…The first strategy is time and energy management. Too many of us are parenting on the run, and this never works. Take the example of the parent who works a typical 40-hour work week, has all of the financial burdens that we are experiencing today, is not sleeping well, is tired and a little more irritable than usual, and still has all the parenting chores that must be addressed. It’s a good idea to become a bit more efficient with your daily family planner. Try to prioritize what must be done, and spend a little less time doing those things which are not priorities. Remember, desires are not priorities, only needs are assigned that status.
With all that’s going on in our country, our economy, the world, and on social media, it feels like so many of us are under a great deal of stress. Parenting, in particular, can be stress-inducing. We know chronic stress can be as unhealthy as smoking a quarter of a pack a day. It is also challenging to be a present parent when your relationship is under stress. What are stress management strategies that parents use to become “Stress-Proof? What are some great tweaks, hacks, and tips that help reduce or even eliminate stress? In this interview series, we are talking to authors, parenting experts, business and civic leaders, and mental health experts who can share their strategies for reducing or eliminating stress. As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Fix Yourself Power Zone Author and Therapist Faust Ruggiero.
Faust Ruggiero has been counseling individuals and families for over forty years. He is the author of the Fix Yourself Handbook, and The Fix Your Anxiety Handbook. Information about him can be found at The Fix Yourself Power Zone.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to know how you got from “there to here.” Inspire us with your backstory!
I am one of those people blessed with the understanding of who I am, and why I am here. I knew at a very early age that my position in life would be guided by my service to others. By the time I was a junior in high school, I knew that Psychology would be my course of study, and that helping others who are suffering, and so often, lost in their lives, would be my own personal destiny. For some of us, we need to search for the meaning in our own lives. For me, instead of searching for something, I simply followed the path which seemed to be laid out before me. I was born to be in service of people, I answered the call, and as a result, I am living a rich and fulfilling life. I have never looked back.
What lessons would you share with yourself if you had the opportunity to meet your younger self?
All too often, people look back at their lives, and focus on events and decisions that they would love to be able to do over. For me, life is all about processes and the energy we direct toward those life fulfilling processes. If I had the opportunity to meet my younger self I would have this to say: begin to formulate a plan that will help you direct your energies into a positive and world enhancing way of living. Let your intellect rule your emotions, and base your decisions on factual information that can help you to achieve your goals, and to be a happy person. I would also talk to myself about balance in life. I think it’s important that we understand that we are all physical, intellectual, emotional, and spiritual beings. I would tell myself to be mindful of that, and to work to keep as much balance in my life as possible. I would also say how say how important it is to unconditionally love others. This is where we all find ourselves.
None of us are able to experience success without support along the way. Is there a particular person for whom you are grateful because of the support they gave you to grow you from “there to here?” Can you share that story and why you are grateful for them?
As opposed to one single individual who may have had a profound impact on my life, I do think I was wise enough to understand that there could be many, and that I could learn from all of them. I think it’s important to keep one’s mind open to the positive energy anyone can offer. We can learn from many people, and we can be inspired by them. So, as opposed to trying to find someone who may provide support for me, I look to establish connections with people. It’s really learning how to form connections in our lives that facilitates learning, and the loving positive bonds that touch us deeply enough to create the inspiration we need to be happy and productive people. I have no preconceived notions about anyone. I feel that allowing others to be themselves offers them, and I, the blessings that come from the honest and deep connections we can establish as a result.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think it might help people?
I am, and thank you for asking. After the success of The Fix Yourself Handbook, I decided to turn the Process Way of Life, which is at the core of the program, into a series of books. The new book is entitled The Fix Your Anxiety Handbook, and there will be at least five more installments to follow. Each one of them will be addressing a specific human condition, and providing both the information to understand it, and the exact steps necessary to move beyond it. The Fix Your Anxiety Handbook should be published within the next few months. Information about the program can be found on my website, The Fix Yourself Power Zone.
Ok, thank you for sharing your inspired life. Let’s now talk about stress. How would you define stress?
The most important point to understand about stress is that it is primarily a physical condition. All too often, we try to attack stress by thinking about where it came from, and how we are going to use our minds to stop it. The most important point is to learn how to address anxiety physically first. Once our bodies become healthy, we can proceed to the intellectual, physical, and spiritual components of our lives, and begin to utilize our internal power using them. Nothing about stress is addressed efficiently without addressing it on a physical level first.
