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6 Research-Based Ways to Systematically Reduce Family Stress

Easy and fun tips that make a huge difference.

Moms and dads work their fingers to the bone in a desperate attempt to keep their families running smoothly. Over time, the daily grind feels endless and mechanical, often causing anxiety and depression. The following strategies help mitigate the stress of daily life.

1) Spend 20 minutes doing nothing productive with your kids. Non-directive play with children deepens the parent-child bond and helps kids work out deep inner conflict, which alleviates anxiety and depression. Make mud pies, run through the sprinkler, jump on the trampoline, build a fort, play dress up, let your kids give you a make over, start a squirt gun fight, blow bubbles, make oobleck.

2) Car sing. Singing changes your brain chemistry, lowers your stress level, relieves anxiety, and elevates endorphins. Take turns with your kids selecting a tune, turning it up, and belting it out. Reward the loudest singer with the biggest scoop of ice cream at home.

3) Be silly. Laughter significantly decreases depression, anxiety, physical pain, medical problems, and it helps kids sleep deeply and more restfully. Parents should laugh with their kids every day. Bedtime will be faster and easier. Tell them silly jokes. Be goofy. Tickle them.

4) Occasionally, decline social invitations to salvage family time. Research shows adults with a close relationship with their kids, have kids who are less anxious and depressed. The memories created playing scrabble or making slime together will not be forgotten.

5) Make a fool out of yourself. Perhaps this is the quickest way to feel alive again. Wear your Metallica t-shirt to church and rock it. Individuals who take themselves less seriously and who laugh at themselves accept and celebrate humanity. Research indicates they are far more content in life. Happy parents are better parents.

6) Find a hobby/passion. Adults who have a non-money making hobby are substantially happier than adults who do not have a hobby. Passions and interests outside of achievement-focused activities help model a healthy work and life balance for kids.

Life is like a like a box of chocolates, but it is also like a glass of water. At times stress can fill our glass up, leaving us feeling like we are dangerously close to spilling over. This is a miserable feeling. However, if we can dump a little water out at a time, utilizing quick stress-reducing activities throughout the day, the water stays at a manageable level and we exist in a more peaceful state.

More from Erin Leonard Ph.D.
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