Are you and your family members tired and getting on each other’s nerves? Chances are you may be stressed out. Here’s how you can identify the warning signs and do something about it.
By Sahana Charan
Here is a typical scenario in a busy household:
It is morning. The parents and children are caught up with the rituals of getting ready for work and school. But, there seems to be chaos reigning, as nothing is going according to routine. There is yelling and frazzled nerves, the children are feeling weighed down by the constant nagging and arguments, while the adults struggle to finish their chores. The frustration and anxiety finally result in at least one family member having an emotional meltdown. Not only has everyone started the day on a bad note, but the stress is too much to handle.
If this is a rare occurrence, there is nothing to be alarmed about. But if this is the norm at home, then it can raise the stress levels of all family members.
According to research, high stress in the family can adversely affect children’s immune system. A study done by researchers at the School of Health Sciences at Jönköping University and the Faculty of Health Sciences at Linköping University, and published in the Journal of Immunology, revealed that children in highly-stressed families had a high level of cortisol, which is a biological marker of stress. The stress also negatively affected the children’s immune system, which means they were more vulnerable to infections.
All of us face some amount of stress in our daily lives, be it at work, school or home. We usually develop our own mechanisms to deal with regular stressful situations and can work out a solution to address the cause of the stress. But, long-term stress is different. The causes for it may include:
- ongoing financial crisis at home,
- disharmony between parents,
- adults in the family being caught in a tough situation,
- family member with long-term illness,
- death of a loved one,
- adults having problems at the workplace,
- having a special family member,
- a teen facing harassment or a difficult situation at school and so on.
These will vary for every individual and depends on how one is able to cope with difficult circumstances. Here are some warning signs to look out for:
“Children easily pick up the behaviour patterns of their parents. If a parent is responding with anxiety, a young child is not able to understand that this is not the desirable pattern, so they pick it up. Because at this stage, a lot of their learning happens through imitation. With teens, it is a totally different scenario – they find their own ways of dealing with stress – they may express themselves verbally, become aggressive or rebel. This will not be acceptable to parents and will again cause them stress,” says Arundhati Swamy, counsellor and Head – Parent Engagement Programs at ParentCircle.
“The level of family functioning is lower, and members of the family will not be able to perform their roles optimally. Stress interferes with their inter-personal relationships, it interferes in the way they attend to tasks, they are not able to prioritise and there is immense emotional struggle,” says Arundhati.
Attend to the root cause of the stress rather than the symptoms. “For example – in case of financial crisis/stress, the symptoms could be health effects, communication problems, relationships, anger and anxiousness. But these are temporary, momentary and situational. Instead of attending to these symptoms, adults need to sit down and discuss the crisis with the children. Accept that there is a financial crunch, explain what strategies need to be in place to deal with the crisis and how everyone can pull through,” explains Arundhati.
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