were having about ostriches in cowboy boots is suddenly interrupted by a piercing scream. After you drag yourself out of bed to comfort the little one and they finally decide to take pity on you and falls back to sleep, its 4:45 and your alarm is set for 5:15 because you need to get to work early that day. At work, you try in vain to attack your grogginess with caffeine, but you can’t shake that drowsy feeling all day which sets the stage for stress.

If your little one hasn’t mastered the art of sleeping through the night yet, it may actually get worse before it gets better. This is when you need to get creative. If you can, I suggest taking mid-day power naps. If I’m having a rough day, I use my lunch break to walk to my car, lean then seat back and set a timer on my phone for 20 minutes.  Studies have shown that a quick 20 min power nap can be more effective than sleeping for 1 hr. Another possible option is simply going to bed earlier. Swallow your pride, invest in a DVR so you don’t miss your shows and hit the sheets as early as 8- 9pm in you need to.

2.       Eating Healthy & Exercise – A lot of guys underestimate the value of a healthy lifestyle. The more your meals are well balanced with fruits, veggies and protein, the more energy you have than the better you feel. Also, try to set on average a couple of hours a week of workout time. There is nothing like a great workout to start you day with a little extra pep in our step. Or based on your schedule, you can get rid of the stresses of your day off after work. Even if you can’t dedicate that much time, anything, including going for a quick walk or taking the stairs instead of the elevator, is better than nothing. In addition to this, healthy habits are a learned skill and you want to make sure you set the right example for your child so they in turn develop the right habits that they will use for the rest of their life.

3.       Setting Up Routines – One of the best skills I’ve learned to help manage stress is setting up and (here’s the important part) sticking to a daily routine. Daily routines are helpful because they help set a productive tone for the day. A good morning routine can be going for a morning walk, or setting some quiet time to go through a to-do list. Adopting a nightly routine is equally beneficial.  For example, here’s a portion of my nightly routine: before I go to bed, I set out my and sometimes my little one’s clothes for the day, make our lunches or the next day, then I do some stretching. Doing this gives me an opportunity to wind down and mentally prepare for the next day and taking care of some chores the night before with give you fewer things to worry about. Whether it’s morning, mid-day or evening, a routine is a great day to battle stress.

4.       Taking Time for Yourself – By nature of being a father, you’re probably no stranger to self-sacrifice. Between your child(ren) , your coworkers , your friends, and your partner, you’re valuable to others and your time and energy are probably in high demand on a daily basis. But you have to remember that as an individual, you have to take care of your needs as well.  Do you have any hobbies?  Make sure you take out time every week to pursue those interests. It doesn’t have to be anything major. Reading, listing to music, watching the game or hanging with friends; just make sure it’s something you enjoy that you find relaxing…

5.       Set Aside Family Time – The daily stresses of work and family life have a way of weighing down on most men. Although work and chores are important, it is equally important (arguably more) to take some time daily to just enjoy each other’s company. My partner and I work virtually opposite schedules, but we try to make sure we eat dinner as a family on a nightly basis. Another great way to spend family time is reading bedtime stories, which also has the benefit of developing a love for reading in your child at an early age. Whatever it is you decide to do, make sure it’s fun and done together as a family.

6.       Talk it Out – I think there’s a common misconception in guy culture that equates strength with silence (AKA, the strong, silent type). While that can be true in some situation, dealing with your woman is one area that it’s not. Not only does taking time out of each day to sit with your significant other and discuss what’s on each other’s minds strengthen your relationships, getting things off your chest will take loads of stress off of your shoulders.

I think what you can take from this post is that there isnt a “cure all” method for getting rid with stress. However, the best thing you can do for yoursef and your family is figure out ways that you can best managing that stress in a way that’s productive, healthy and fun!

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What techiques do you use for stress management?