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Parents: Manage Stress by Caring for Your Body

Stress is inevitable when you are a parent. Whether it’s from work, from home, or from the everyday challenges of being human, things tend to add up. And when you’re just trying to make it through the day, one of the last things on your mind is a healthy lifestyle.

However, science tells us that caring for your body is one of the most important things you can do to manage stress. The human body is incredible, and it has some pretty impressive systems in place to help you stay in balance. But your body can’t do its job if it’s not getting the rest, fuel, and care that it needs.

The good news is, you don’t have to be perfect. Balance is key. Focus on developing a routine that incorporates some healthy choices, and then allow yourself to break that routine from time to time. Let’s talk about a few of the fundamentals:

· Get enough sleep. Adequate sleep is often one of the first things to go when people get busy. Experts recommend that adults get 7-9 hours per night. This is time when your body and mind get a chance to rest, recover, and recharge for the coming day. If you’re robbing yourself of sleep, your body and brain can’t operate at full capacity.

· Eat regular, balanced meals. There are lots of opinions about what the healthiest diet is, but let’s focus on the basics. Eat when you’re hungry, and try not to skip meals. Eat a variety of foods and focus on hitting all of the food groups. Avoid highly processed foods. Eating a variety of fruits and veggies can help you get plenty of the vitamins your body uses to combat stress.

· Move your body. Exercise offers several benefits for those trying to reduce stress. It stimulates your body to produce endorphins, which elevate your mood and give you an overall sense of wellbeing. Exercise gives your immune system a boost, which is important during times of stress. Also, it can give your mind a break by shifting your focus to a fun or relaxing activity. You don’t have to be a super-athlete to incorporate more movement into your life. The trick is to find something that you enjoy and will stick with. It could be dance, yoga, tennis, or a casual walk in the park.

· Hydrate (but limit caffeine). It can be challenging to drink enough water every day, especially when you have a fast-paced job. But hydration is crucial for combatting stress. When your body starts getting dehydrated, it releases more stress hormones and your mood starts to shift. To prevent this from happening, drink more fluids throughout the day. There is one caveat here: while caffeine may give you energy when you’re stressed, it can also make your body feel more stressed out. If you have a habit of guzzling down several cups a day, consider cutting back when your stress levels are up.

If you can get a few of these basics down, you’ll be well on your way to a healthier and less stressful lifestyle. And again, the key here is balance. Even a few small changes can make a big difference.

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