July 28, 2022

Working Parents in College: How to Manage and Reduce Your Stress

By B&SC Blog Team

Working Parents in College: How to Manage and Reduce Your Stress

As a working parent, you rarely feel as if you have time to relax. Add college to the mix and your stress levels could potentially skyrocket.

While school brings yet another major commitment to the table, it doesn’t inevitably have to add to your stress load. In fact, in the long-term, this effort may actually improve your mental health by allowing you to pursue your professional passions or paving the path to a raise.

Effects of Stress

It’s no secret that both acute and chronic stress can be problematic for mental health and general wellbeing. Specifically, however, it can damage everything you work for as an employed parent enrolled in college. Ill effects could include:

  • Poor health choices, such as eating junk food, drinking alcohol to excess, or not exercising
  • Being quick to snap at partners or children
  • Difficulty focusing on work obligations or studying for college
  • Sleep issues, which, in turn, lead to even more stress

Tips to Reduce Stress

With so much at stake, it’s crucial that you handle stress proactively to ensure you function appropriately in all walks of life. Some level of stress is to be expected – it’s how you handle it that matters. These tips should help you deal with stressful times so you can be your best self at school, work, and home:

1. Get Organized

A detailed schedule is essential if you intend on juggling work, school, and family life. You need to know what you’ll be doing at all hours of the day to ensure that you make the most of every minute.

How you design the schedule and where you keep it will depend on personal preferences. The trusty planner is a wise choice, but many parents prefer online options such as Google Calendar. With this approach, it’s possible for other parents and caregivers to see updates to children’s schedules.

2. Take Advantage of Remote Opportunities

From online classes to Zoom work meetings, a variety of remote opportunities allow you to check essentials off your to-do list from the comfort of your home. This can cut out several commutes, thereby removing both a significant time commitment and, potentially, a top source of stress in your day-to-day life. Imagine the relief of no longer needing to deal with gridlock traffic.

3. Get Enough Sleep

Even the most stressful situation can feel far more manageable when you’re fully rested. Make sleep a priority, aim to get between 7-9 hours of sleep each night so you are well rested.

Of course, this is easier said than done if you have infants or young children at home. If your child isn’t yet sleeping through the night, you’ll need to strategize to make the most of those precious evening hours.

4. Eat Healthy Foods

It’s perfectly normal to reach for junk food when stress takes over – but this doesn’t deliver long-term relief, nor does it set a positive example for your children. Over time, bad eating habits may also diminish your energy level, thereby making it more difficult to tackle your to-do list – and leading to even more stress.

Establishing a balanced diet doesn’t have to be as onerous as you think. Your schedule may be too crammed for preparing extravagant meals, but you can still enjoy apples, walnuts, or carrots and hummus on the go. Stock up on healthy snacks and quick meals to make nutritious eating feel as easy and natural as possible.

5. Exercise Often

Don’t let a lack of time cause you to neglect your physical health. You just need to be more creative as to how and where you’ll exercise. Take advantage of gyms that provide childcare, so you can hop on the treadmill while your kids are having fun with other children. Better yet, multitask by listening to lectures or audiobooks while exercising.

Another great approach? Find ways to build physical activity into time spent with kids. For example, you and your children can reconnect during a bike ride or while walking the dog.

6. Practice Mindfulness

How often do you find yourself physically present but emotionally removed from a given situation? It’s natural to let our minds wander, but this can make it difficult to fully absorb academic material – or to genuinely appreciate time spent with kids. Mindfulness helps to combat this tendency, but it must be practiced consistently.

Don’t worry if you lack time for hour-long yoga sessions; a few five-minute mindfulness breaks can do the trick. Take these opportunities to do some deep breathing and simply observe your environment and your bodily sensations.

7. Develop a Support System

As a working parent and college student with a busy schedule, you are only as strong as your support system. Who can you call on when the going gets tough?

If you’re lucky enough to have family members nearby, take advantage of their presence and ask for help with babysitting or other essentials. If you live too far from family for this to be realistic, reach out to fellow parents in the neighborhood. Even if you can’t get help with childcare, you’ll find it much easier to manage emotionally if you can let off a little steam with someone who understands.

8. Identify a Stress Outlet

When you feel overwhelmed, which activities help you stay grounded? Perhaps a good book provides an escape, or a long, hot bath relaxes you. Some people prefer to get active, going for long runs or playing recreational sports when they need ‘me’ time.

Determine what, exactly, helps you improve your emotional health and then commit to that activity at least once per week. Yes, carving out time in your schedule will be tough, but you won’t be as effective as a student, employee, or parent until you’re able to get a break doing something you enjoy.

9. Spend Time with Your Pet

If you have a cat or dog, commit to hanging out with this lovable four-legged friend on a regular basis. Research indicates that even a few minutes with a pet can lower blood pressure and heart rates while promoting much-needed feelings of calm.

Next time you feel stressed, try petting your cat or going on a walk with your dog. You may be surprised by how much better you feel in mere minutes.

10. Chat with a Friend

Social life often falls by the wayside when there’s too much on the schedule. In an ideal world, you’d be able to meet up for happy hour at least once a week.

If this is not possible, consider getting together for a play date or an exercise session. When distance or scheduling conflicts make even these types of outings impossible, a quick chat on the phone may do the trick. Call someone uplifting who will have your back and let you vent if need be.

11. Take a Walk

Do you struggle with meditation and breathing exercises? Some people find walking just as meditative. Your dog or kids can join in the fun, of course, but the best stress-busting strolls will take place completely on your own.

12. Sign Up for Counseling Services

It’s time to ditch the stigma of counseling and, instead, think of it as an essential form of self-care. Whether you’re diagnosed with a mental health concern or simply want a little insight into the circumstances that cause you stress, you will benefit greatly from attending regular counseling sessions.

Start Your Journey Today

At Bryant & Stratton, we offer flexible learning opportunities that appeal to working parents who are otherwise prone to academic stress. Contact us today to learn more about our top programs and the role they could play in your career and personal life.

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