Managing stress & looking after your wellbeing

Becoming a parent can be a stressful time.  Scratch that.  It can be a VERY stressful time. While a little stress can often be a good thing (as it can help to motivate you to get things done), sometimes stress levels can get too high. And as with most negative emotions (e.g. anger, sadness), just ignoring stress and hoping it will go away is not an effective way to deal with it.

When you experience stress, it activates the regions of the brain that controls your body’s fight or flight response; those primitive, automatic reactions that occur when faced with a life-threatening situation. This triggers a host of biochemical reactions in your body, firing off a large amount of neural activity and releasing a cascade of hormones (including adrenaline, noradrenaline and cortisol). Evolutionary speaking, these reactions are designed to drive you to react to a life-threatening stressor. The problem is, our bodies don’t know the difference between being faced by a sabre tooth tiger or getting stressed about an imagined stressor. Regardless of the trigger, the stress response is essentially (and biochemically) the same; and it puts our bodies under a lot of pressure, particularly if experienced for prolonged periods of time.

As well as having a physiological impact on your body, research has shown that unchecked periods of stress can lead to anxiety, overwhelm, burnout, and/or depression. It can interfere with sleep, and cognitive abilities (such as memory and attention), which can negatively impact your day to day function. So, keeping on top of stress is important for both your physical and mental wellbeing.

How to manage stress and promote wellbeing

There is a huge amount of research out there that has investigated ways to manage stress and promote wellbeing.  Here are a few evidence-based suggestions that you might like to try:

Look after yourself and seek help, if you need it.