NOTE: The following is an excerpt from TeleVox’s Healthy World report, “A Stressed Nation: Americans Search for a Healthy Balance”, which highlights the negative impact that stress is having on the health of Americans. Download it HERE!
There is no doubt that adding kids to a family brings joy and happiness. But it is also no surprise that it creates more work and more responsibility. Parents reported more stress than non-parents because of the additional responsibilities that are placed on their shoulders with children to care for. And while the number of parents is down from decades past, the responsibility levels have remained constant.
Stress: Parents vs. Non-Parents
According to the U.S. Census, 46 percent of families in America have children under 18 at home, a number down 11 percent from the all-time high—57 percent—in 1963. Parents still have the job of managing their children’s lives—from getting them to school and activities on time to taking care of managing their health—while juggling the same responsibilities in their own lives that non-parents have. Thus, it’s easy to see why stress levels for parents are far greater than non-parents.
The surprise between the two groups, however, comes in the gap in the numbers. According to A Stressed Nation: Americans Search for a Healthy Balance, 65 percent of American parents reported being stressed during everyday life, while just 49 percent of non-parents said they are affected on a daily basis. Obviously, taking care of children—in addition to other responsibilities all adults have—adds stress to parents’ lives.
In addition to the stresses of everyday parenthood, American parents deal with the same stress that other adults deal with at work. But for some reason, parents reported a much higher amount of stress during the workday. As A Stressed Nation reports, 74 percent of parents (and just 56 percent of non-parents) reported stress during a typical workday. Parents are constantly thinking about what they have to do in their home life—mothers even more than fathers, in fact. When adding the stress that comes along with a job to this constant worry, stress piles up around every corner and with every new assignment.
Throwing all of these stressors into one makes far more parents stressed at the current moment than non-parents. According to A Stressed Nation, 46 percent of American parents – compared with 29 percent of non-parents – reported feeling stressed at the present moment. And while stress can be a positive, and even used as a motivator in some cases, 59 percent of parents said that stress has negatively impacted their overall health. Negative stress can lead to chronic headaches, stomach pains, and even heart issues or stroke.
The Impact of Parents’ Stress on Children
What many parents need to realize is that poorly managing their own stress level can have a negative impact on their children. As reported by U.S. News Health, children with stressed-out parents tend to eat more fast food, a leading cause of childhood obesity. Additionally, Forbes highlighted the Harry Harlow study from years ago that found that a comforting image is more soothing to children than a wire figure. Parents that appear stressed—inattentive, irritable, or snippy—could cause emotional damage to their children.
How Are Parents Managing Stress?
Understanding ways to manage negative stress is key for parents to handle high-pressure situations. As A Stressed Nation highlighted, 53 percent of parents and 39 percent of non-parents said they could do a better job of managing their stress. But how do they do this? Parents, in particular, don’t have extra time to spend experimenting with stress relievers. Talking with healthcare providers is a great way to start because these professionals have the expertise necessary to provide insight on improving stress management. Unfortunately, just 31 percent of non-parents and 41 percent of parents have discussed the negative impact of stress on their health with their doctor.
It is time for healthcare providers to give Americans the encouragement they need by opening additional lines of communication. And more than half of adults—66 percent of parents and 57 percent of non-parents—said they would be interested in and/or happy to receive communication from their doctor with tips on how to manage stress. Despite this desire for communication, many Americans are not receiving the tips and feedback they need. While counting to ten and stepping away from
the situation are short-term management tools, the Mayo Clinic provides an example of the tips patients could receive from providers on how to minimize the negative effects stress has on their health:
- Think positively
- Change your emotional response to stressors
- Embrace spirituality
- Protect your time
- Restore work-life balance
- Try meditation
- Keep your cool
- Maintain a social network to help
Understanding where stress comes from, as well as the best way to manage it, is important for all Americans, parents and non-parents alike. Because of the additional stressors that come along with parenthood, parents must begin talking with healthcare providers before their health—or the health of their children—suffers because of poor stress management.