If there is one thing that is synonymous with parenting, it’s sleep…or, lack there of to be honest. And while many of us joke how we cope with the loss of sleep, or how much coffee chug just to avoid ending up in a orange jumpsuit – the loss of sleep, and how it effects the body and mind is a serious topic. That’s why I’m happy to have a guest author Sarah Cummings from SleepAdvisor.org to talk about this very issue.
Stress is an inevitable part of modern life. For short periods of time it can be perfectly normal, your body is designed to cope with it and it can even give you the kick up the behind you need to get things done.
There’s a big difference however between short sharp useful bursts of stress and the long grinding kind of stress that comes with say, financial woes, a hated job, relationship troubles or being bullied at school. This latter kind of stress can have a huge impact on your mental and physical wellbeing.
What could be worse than you feeling stressed out? Maybe if your entire family was feeling under the gun too. This would be a nightmare but how would you know?
Well, stress looks different in men, women, teenagers and young children. Being able to recognize when different members of your family, or the entire group, are feeling frazzled isn’t always as easy as you would imagine. With that in mind here are 3 things to look out for that may indicate your household needs a nice long holiday…
Nobody can sleep
Stress and sleep are poor bedfellows. The more stressed you, your partner or your children are, the worse you will be sleeping. The worse you all sleep the more stressed you will become. What a cruel cycle indeed.
Such is the connection between sleep and mental health that it’s estimated that insomniacs are twenty times more likely to develop a anxiety related condition and five times more likely to be depressed. Yikes!
When we sleep badly we lose control over our emotional regulation and this can lead to mood swings, irritability, a loss of patience and an inability to show empathy. So if your once quiet and gentle household has recently become home to some serious slanging matches it could be a consequence of a lack of sleep.
That lack of sleep is a surefire sign of existing stress or a precursor to stressful times on the horizon.
For hints and tips on how you and your family can rediscover your sleeping mojo visit the Sleep Advisor blog for expert advice.
Everyone is unwell
When we’re stressed we have raised levels of a powerful chemical called cortisol, also known as the ‘stress hormone’.
Back in our caveman days cortisol was a very useful substance as it told us when to flee or fight when, say we happened across a sabre tooth tiger in the middle of the forest path. Today however there are thankfully far fewer sabre tooth tigers roaming around.
Despite the world be a far less dangerous place, cortisol remains as prevalent as ever. Only now it floods our system when we worry about a bully at school, a work deadline or if that pimple is going to fade before prom.
Raised levels of cortisol mean bad things for our health as it leads to an impaired immune system. In the short term this can mean an increase in the number of niggling colds and frustrating bouts of flu we pick up. In the long term it can mean raised blood pressure and even heart disease. Yikes!
So if you, your partner, or the little ones seem to be going through a neverending flu season, it might not be down to the weather but because you’re all in fact a little bit stressed.
Your waists are expanding
Take a look around the dining room table, is your family looking a little bit porkier than they used to? If the answer is yes it could be because of elevated stress levels in the household.
I’m sure you’ve heard of stress eating, well it’s a very real thing. Raised levels of cortisol have been linked to a strong desire to overindulge.
It all comes back to our survival instincts again. Back in our caveman days when that tiger leapt out on us we would have to put up a fight or run for our lives. Doing either of these burnt a whole heap of calories. So, if we survived, the next logical step in proceedings was to replace this lost energy by eating.
In today’s world when we’re stressed about a work meeting, or a school exam, we don’t tend to immediately run around or start a fight. As a consequence we don’t actually burn any calories. That doesn’t prevent millions of years of evolution kicking in to still giving us the overwhelming urge to eat.
One very simple solution to overcoming this desire to eat is to get out and do a little exercise. Getting sweaty and out of breath is the perfect antidote to raised levels on cortisol because exercise mimics the fight and flight response.
So if you suspect your family is feeling a little bit frazzled getting out in the garden for a game of catch, or a parents vs children soccer game, could be the perfect way to unwind.
Well, there you go – while stress affects us all in subtly different ways if you’re at all worried about your family’s mental health keep an eye out on these three things. If you see any changes to sleep patterns, the amount of sick days being taken and waistlines, it could be time for you to take your family on a nice long vacation.