You hardly slept last night because you stayed up sanding a wooden car you promised your son you’d build for his school project. Your daughter left her book bag at home and you’ll be late to this morning’s meeting after you retrieve it—she needs the inhaler inside it. You’d like to visit your dad tonight because he’s isolated himself ever since your mom passed away. But you also need to pick up dinner, before or after your daughter’s soccer game.
Is stress good for you? Can it be? We all have felt this sort of stress and this sort of stress is terrible. But stress isn’t meant to topple us. It is a response built into our bodies that aims to protect us from harm. Is there a way to lean into stress in a good way, to fight it? Yes. Here is the good and bad of “Dad Stress” and what you need do to stay in the middle—the area of optimum performance.
Eustress is “good” stress. You feel it when you drive your pregnant wife to the hospital, when your son steps up to bat, when you and your daughter are on a roller coaster, or when you’re watching a scary movie with the family.
Eustress boosts your immune system, improves memory and learning, and can even help with decision-making. Eustress reminds me of game five of the 1997 NBA finals. In it, Michael Jordan played for 44 minutes and scored 38 points while suffering from severe food poisoning.
The stress he must have felt before, during, and after the game is unimaginable. Still, Jordan’s ability to perform at this level teaches us how to use eustress to our advantage. He took a physical risk for the sake of his team, the fans, and the city of Chicago. When done right, eustress builds perseverance and strength.
Practice eustress to de-stress.
- Go bungee jumping, sky diving, or complete a themed race, like a 5K Zombie Run.
- Play a sport you have not played in a long time. Get the guys together for a 3-on-3 basketball game.
- Prepare a romantic getaway for you and your wife, which requires you to find a sitter for the kids, book the travel, and plan the schedule.
- Take an online class in a subject you long have been interested in, such as photography, cooking, or writing.
- Incorporate your kids into one of these ideas. It will allow them to connect with your passions and may introduce you to some of theirs.
Distress is the “bad” stress that can cause physical and psychological harm, like worrying about finances. Distress naturally will come and go as life progresses, but we can choose to tether ourselves to it indefinitely or to let it go. Clinging to distress can be damaging to your children because it can be passed on to them biologically. But through self-awareness, you can convert your distress into eustress.
Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, shared a story of a stressful situation his father had when he took a job as a truck driver. His dad slipped on icy asphalt and cracked his hip, leaving his family to fend for themselves as the medical bills racked up.
Schultz remembers the distress that poured over his father, which overflowed into his childhood. He used that experience to build the first company ever to offer full comprehensive medical care to all part-time employees: Starbucks. Schultz led his company by leaning into distress and converting it into something positive.The more you repress emotions, the higher your stress level.
Distress factors you can transform:
- Don’t internalize your feelings. Openly communicate your feelings to your wife and children. The more you repress emotions, the higher your stress level.
- The world is not on your shoulders as “man of the house.” Yes, you have responsibilities, but you have a support network. If you live like problems only belong to you, then distress will turn your hair gray.
- We all need money to provide for our families, but worrying doesn’t earn you money. If you are between jobs, create a budget with your spouse, be humble enough to ask for financial help, and strategically look for work. If you stress too much about this, your health will decline and prevent you from working anyway.
Earn some points: Are you married? Share this iMOM article with your wife: 5 Ways to Cure Stress.
Sound off: What brings you the most stress right now?
Stress response is linked to knee-surgery success – American Psychological Association
How Dad’s Stresses Get Passed Along to Offspring – Scientific American
Huddle Up Question
Huddle up with your kids and ask, “What are you most stressed about right now?”