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Fatherhood Balancing Act Takes a Toll on Men

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. According to a recent poll from the American Psychological Association, men said work, family and money, as well as worries about the economy, are significant causes of their stress.

APA’s 2007 Stress in America Survey found that 50 percent of men were concerned about their stress level. Men, more often than women, said stress negatively affected various aspects of their lives such as job satisfaction (50 percent of men vs. 40 percent of women) and their overall satisfaction with life (45 percent of men vs. 38 percent of women).

“Men in particular respond to stress by feeling irritable, angry and having trouble sleeping,” said psychologist Ron Palomares, Ph.D. “This stress is, unfortunately, often dealt with in harmful ways, such as unhealthy eating and increased drinking and smoking.”

As role models for their children, it is important that parents strive to set a good example. “Children mold their behavior after that of their parents,” Palomares said. “So developing healthy responses to stress will not only be good for you, but, ultimately, good for your children.”

APA offers these tips to fathers under stress:

Identify your causes of stress How do you know when you are stressed? What events or situations trigger stressful feelings? Are they related to your children, family health, financial decisions, work, relationships or something else? 

Recognize how you deal with stress Determine if you are using unhealthy behaviors to cope with work or life stress. Are you a restless sleeper or do you become easily upset and annoyed over trivial things? Is this a routine behavior, or is it specific to certain events or situations?

Find healthy ways to manage stress — Unhealthy reactions to stress may seem like the easy way out, but the long-term effects of poor stress management causes more problems. Instead, consider healthy, stress-reducing activities like exercising or playing sports. Focus on the quality of time spent, not the quantity. Keep in mind that unhealthy behaviors often develop slowly over time and can be difficult to change. Put everything in perspective, think before you act or speak and make time for what’s really important.

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,” Palomares 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.”

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