3 Steps for Managing Family Stress
This content has been updated from previous article on June 17, 2021
It doesn’t take an expert to know that managing family life can prove incredibly stressful. Between shuttling kids off to after school activities, organizing get togethers with friends and family, and managing finances, family stress can quickly add up.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by pressure in your family life, you are far from alone. It’s no wonder that 79 percent of American adults report feeling stressed sometimes or frequently throughout the day. The good news is that there are things you can do to systematically reduce the stress that you and other family members experience.
Step 1: Make a List of Your Family’s Stressors
Before you can remove unnecessary stress from your life, you must identify what is putting you under so much pressure. Start by making a list of the things that stress you out the most. You can also ask other adults and older children in the home to do the same thing.
Try to be as specific as you can when you make your list. You can write down both small and large, important things. For example, your list may include things like you are the only one who does laundry for the whole family to identifying a rift in the family. It’s all stress, even if at varying levels.
Some examples of stressors on your list may include:
- It’s too hard to get the kids to all of these activities.
- It would be great to take turns making dinner on weekday nights.
- I need some time for myself.
- My spouse and I need to reconnect.
Whatever the list is, be honest with yourself. For some people, cooking dinner every night is a tremendous stressor. For others, it is a creative outlet. Try not to compare yourself with others when you make this list.
Step 2: Make a Plan Together
Once everyone who wants to has made their list of stressors, take some time to go over these lists together. Most importantly, give everyone space to be honest about their emotions. If people can’t share openly, the process will not work for everyone.
Once you have all the stressors laid out, try to find ways that you can reduce each other’s stress. For example, if one person really doesn’t like cooking and the other doesn’t like doing dishes, try switching. You may also find that a voluntary activity is giving everyone stress.
Studies have shown that helping others helps with our own mental wellness. According to the research, those who consistently help other people may live longer, experience less depression, and have better health. Use this to your advantage when speaking with older children and teenagers in this process. Young people need more sources that help create happiness and helping others and showing gratitude are two concrete ways to support them in this way.
For other things that cause pressure, you may have to come up with more involved plans for change. Some things that create stress cannot be easily removed or transferred to another family member. Financial stress and stress caused by overloaded after-school activities might be impossible to tackle at one meeting.
Step 3: Change One Thing at a Time
Once you have a plan, it’s time to start implementing it. While you may feel drawn to the idea of changing everything all at once, try to take things slower. After you take out the natural changes, like giving up an activity that nobody likes or needs, take on the more prominent changes one at a time.
For example, maybe preparing dinner every day is too much for one person. Give the rest of the family one day to figure out dinner and have a leftover day once per week. These changes give you some relief, but don’t shake things up too quickly.
Relieving Stress Through New Routines
It takes time to create a habit and first you need to create a routine. These above steps help you create a new routine to less stress by identifying what you would like to change and the new behavior. Set your intention and reinforce it through a journal or other ways that work for your lifestyle.
Prepare for setbacks along the way. Use the family conversation to brainstorm potential challenges to the new routine and allow everyone to provide solutions. Having the teenager do the laundry seems like a good idea but what happens when they have too much homework or prioritizes socializing with friends over house work? Discuss as a family and have a backup plan.
Start with something small that feels like an encouragement. For examples, setting a schedule could be immensely helpful for everyone to understand the pace and expectations of a new routine. Breaking down a new routine into smaller steps can help both kids and adults make sure the new routine sticks.
Try combining a chore with a reward. For the teen helping with the laundry, perhaps she can use her smartphone or chat with a friend while she is folding clothes. Relieving stress for one family member, doesn’t have to mean burdening another with the same responsibility. As a family, consider how helping one person reduce stress can not only reduce the stress overall but also create positive experiences for another.
Sometimes, reducing the pressure in your family life is too much to take on by yourself. Seeking out professional help is always an option. The therapists at LifeStance Health can help your family go through these steps and develop positive coping mechanisms for the stress you cannot eliminate. Contact us today to get started on this path.