More and more I am amazed (and overwhelmed!) by the responsibility of being a parent. I am constantly asking myself “Am I doing the right thing?”, “Is she getting enough veggies, enough exercise, enough fresh air?”
I’ve come to realize it all boils down to this: the better I am at taking care of myself and managing my stress, the better care I am able to give as a parent.
Stress doesn’t just influence one person but trickles into the family – and because children are like sponges – intensely aware of our emotions, actions, and words – they also feel our stress. This can manifest in various ways including temper and anger issues, attention deficits, hyperactivity, sleep disturbances, head and tummy aches.
There are several powerful ways in which we can manage stress and reduce the negative impact it has on our lives and those around us.
Nutrition plays an essential role in stress management. Unfortunately, when under high levels of stress, it can be more challenging to make healthy food choices. This can be the result of a feeling that there isn’t enough time, which leads to quick, often unhealthy food choices or even skipping meals. Stress triggers a hormonal response in the body, releasing high levels of cortisol that cause us to crave foods high in fat, sugar, and salt. Stress can also lead to mindless eating, a major risk for overeating and poor food choices.
Being aware of these tendencies and finding ways to incorporate healthy foods as part of your lifestyle, even during times of stress, will benefit everyone in the household.
Having the proper nutrients gives our bodies resilience and resistance to the negative impacts of stress. A few foods and herbs that are particularly helpful include:
Foods rich in B vitamins
– B vitamins support the nervous and immune systems and have a positive, supportive influence on the adrenals (stress glands). They can be found in foods such as grass-fed/free range meats, oats, brazil nuts, avocados, beans, and kefir.
Foods rich in omega 3
– Stress causes inflammation and omega 3s have potent anti-inflammatory action; they are also important for brain health and immune function and have a positive impact on mood. Foods high in omega 3 include: sardines, wild salmon, flax oil, flaxseeds, and walnuts.
Calming, sleep supportive herbs
– Stress can influence sleep, and less sleep makes it harder to cope with stress – a vicious cycle. Supporting sleep and reducing tension with herbs is a safe and effective way to reduce the effects of stress. When you need a healthy nightcap, consider brewing a strong cup of any of the following combinations:
Chamomile and Lemon Balm – help to calm anger and irritability. Great for tantrums in kids and parents.
Scullcap and Oats – wonderful for nervous exhaustion and muscle tension.
Valerian and Catnip – a combo with sedative action that is great for people with insomnia who also express stress in their digestive systems, such as cramps or diarrhea.
Linden and Passionflower – also sedative and work well in combination for stress related insomnia in people that also experience headaches or high blood pressure.
Aside from nutrition, finding ways to actively release stress can make a huge impact on what you are bringing into the home. Acupuncture, meditation, and Reiki are all very effective ways of reducing stress. Finding the therapy that works for you, and using it often (during periods of high and low stress), will help induce a sense of calm that will carry through into your interactions with your family.
I understand that guilt sometimes plays a role when it comes to parents finding time for self-care. When something is so important to the health of your family, there should be no guilt but only a sense of urgency – time alone to exercise, read, get a massage, or whatever it is that fills up your cup – is not only essential, but sacred.
Introducing children to the importance of self-care done thru your modelling, is extremely beneficial to their health in the short and long term. Children are often open, receptive, and responsive to holistic therapies and giving a child tools to manage their stress is one of the greatest gifts you can offer.
For more information on how naturopathic medicine can help increase your resilience to stress, call The Pear Tree at 506-857-1300 to book an appointment.