Today it is my pleasure to offer an interview with fellow blogger Sandra Pawula. Sandra writes at Always Well Within about finding greater happiness and freedom. I’m excited to announce that Sandra’s amazing e-course Living with Ease: 21 Days to Less Stress begins again on January 6th. I took this course earlier this year and would highly recommend it to anyone looking to explore and heal the patterns of stress in their lives -it’s just $21.
1. Why do you think it’s important for us to learn how to manage the stress in our lives?
Stress can deflate your joy, deplete your energy, harm your health, and injure your relationships. This is something we can easily observe for ourselves, isn’t it? All this is reason enough to say “no” to stress.
But often, we’re so embroiled in stress that we truly cannot see the forest for the trees. We may even shrug off the impact of stress because it’s “just part of modern life.”
This soft form of denial can be dangerous, however. Stress can easily become a habit that carves deep grooves into your brain making the stress response the automatic response.
The chronic activation of the stress response can contribute to an array of serious health issues like heart disease, anxiety, depression, skin disorders, high blood pressure, chronic digestive problems, disturbed sleep, and many others.
These are some of the symptoms that can alert you to an over-taxed stress response:
- Upset stomach
- Muscle tension
- Chest pain
- Change in sex drive
- Appetite changes
- Lack of energy
- Feeling on the verge of tears
- Sleep deprivation
- Lack of motivation or focus
- Overeating or under eating
- Outbursts of anger
- Social withdrawal
- Drug, alcohol or tobacco use
The negative effects of stress can sneak up on you so it’s important to be aware of the warning signs. If any of these symptoms are making an appearance in your life or your child’s, please don’t dismiss them. Consider stress as one possible culprit.
If you want to have a happy and healthy family, it’s important to learn how to manage stress. It’s not difficult if you make it a priority. In fact, it can be fun and enjoyable.
2. How do you think stress impacts family life?
These are some of the most important ways stress can adversely impact family life.
Stress and Healthy Relationships
Our ability to form satisfying and lasting relationships as children and adults depends largely upon our earliest years. Establishing a healthy “attachment” to our parents pivots around feeling seen, heard, connected, and safe when we are young. Babies are far more acutely aware of how we respond to them than we may ever realize.
Stress can intervene with a parent’s ability to provide these critical qualities to a child during his or her most formative time. The parent may simply be preoccupied with matters that stress them, for example: worrying about being a good parent, financial issues, or relationship distress. This will affect their ability to be present for and attentive to their child.
You don’t have to be a perfect parent to provide the conditions that make for a happy and healthy child. No one can measure up to that! But you do need to consistently be there for your child, willing to listen, respond, and express your love and care.
Stress and Mental Health
Stress can also trigger and contribute to addictive behaviors like alcohol and drug abuse, over-eating, anxiety and depression. Just look at all the Adult Child of Alcoholic literature. Your own addiction can lead to many dysfunctions in your child.
It’s very difficult for a child to get what he or she needs from an addicted, depressed, or anxious parent although some children may be more resilient than others.
Stress and Genetics
This brings us to the issue of genetics. Research has shown that some people are genetically predisposed to a stronger stress response or a weaker relaxation response, the body’s ability to wind down after stress is triggered. Since genes run in families, if you are prone to stress you may pass this disposition on to to some of your children.
Some children in a family may be more reactive to stress triggers than others due to their particular genetic make-up. Parents may inadvertently exacerbate the problem by not knowing how to respond in a supportive way. They may make statements like, “Why are you so sensitive? Why are you so emotional?” In turn, the child may feel misunderstood, belittled or alone with this seemingly unmanageable biochemical response.
Stress and Aggression
Outbursts of anger are also associated with the stress response. An angry parent can leave a child feeling fearful, out-of control, or angry themselves. On the other hand, a stress-out, angry child can befuddle a parent who may have no idea how to help the child learn to manage his or her strong reactions.
As you can see, there can be degrees of complexity when it comes to stress and the family. We know that children often tend to model their parents behavior. So, when parents have a short fuse in relation to stress, children may adapt the same behaviors, unwittingly training their brain and body to react in a stressed-out way.
3. How can managing our stress help us to be better parents?
The opposite of stress and tension is relaxation and ease. Learning to live with ease will naturally make you feel more relaxed, joyful, and optimistic, and that will rub off on your child.
When you’re not constantly plagued by stress, you’ll be more inclined to make space and time for your child. You’ll be less likely to respond with aggressive or abusive behaviors. You won’t be taking refuge in addictions that have knock-on effects for your child.
Stress won’t magically disappear from your life. Just being a family has inherent stressors in itself. But, you’ll have the tools to intentionally intervene and dissipate the stress response before it gets out of control. You’ll learn how to establish a more relaxed baseline so you become more resilient to adverse events. You’ll be able to share age-appropriate tools with your children so they learn to better cope with stress from an early age onward.
4. What can people expect if they sign up for your course?
In my course, Living with Ease: 21 Days to Less Stress, you’ll have a chance to identify your personal stress triggers, learn a new mindfulness-based stress reduction technique each week, and acquire a menu of supportive practices to help you lock in a more relaxed way of being.
Mindfulness is a powerful catalyst for rewiring the brain, and that’s exactly what we need to change our stress response. It’s been shown to strengthen the functioning of the prefrontal cortex, in short our executive and cognitive functions, which improves our capacity to rewire old habits and build resilience to adversity.
Mindfulness is a simple, inexpensive, and scientifically proven way to beat stress.
My course also offers reflection exercises to help you get at the root of your stress response plus a mix of simple, fun, and inspiring ways to deflate stress.
Sandra Pawula is a writer, mindfulness advocate, and champion of living with ease. She writes about finding greater happiness and freedom on her blog Always Well Within. Her signature e-course Living with Ease: 21 Days to Less Stress begins again on January 6th and you can register now.
Photo credit for picture at the top of this post: Big Happy family by pudgeefeet on Flickr