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Stress, Stress, Stress! How to Manage Work, Family, and Aging Parents Without Going Insane
Ah, adulting – how good we all feel when we manage to get up on time, prep everyone’s healthy breakfast before their feet have touched the bedroom floor, manage to include plenty of fruit and veg in all the lunchboxes, arrive at work on time, manage to handle the entire shopping list before heading home to meal prep, and scrub the bathroom floor before reading an educational book… and getting in a bit of yoga before bed.
Sounds a bit too much, right?
In reality, we snooze the alarm twice, forget to buy the milk, spill tea down ourselves while trying to iron tomorrow’s outfit, and watch Netflix while also trying to have a meaningful phone conversation and letting the dog out all at the same time.
If you are also juggling a family (whether it be just you and your spouse, or a couple of kids as well), a pet, a full-time (or part-time, or any-time) job, a home, and parents who are slowly declining in health – you may be having trouble staying sane surrounded by all the stress.
However, there is a way to manage everything and still remain a happy and balanced individual. Let’s explore how.
Lists and Calendars Are Your Friends
The secret of every successful juggler is knowing where all the balls are at any given point in time.
In other words: you need to be aware of what needs to be done when and by whom, and if possible, you need to be able to find out the details at a glance.
The best way to achieve that is to find a system that your entire family will have access to. Thanks to technology, it shouldn’t be too difficult.
Start by finding an app that all of you (your spouse, your parents, and your children, if they are old enough) can access, which will detail everyone’s chores and notify those who need to be involved as well.
For instance, I drive carpool twice a week. The days vary depending on the other parents’ work schedule, so I’ll get a notification on Saturdays, letting me know when it’s my turn.
I’d also highly advise making lists on your phone about everything: things you need to buy, what you want to watch, where you need to be, and so on. Reminders are also great, as long as you don’t snooze and ignore them – if you can’t focus on what they are reminding you of right now, set them for later.
Communication is Paramount
Now that you have found a way to keep everyone in the loop about the things that need to get done, you also need to focus on fostering open communication about everything else – most importantly, how you are feeling.
If you wake up after two hours of sleep with a headache, feeling miserable, let the rest of the household know. You don’t want to appear to be snapping at them for no good reason.
We all make the mistake of simply assuming others should be mind readers and know how we are feeling at any given moment, but that’s simply wishful thinking. On the other hand, if you simply tell people you are having a bad day (or that you are having a great one, and that you can jump in and take on something extra, or that you are just in the mood for a fun evening), you’ll notice how things shift for the better in no time.
Your Parents and Their Care
The factor that comes with a unique set of challenges on this list of tasks are your parents.
As they get older, their health will start to suffer. And while there are some things you can’t influence, a great place to start would be making sure they take their meds (remind them daily if you need to), that they visit the doctor when they need to, and that they move as much as they can.
The communication and time management hacks from above should help you handle that with as little stress as possible.
When it comes to the stress that stems from the fear something will happen to them when you can’t be there, you can try to reduce it by installing a medical alert system in their home. That way, you will know help is on the way if something should happen to them.
Try to make their home as safe as possible – remove tripping hazards, expired medication, out of date food, and so on.
Ultimately, remember that you don’t have to do everything alone, and that other family members can jump in to help as well.
Focus on Your Mental Health
Finally, probably the most important lesson you can learn is that most of the stress we experience in our lives is self-inflicted.
We worry, we overthink, and we dwell on. We contemplate, and we tend to focus on the negative, on what we don’t have and what we didn’t do. And all of those thoughts put us in a negative mood, naturally increasing our stress levels.
If you teach yourself to realize that worry and negative thinking will get you literally nowhere, and pour that energy into focusing on the positive, the things you are grateful for, and the things you’ve achieved, you will instantly start to achieve even more.
Putting yourself down is the surest way to have a bad day – and you know you’re not at your best on a bad day. When you let go of the ill-conceived notion that you are superhuman, that you can do anything and everything (or at least that you should be able to, even though it’s clearly impossible), your outlook and productivity will hit an all-time high.
Take time out of your day to focus on your own mental health – and never think of it as idle time, or time wasted. The only thing you can control in your life are your own thoughts, and although it will not be easy, once you master that, you will be better equipped to meet the world.
No matter how stressed you’re feeling right now, if you try to implement the above tips, you should find the stress melting away. With a bit of mindfulness and organization, you will be back to enjoying what you have in your life, both at home and at the workplace.