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Fatherhood Balancing Act Takes Toll on Men’s Health

Take Time This Father’s Day to Help Dad De-Stress.

Balancing work and family life can leave many men feeling as if they’re drowning in a sea of work, bills and the responsibilities of being a father. As Father’s Day nears, take the time to recognize the challenges dads face and help take a break from their usual daily stressors.

APA’s 2013 Stress in America survey found that men are less likely than women to recognize that their stress has a strong or very strong impact on their physical health (25 percent vs. 34 percent of women) and their mental health (29 percent vs. 36 percent of women). The survey also found that top sources of stress are money, work and the economy.

“Men in particular respond to stress by feeling irritable, angry or having trouble sleeping,” Diane Hoekstra, Clinical Psychologist said. “The stress fathers and men face is just as real and gets far less attention than women’s stress. And as research shows, stress can be bad news for their health. So, it’s important that men take action to manage their stress in healthy ways to avoid developing health problems.”

APA and NVCP offer these tips to fathers under stress:

  •  Identify the causes of your stress — Everyone experiences stress differently and it is important to learn your stress signals. What events or situations trigger stressful feelings for you? Are they related to your family, health, financial decisions, work, relationships or something else?
  •  Recognize how you deal with stress — Determine if your stress management strategies are healthy or harmful. Does your approach to managing your stress ultimately do more harm than good? Avoid risky behaviors such as gambling, excessive drinking and smoking, which are often used to temporarily alleviate stress.
  •  Adopt healthy ways to manage stress — Consider healthy stress-reducing activities such as exercising, playing sports or talking things out with a supportive friend or family member. Keep in mind that unhealthy behaviors develop over time and can be difficult to change. Don’t take on too much at once. Focus on changing one behavior at a time.
  •   Take care of yourself — No matter how hectic life gets, make time for yourself. Carve out 10 minutes a few times each week to do something you like to do. Also be sure to get enough sleep, eat healthy, exercise and drink plenty of water. Paying attention to your basic needs will go a long way to reducing your stress.
  •  Ask for support — Accepting a hand from supportive friends and family can help you persevere during stressful times. If you continue to feel overwhelmed by stress, you may want to talk to a psychologist who can help you manage stress and change entrenched, unproductive behaviors.

 “No one can be the perfect father. It is essential to maintain balance between the ‘Super Dad’ fantasy and the realistic and attainable aspects of fatherhood,” Hoekstra said. “Stress management is not a race to the finish line—don’t take on more than you can handle. Instead, set goals and focus on changing one behavior at a time.”

To learn more about stress and mind/body health, visit www.apa.org/helpcenter and follow @APAHelpCenter on Twitter. To find out more about Northern Virginia Clinical Psychologists visit NV-CP.org and follow us on Twitter at @FollowNVCP.