Dads: Maximize the Rewards, Minimize the Stress

Being a father can be one of the most rewarding parts of your life. But, that doesn't mean it isn't stressful, too. From concerns about your kids' health and finding childcare to saving for college – you've likely got a lot on your plate. Even pressure you put on yourself to be the best dad you can be may add stress to your life.

Left unchecked, stress can affect your health and well-being. For example, you might feel irritable and become angry over little matters – such as toys that aren't put away. Or, you might turn to unhealthful behaviors to cope with stress. This can include overeating, smoking or drinking alcohol. That approach can lead to poor health down the road. What's more, your kids learn by your example.

Managing Stress

Clearly, it's important to find healthful ways to reduce stress. These tips from the American Psychological Association and other experts may help:

  • Prioritize. Too much on your plate today? Maybe yard work or home repairs can wait. Instead, focus on what needs to be done now. Prioritizing may even help you find the time to read another bedtime story.
  • Call for backup. Some men find it tough to ask for help. But, trusted friends and family may be able to offer much-needed support in stressful times. They might help with childcare, chores or just lend an ear. There may also be support groups in your community that meet to discuss the challenges of fatherhood.
  • Get some exercise. It's a great stress-buster. Keep your whole family active by riding bikes together. Or, shoot some hoops with a buddy during your free time.
  • Take care of yourself. Carve out time for activities you enjoy. Read a book, work on a hobby or simply kick back, close your eyes and breathe. By taking care of yourself, you'll be better able to manage stress and care for those you love.

Know when to seek professional help

If you feel overwhelmed or stress is affecting your family life, a mental health professional can offer strategies to help you cope. Seek help if you:

  • Feel trapped
  • Constantly worry
  • Can't concentrate
  • Feel that stress is affecting your relationships and your life

Counselors or support groups can be great resources for tips about parenting, coping with stress and other issues.

Above all, try to keep fatherhood in perspective. Every dad has his share of worry and stress. Don't let it overshadow the many rewards.