Sydney McCall Patel
Three Ways to Relieve Stress and Find our Footing as Parents
Updated: Feb 17
Making outlets for all the input
by Sydney McCall Patel, Marriage and Family Therapist, Marin County, California
“How ya doing?” I hear my husband ask as I let out another sigh and frantically dig out chunks of my son’s stale cereal embedded in our rug before we rush out the door. Stress is now oozing out of me in audible ways. I feel like a dragon breathing fire in response to what, dried up crumbs? If I don’t find ways to release whatever tension I’m holding, it’s gonna screw up my morning and possibly lead to a rupture.
To live in this society is to encounter daily stress. Discovering mechanisms for it to move through me is essential not just for my own well-being, but that of my family and my relationships. Below are some basic routine outlets I’ve found to better respond to all that stressful input!
1.) I start the day by taking at least 15 minutes to be still. What helps me to do this daily is to drink my morning tea or coffee in silence. This association between stillness and morning tea over the course of many years has become so strong that I almost never miss a day. Our son knows this is quiet time for us and we set him up with breakfast and a project to stay occupied. It allows me to start the morning feeling grounded and in my body. It helps me to process the day before jumping into it and set priorities which promotes efficiency. And it’s a great technique to support me to respond rather than react throughout the day. It also feeds my gratitude for those I love and helps me to slow down enough to show my appreciation.
2.) I stay moving throughout the day. Whenever I get back from a camping trip I feel deeply refreshed. It makes me think that my body is meant to move in lots of different and even challenging ways. Throughout my workday I switch up what I am doing to support my natural flow of energy. When I am in front of the computer I sit on a yoga ball, I also shift to standing as I work as well as sitting on the ground. The important thing is that I keep listening to my body and adjusting when I need to. This helps prevent tension from building inside when I am stationary, which can cause aches and pains and makes me have a shorter fuse. All of us encounter stress in our jobs and we have to move our bodies or that tension will stagnate. I find that movement throughout the day is a powerful outlet and form of stress prevention.
3.) I use two tennis balls in a sock for self-massage. All I need is a few minutes to take the balls and lean against a wall or lie down on them as I move them up and down my spine from my sacrum to my neck to provide myofascial release. I also use an individual ball under my foot which helps relieve tension in the rest of my body. This ball work makes me feel nimble and energetic throughout the day. I find myself even getting excited by how dramatically this work counteracts my habitual holding pattern of tightness so I can feel light and free of my normal strain.
In my psychotherapy practice, stress is one of the most pernicious issues among families I work with who are juggling multiple things at home and at work, and rarely have enough outlets. I see that unaddressed stress takes a toll on relationships, physical health and our children’s sense of safety. Emotions are held in the body so it makes sense that we find techniques to also release them physically. This way we have a chance to show up without breathing fire when maybe it’s not really needed, all too often it seems that that fire only burns us and those we love.