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When people are looking forward to having children, they don’t always think that their new stage of life will cause them a great deal of stress and anxiety. From infants who won’t sleep to teens who are getting their driver’s’ licenses, every stage of parenting has its own unique challenges. Here are five great ideas to help you reduce parenting stress and become a more relaxed, engaged parent.

How Does Stress Affect Us?

The “fight or flight” response is natural when people are stressed out. Your pulse will race and you will feel anxiety about what will happen next. You may even be angry and defensive. Even the slightest problem, with your kids or in your life, can cause you to fly off the handle.

Chronic stress is damaging to the body and the mind. You may not sleep well. You may eat too much or too little. You may rely too much on alcohol or caffeine to get you through the day. Being in a constant state of stress wires your mind to think that it is always under attack. This defensiveness will make you snappish and short with your children.

How Do I Relax?

When you’ve decided that you are getting too stressed, there are a variety of ways to make yourself feel better. Plan ahead to solve some of your problems in advance, and you won’t always feel like you’re being thrown from one bad situation into another.

Deep breathing and progressive relaxation are great ways to calm down at the moment. You can do deep breathing exercises wherever you happen to be, even while you’re driving. Try breathing in for six seconds and out for six seconds. This will focus your body and mind and make you feel better instantly.

Taking time to relax is a great way to reduce stress. Even if you only have ten or fifteen minutes, you can do a pleasurable activity and feel better. Try coloring in an adult coloring book or making lists of the things for which you are grateful.

1. Have Fun with your Kids

A fun way to relax with your kids is to have a costume party. For example, you could invite their friends over and ask them to dress up like their favorite animal. Bear costumes are especially cute.

2. Get Up Fifteen Minutes Earlier

This tip can help you feel much less rushed in the morning. Sometimes having that first cup of coffee or tea without anyone else around can be centering and calming.

3. Keep a Calendar

Make sure that everything you need to do is included in your calendar. Times to pay bills, to pick up kids from school, and appointment times will help you feel more organized and less stressed.

4. Try Not to Procrastinate

It may seem that procrastinating reduces stress, but all it does is push it off to a future time. You’ll feel twice as rushed if you give yourself half as much time to accomplish a task.

5. Let Go of Being a Perfectionist

When you are concerned about everything being perfect, life is much more stressful. Let some of the little details go, and focus on your own health and well-being. Having a kitchen that’s a little messy won’t affect your kids’ lives, but having a parent who’s always nagging them will.

These five tips will help you relax more and enjoy your life. Your kids will benefit from your more relaxed attitude, and you will be able to get more things done.