Anxiety is one of the most common mental conditions affecting people across the globe yet without a doubt, specific situations can make anxiety a bigger issue for some, rather than hours. These can include a lack of available support from friends, family or a partner. In fact, one recent study found that the stress of bringing up children alone can result in poorer health later in life. The research, carried out by scientists at Harvard University and published in the Journal of Epidemiology, analyzed the responses of over 25,000 women from various countries, finding that the risk was greatest for those living in England, the United States, Denmark and Sweden. Of course, men who are raising children alone face the same stress factors, so it is vital to keep stress and anxiety at bay as much as possible through positive lifestyle choices. Some of the most successfully proven ways to keep anxiety at bay as a single parent include:

  • Understanding      What Anxiety is: When we are in the throes of an anxiety or      panic attack, it can seem as though we cannot breathe, we are about to      faint, or we are going to have a heart attack. At this precise moment, our      body goes into full ‘fight or flight’ mode: stress hormones rush through      our system and we begin to take in too many short breaths, flooding our      system with oxygen and suffering from a range of symptoms which include      muscle pain, a rapid heart rate, etc. For some people, simply knowing the      underlying facts behind a panic attack, can help them calm down. They      know, for instance, that deep breathing is one guaranteed way to lower the      heart rate, or that when hyperventilating, breathing into a paper bag will      help bring oxygen levels to normal. The first step towards stopping      debilitating panic attacks, is knowing that despite their seemingly severe      symptoms, ‘this too shall pass’ and ultimately, an anxiety attack is your      mind tricking you into thinking you are actually in danger when you are      not.
  • Taking up Yoga      or Mindful Meditation: Far from a hippy pastime, yoga and      mindful meditation have been officially recognized in numerous recent      studies, owing to their ability to reduce stress hormone levels. Yoga is      now used in a variety of settings, including eating disorder centers, drug      rehabilitation centers and centers for the elderly. Its power is believed      to arise from a combination of pranayamic (or deep) breathing, the      concentration involved in performing various poses, and the strong      mindfulness component of the activity.

Mindfulness meditation, meanwhile, is considered so successful at battling stress because it encourages us to accept difficult/sad/stressful thoughts and emotions without trying to inhibit, conquer or evade them. We acknowledge these thoughts and feelings, and allow them to come and go, like waves, slowly observing them as they change and eventually disappear. When we are calmer, we look into these thoughts and emotions and find a positive way to respond to them.

  • Time Spent in      Nature: We      all tend to use a little more technology than we should these days –      children as well as adults, it seems, are glued to their screens (tablets,      phones or television sets) for hours daily, ignoring our vital      relationship with nature. Experts say that by distancing ourselves form      nature, we open ourselves up to a host of health conditions (both physical      and mental), including obesity, Type II diabetes, difficulties with      concentration, etc. Studies have shown that Nature has a power effect,      improving performance both in the workplace and at school, and lowering      levels of stress hormones.

The next time a bit of bonding with your child or children is the order of the day, make it a point to head for a beautiful natural area. Scientists say that as is the case with yoga, one of the reasons nature has such a powerful effect on us, is that it gently cajoles us into a mindful state. Teach children to really enjoy ‘the here and now’ of their experience in nature by pointing out the sights, sounds and textures they encounter in the trees, leaves and wildlife.

  • Manage Time      Optimally: There      are wealth of excellent reads, both for purchase and free (online), which      will help you be more productive than you ever imagined. It all has to do      with time management – organizing yourself well so that you can be more      productive at work and happier at home. Sometimes, all it takes are just a      few small changes. It is also important to stop trying to attain      impossible standards of perfection and to focus instead on making a few      important changes. Honing your time management skills is highly      recommended if you are a working single parent.