Dealing with parenting stress

Jeanne Segal, PhD Psychologist and Author, shares advice for parents on the best methods for handling the stress that comes with being a parent in order to stay calm and in control
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Dealing with parenting stress

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Stress is going to happen. You cannot avoid… you don’t want to avoid it, by the way, we need stress to live. It’s an important part. It’s important for a healthy nervous system. The problem is overwhelming stress. What we don’t want is to become overwhelmed by stress. And there are really two ways to avoid becoming overwhelmed by stress. One of them we probably all know already – which is to call a friend or to call somebody who you know, say, “Help! Help me!” You talk to a face that’s kind and interested in you and looks at you in a kind way, but we can’t always call somebody or have somebody close at hand where we can reach out and they’re there. The second way – and it works as well – is through our nervous system, through our senses. Everything that comes into the nervous system comes in as a sensory experience – what we see, what we hear, what we smell, what we taste, what we feel – and that also includes movement. So sensory input can very, very quickly – almost instantly – calm us down and sooth us and help us to stay focused. I think we all know that just taking a deep breath. We’re about to pick up our baby and we recognize that we’re just clenching and stressed. Just taking a deep breath sometime and just letting our bodies relax makes a huge difference in how we now pick up that infant. So picking it up with a stress and transferring the stress to the infant. Being more relaxed we are now able to do that in a way that is a total different experience for the baby. And we can learn, we have to learn what stress, how we respond to stress – do we get angry, do we space out, do we freeze? We have to learn to identify the way we respond to it. Inside stress looks the same in all of us, but outside it looks differently. It looks different. Then we have to be able to find those kinds of sensory input that are especially soothing and calming to our nervous system. And that varies. For some people, it’s one kind of sound, for other people it’s a different kind of sound, and that’s kind of a deductive process – you have to find out, you have to experiment enough to know that this soft feeling, or that sound or this movement helps me to focus and calm down.

Jeanne Segal, PhD Psychologist and Author, shares advice for parents on the best methods for handling the stress that comes with being a parent in order to stay calm and in control

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Jeanne Segal, PhD

Psychologist & Author

Jeanne Segal is a mother and grandmother with an MA degree in psychology and PhD in sociology. She is an author whose books have been translated into 13 languages. Dr. Segal is the developer and content editor of Helpguide.org, a nonprofit website that helps people help themselves. Helpguide attracts over 1 million viewers a week and collaborates with the publishing arm of Harvard Medical School. One of the topics covered on the Helpguide.org website that is dearest to her heart is infant mental health.

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