I usually get stressed when I feel things are getting out of control. Sometimes this is stuff that I can’t control. I have learned to try and just focus on what I do have control over and try and forget about the other stuff or at least remind myself that there is nothing I can do about it.

Parenting can be stressful. It can make you feel anxious at the best of times:

  • Doing it on your own may add to the pressure. But there are ways of dealing with this, and getting a bit more control over what comes at you
  • When you feel helpless, you’re likely to feel more stressed and anxious
  • When you feel as if you have some control, it can stop you feeling helpless

Mental health charity Mind has loads of tips on managing your everyday life and looking after yourself to help you cope. From physical activity, to getting into nature, to relaxation, there’s something for everyone in Mind’s Tips for everyday living. The Mental Health Foundation is also a great source of podcasts and videos.

Sometimes the hardest part about feeling stressed and anxious is not knowing who to talk to, or not realising that it’s OK to ask for help or just for a listening ear. Mind has lots of helpful information and tips on its website that might help you if you aren’t sure how to ask for help. For example, you can read its tips on opening up to friends and family about how you’re feeling, or talking to your GP about your mental health. The Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) has tips on what to do if you want to talk to your GP about your mental health, and the extra support that might be available if you need it.

Tips if you’re stressed

I love a list! If I write things down it is less overwhelming than when it is all in my head. I can then see what things I can do something about and concentrate on them. I can prioritise things and tick them off when done which gives me a sense of achievement as well getting rid of my stress.

When I am stressed I like to cook. It gives me something to focus on and chopping up veg is really good stress relief!

We share loads of ideas during session to boost our mental wellbeing in time of stress. I always look forward to go for this group…As a member of OPFS I feel like a family.

The best thing about the OPFS group is being out of my house and being with other mums…. I feel less stressed and am managing better.

We all feel stressed at times. It’s a natural reaction to pressure. A little stress can be good as it keeps us motivated. But too much stress is bad for our health and wellbeing. Sometimes, it’s what happening in our lives that makes us feel stressed. Sometimes it’s pressure from inside ourselves, such as worrying thoughts which pop into our heads.

Everyone reacts differently to stress. You might feel panicky, restless or be unable to sleep or to concentrate. You might react by eating too much, or drinking too much alcohol or something else which is more harmful in the long run. Mind has a useful booklet on the symptoms of stress and how to manage it. There are good tips at the links below, including NHS every mind matters which also has video clips and practical exercises. Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) suggests how to feel less stressed in 60 seconds.

If it’s all getting a bit much, the following might help:

When to see your GP

If you’ve tried these tips and they aren’t working, it’s a good idea to see your GP. They may suggest other ways of coping for you to try. They may recommend some form of counselling or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). If your stress is causing serious health problems, such as high blood pressure, they might offer you medication or further tests.

Useful links

Tips if you’re anxious

I used to have really bad anxiety but now I can manage it better by using breathing techniques. It is still there but at least I can do things I never used to be able to like I find it a bit easier going out of the house if I just do the breathing for a few minutes before I go.

Coming to the OPFS group helps me a lot. It brings me out of my anxiety bubble, and meeting and talking to new people. The group gives me something to look forward to instead of hiding in the house all of the time. I also like the one-to-one as it lets me air my feelings and plans. Very helpful and well worth the anxiety that I soon get over.

Anxiety is what you feel when you’re worried, tense or afraid, particularly about things that are about to happen, or which you think could happen in the future. It’s natural to feel like this when we’re unsure about things and think we face some sort of threat. We can experience anxiety through our thoughts, feelings and in our bodies.

Most people feel anxious at times. It’s common to feel some anxiety when life is stressful, like bringing up children on your own, or not having enough money to live on. It can become a problem if you don’t quite understand what’s causing it, if it relates to something traumatic that happened to you in the past, or if you don’t feel like you can cope with it.

If you feel anxious a lot of the time you might have trouble sleeping, get headaches, not be able to plan ahead, and have a constant feeling of fear. You can find out more about symptoms of anxiety in this Mental Health Foundation guide. UK charity Mind has useful information and video clips about anxiety and how to cope with it. The Mental Health Foundation has videos and podcasts for wellbeing.

There are things you can do which reduce anxiety and the feelings and sensations that go with it:

  • Cut down on caffeine (tea, coffee, fizzy drinks, chocolate) as that speeds your body up
  • Eat regular meals and drink plenty of water as that keeps your blood sugar stable. Take a look at ‘your body’ page for eating well
  • Get some exercise, outside if possible, every day. It can just be a ten-minute walk or a trip to the park with the children. This can make you feel calmer and improve your mood. Take a look at ‘your body’ page for improving your mood
  • Cut down on your tech. If you watch the news, limit this to once or twice a day. Keep your phone/tablet and other tech out of your bedroom. (Use a separate alarm clock so you’re not tempted to have your phone beside your bed)
  • Try to wait at least 30 minutes in the morning before you even look at your phone
  • Learn a few breathing and relaxation techniques (like listening to relaxing music) when you feel anxious Take a look at ‘your mind’ page for tips on mindfulness
  • Reduce any unnecessary stress in your life. See more in our stress tips in the section above
  • Try to manage your worries – for example by writing them down, setting aside a certain time for them, or by speaking to someone you trust

OPFS runs local support and activity groups and face-to-face services for parents. These are great for supporting you.

When to see your GP

If you feel anxious all the time for several weeks, or if it feels like your fears are taking over your life, then it’s a good idea to ask your GP for help.

If feelings of anxiety are affecting your ability to carry out your daily life, like avoiding family or not wanting to go out, it could be a sign of an anxiety disorder.

If making or attending an appointment with your GP involves doing something that causes you anxiety (like leaving the house or phoning someone) you could ask for a home visit, a telephone appointment or an appointment at a quiet time. Maybe someone else could phone and ask these things for you, with your permission.

Useful links