Stress can get in the way of overcoming depression.

  • Did you know you are more likely to feel “down and overwhelmed” when you are feeling stressed?
  • You are more likely to feel stressed during times when you don’t feel good about yourself, your family, your situation, etc.
  • Stress is related to – and can cause – your downward mood spirals.

Stress is a fact of life. For almost all of us, it is not practical to seek a stress-free existence.

However, when our level of stress gets too high it interferes with our ability to cope.

So, the goal of this article is to help you figure out your most stressful times and to give you some tools to use so that you can reduce your stress levels as well as cope better during stressful times without becoming as stressed in the first place.

This is a four-step process.

Step #1: Identify Your Stressful Times
Step #2: Learn Relaxation Strategies
Step #3: Develop a range of portable relaxation strategies
Step #4: Make a plan

Step 1: Identify stressful times

It is helpful for you to take a little time here to think about your personal pattern of stressful times.

Examples of stressful times from other Dads in our program:

  • 5-7 PM dinner time
  • Juggling time between work and family
  • Getting ready to go out
  • Getting baby to sleep
  • Offering support to partner when needing it yourself
  • Not feeling confident
  • When baby is upset and hard to soothe
  • There is no routine in life anymore
  • Long trips in the car with screaming baby

Step 2: Learn relaxation strategies

The second step is to work out which of the proven relaxation strategies work best for you.

Give relaxation a chance!

Important: When you first try to learn relaxation methods you will need to set aside around 20 minutes of quiet time to practice. Obviously, it can be difficult to take that long a break every time you feel stressed and want to use a relaxation technique! So, you might feel that there is no point.

The point is that you need to take some time to practice. Then you can learn how to become more efficient (take less time and still get the same benefit) so that you can relax when you need to do so in your everyday routine.

Learning how to relax can be a powerful tool for managing your stress and helping to maintain a positive mood. It’s worth the investment!

Remember, caring for yourself is also caring for your baby.

There are many different relaxation techniques available. Relaxation techniques help you work directly on the places in your body where you feel stress: slowing your breathing, releasing tension in your muscles, and quieting your mind. Relaxation is an individual thing, and you will find that some techniques work better for you than others.

Strategy 1: Muscle relaxation

Your ability to relax increases enormously with practice, so give this relaxation techniques a chance to work for you. It is helpful to practice relaxation in a quiet, comfortable place and at a time when you can focus and are not rushed.

Since tension resides in the muscles of your body, commonly reported as tension in the neck, jaw, head and abdomen, it makes sense that one of the most effective relaxation approaches gives you tools to directly attack and release the tension in your muscles.

Muscle relaxation approaches focus on tensing and then relaxing your muscles so you can learn how to rapidly identify the feeling of tension and then relax it away. These exercises have been used for many years with great success by many thousands of individuals.

Click on the buttons to the right to listen to the muscle relaxation exercises. Click on the link to download these exercises for use at home or on your iPhone or other handheld device.

We recommend that you start with the short version (which focuses on the tension in your hands) to get a feel for muscle relaxation techniques. Move onto the longer version for an entire-body relaxation experience.

Strategy 2: Deep breathing

Deep Breathing exercises< can also be extremely helpful for controlling your stress and you can use deep breathing almost anytime you need to use it – it is portable and largely invisible to others.

Deep breathing can be used alone or with the other relaxation methods and can be very effective in helping people manage their stress.

  1. Breathe in slowly for four counts.
  2. Breathe out slowly for four counts.
  3. Focus your attention on your breath rather than on your thoughts.
  4. Notice your stomach rising as you inhale and falling as you exhale.
  5. Continue for as long as needed.

Strategy 3: Guided imagery

If you prefer thinking about or visualizing beautiful scenery and taking a mini-mental holiday, guided imagery might be the relaxation technique for you. You can transport yourself to a more peaceful place just by thinking about it, how did it look, what did you feel, smell or taste. Some people can find visualizing difficult, but practice will help you improve this skill. Give it a go and if you like it, practice this as your relaxation strategy.

Strategy 4: Guided meditation

Meditation has a long history and relaxation is only one of the desirable outcomes that can be achieved by practicing it. Here is a meditation technique for you to try to help you feel more peaceful.

Step 3: Portable stressbusters

Relaxation skills are particularly useful when they can be used before or during a stressful situation or part of the day. Below are some techniques that can be used quickly in stressful situations. Not all of these techniques may work for you but it is good to have a few to choose from.

Some of these will look familiar since they have also been described in this program as Pleasant Activities.

  • Call a friend, partner, family member
  • Repeat positive self-talk such as: I’m calm and relaxed, I can do this, this will pass, I’m doing the best I can.
  • Treat yourself to some time out with a warm/cool drink.
  • Give yourself a brief “mental holiday” by thinking about (and savouring) your memories of your favourite holiday destination.
  • Go for a walk, do an exercise workout.
  • Play soothing music.
  • Practice accepting what is, rather than fighting it.

Step 4: Make a personal plan

To get the most out of your new learning about stress and relaxation, make a plan to help you cope through the stressful times of day/situations that you thought about in Step #1.

This list of strategies you will use might include guided relaxation practice using the downloadable exercises described earlier, portable relaxation strategies and any other changes that you think might help reduce your stress levels at these times. Choose at least one guided relaxation technique to try.

Try your plan out and see which stress management strategy worked well for you.

You might have to spend some time practicing the new relaxation skills you have learnt to get the most benefit from them. Use trial and error until you have found a set of StressBusters you can use in your daily routine to reduce those periods of stress.

We hope you enjoyed this article. It is one of the many support articles in the DadBooster online program. For more great tips and strategies, give DadBooster a go.