There is no real definition of stress that everyone agrees on; what is stressful for one person may be pleasurable or have little effect on others. We all react to stress (and anxiety) differently.
So, what exactly is stress?
Stress is the body’s reaction (feeling overwhelmed or unable to cope) to changes which requires an adjustment or response. This can be physical or situational changes. The body then reacts to these changes with physical, mental, and/or emotional responses.
It’s not always negative changes that cause stress. Sometimes even positive changes can trigger this reaction. Things such as moving to a new home, gaining a job promotion, a new relationship, or even as simple as going on a vacation.
The stress itself is not the problem – it’s how we deal it that can bring out the negative effects and make us feel overwhelmed, unable to cope, and burnt out. We can’t control every external stressor that lands in our path. But we can control how we react to it. The main goal isn’t to force ourselves to live in a state of perpetual balance, peace, and calm (but wouldn’t that be nice!); the goal is to move through stress to calm, so that we’re ready for the next stressor when it arrives.
Stress in children
The above applies to children just the same as it does to adults. And while adults should have a better grasp on what is stressing us out and why (and how to deal with it), children generally do not (especially young children). This is a learned skill that continues to develop along with cognitive abilities and self-awareness.
Here are some things that may cause stress in children:
- Changes in their physical environment – day home/day care, home, etc.
- Changes in their home environment – new sibling, new family dynamic (divorce / blended families), etc.
- Changes in health – diet, exercise, injury, illness, etc.
- Parental stress – caused by money problems, divorce/separation, work, etc.
- Stress from siblings, playmates – bullying, problem behaviors
Stress is not always bad – it can be an opportunity for children to learn and grow. We (as parents and educators) need to be aware of children’s stress so we can help them manage it effectively and avoid / reduce toxic stress.
- Changes in appetite
- Sleep disruption / bedwetting / nightmares
- Stomach pain / nausea / diarrhea
- Anxiety / fears / inability to relax
- Crying / whining / clinginess
- Anger / aggression / stubbornness
- Indifference / detachment
Responsibilities as a parent / educator
As parents and day home educators, we have to consider both our own stress and that of the children in our care. Our responsibilities are to:
- Be responsible for our own healthy stress management
- Have empathy/understanding for others
- Provide a safe, nurturing environment
- Recognize signs of stress and provide opportunities for children to learn how to cope with their stress
Here are some links and resources for learning more about stress in children:
It’s extremely important to assess our stress levels throughout the day to determine which type of coping skills we need and what kinds of stress-reducing actions we can take.
No matter what’s on your plate that’s making you feel stressed (both in work and in your personal life), it’s great to have some tools to help reduce stress. Take some time to go through the following lists below.
Remember, finding the best stress relief strategies may take some experimenting. Some may even take practice too. What’s most important is to keep looking for the tools you need that will help you better manage life’s inevitable ups and downs in a healthy way. Keeping your stress (and anxiety) at a manageable level is important for your overall well-being – and those around you.
11 stress management tactics (for all ages)
Remember, many of these can great for children too! (Though may require some modifications)
- Deep breathing exercises
- Practicing mindfulness
- Listening to or playing music
- Doodling, drawing, or doing arts and crafts
- Eating healthy
- Practicing yoga
- Getting outside for some fresh air
- Getting exercise
Calgary activities for play and exercise (paid)
Options with or without children, these activities can help manage stress by getting exercise, learning, and exploring.
Calgary Parks for outdoor play and exercise (free)
Calgary has many great outdoor parks that are 100% free to access. Again, these are great options with or without children – whether you’re planning a walk, a picnic, a playground day, or other outdoor gathering.
- Riley Park
- Bowness Park
- Sandy Beach Park
- Stanley Park
- Confederation Park
- River Park
- Prince’s Island Park
- Flanders Park
- Carburn Park
- Nose Hill Park
- Edworthy Park
Eating healthy in Calgary
The Good Food Box is a great community program created by Community Kitchen that has affordable local produce to help with eating healthy (both for parents and educators).
Calgary mental health resources
- Calgary Counselling Centre
- South Calgary Mental Health Clinic
- Elements Calgary Mental Health Centre
- Canadian Mental Health Association – Calgary Region
Places to volunteer in Calgary
Other resources for coping with stress
- 10 Simple Ways To Cope With Stress
- Violence Prevention: Coping With Stress
- Mental Health and COVID-19: Coping With Stress And Anxiety
Specific supports for day home educators
Another way to work with stress is to build strong relationships with others who can help support you. In your day home, this could be …
- Parents and Families: If you can create and have stronger relationships, you can better communicate your day and any needs you may have.
- Your Consultant: A big part of your Consultant’s job is to support you! So, lean on them and ask them for advice, help, or even clarifications
- Your Director: If you feel like something isn’t being addressed as you feel it should, reach out the agency Director, they should be able to connect back and follow up – that’s why they are there … to support you!
- Other Educators: Networking with other day home providers can be a truly valuable resource – whether for dealing with specifics or just for overall support.
5 tactics for reducing work-related stress in your day home
- Get (and Stay) Organized: Find a method that works best for you to track those important monthly forms – mostly timesheets and invoices.
- Set Aside Time For Paperwork: It’s as simple as putting an alarm on your phone or email to remind you of invoice day — and give yourself an hour uninterrupted to get it done.
- Set Solid Boundaries: Your day home hours should be posted publicly. Stay firm and stick to these hours. If you don’t and become flexible with parent requests for early drop off and/or late pick up, this can easily lead to you working loads of extra hours — for free.
- Leave Work On Time: This one sometimes feels hard when there is much left to do. But it’s an important one. So, find a way to leave work ON TIME at the end of the day.
- Maybe you change your clothes to signify that the workday is over?
- Maybe you set up the main playroom in a place where you can leave on time?
- Maybe you tuck toy bins and parent boards under the coach or in a closet?
- Simple Menu Planning: This is an easy and fun one to reduce unnecessary stress – plan meals in advance. Other benefits include controlling what you and your family eat and allowing the entire family to help learn decision-making skills.
- Start by planning one week at a time by setting aside 30 minutes to plan — which will then allow you to be able to reuse that menu for another month.
- Make a list of all the meals, including main dishes, side dishes, drinks and snacks.
- Check the fridge, freezer, and cupboards for items you already have.
- Make a grocery list and check weekly advertisements to help find the best buys.
- Post the menu on your fridge so it’s up front and center!
- Check out the Good Food Box for help accessing fresh local produce to incorporate into your menu.
And finally, when in doubt and you feel like stress is taking over, just remember these words …
“In stressful times, it’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay to cut yourself some slack. Because right now, you might not be your best self. But you are growing, and you are trying your best, and that is good enough.”