In the Western world, humans typically have their shelter, food, and survival needs met. So what has led to this chronic stress? Why are so many of us always stressed out?
In the Western world, though we have all or most of our fundamental needs met, we also live life at a pace which is far too fast for our minds to assimilate, and our bodies to adjust to. Also, we have so many choices at our disposal, that it causes us to be conflicted and confused about what decisions to make. We find pressure from far too many external sources and from people, who themselves, are under pressure, and we are all doing our best to try to fit into a system that is undefined, and without positive direction. We are relying on medications, physical accelerants, and the use of other drugs in an attempt to offset the stress we are feeling, but unfortunately, these only add to the problem. Often, in cultures which have all those fundamental needs met, there is a tendency to lose focus, and to supplant what is important in our life with what feels good. Quick fixes have replaced sustain life plans, and we are constantly trying to fill gaps that our own lifestyle has created.
What are some of the physical manifestations of being under a lot of stress? How does the human body react to stress?
There are many, and if we can become more efficient about understanding how our bodies are reacting to our lifestyle, we would not only reduce stress, but we would also introduce much less of it into our lives. Some of the identifiers of a life under stress are physical pain such as headaches and joint pain, intestinal problems, sleep difficulties, overreactions, intellectual processing difficulties, memory problems, mood shifts, fatigue, chest pains, gastrointestinal changes, perspiration issues, breathing difficulties, and panic attacks. In addition, many of us already suffer from physical ailments, and these are, very often, exacerbated when the human body is under stress.
It’s important to think about stress as a natural accelerant, which causes all physical processes to move faster. The body reacts by intensifying and tightening. Stress also causes internal inflammation. Physical intensification, acceleration, and this tightening process create a tremendous amount of stress on the body. This is why I say we need to address physical conditions first, and learn how to reduce the pace of our lives, and the intensity that accompanies it.
Is stress necessarily a bad thing? Can stress ever be good for us?
Stress, in small doses, can act as a motivator which motivate us to take action, when necessary. When we think about something we have to do, somewhere we need to go, or some action that must be addressed in a reasonable time frame, the human body will use a small amount of physical acceleration to become motivated. This is simply the body’s way of saying ”get going”. In small doses, this works to our advantage. It keeps us from becoming complacent, and can have a positive effect on our cognitions, and our focus. Keep in mind, however, that we’re talking about stress in small doses, and for a limited amount of time, say a few moments to an hour or so. Beyond that, stress begins to usurp the body’s energy to the point that the negative effects will become evident.
Is there a difference between being in a short-term stressful situation versus an ongoing stress? Are there long-term ramifications to living in a constant state of stress?
As I just mentioned, in small doses, and for short periods of time, stress can be a positive factor in our lives. However, the human body was never meant for stress over a long period of time. You may have heard of the fight or flight response that the body uses. Short periods of stress can mimic this response, and typically, that is not problematic. However, our demanding style of life has a tendency to stretch those intense periods into segments of time that are far too long for the body to efficiently address. Typically, short periods of stress serve a particular function, but then the body returns to its normal pace, and intensity level. This is the human body operating efficiently, and as it was designed to keep us healthy, and in balance. Longer periods of stress will use far more energy, and the ability to recover from the stress takes much longer. Over a period of time, as the body remains under siege from the stress it is receiving, and there is very little time to recover. This recovery time is essential to help maintain the balance that keeps us healthy. When this happens, we open ourselves to long term effects physically, intellectually, emotionally, and even spiritually. So, the rule is small amounts of stress, over a short period of time, with sufficient time to recover.
Let’s now focus more on the stress of parenting. This feels intuitive, but it is helpful to spell it out in order to address it. Can you help articulate why being a parent can be so stressful?
In past generations, the stress related to parenting and primarily to do with keeping children from hurting themselves, and protecting them from other forms of harm. In addition, the financial stress of providing them with what they need, and educational and other supportive measures could be stressful to parents. Today, in a world that is moving at a fever pitch, the demands are more complicated, and more intense. The pandemic changed the way the world operates, and much of the way we are living is undefined. There is going to be no quick fix, not now, or in the future. Life as we knew it has been redefined, and parenting, and for that matter, the entire nuclear family, is also being redefined. For the first time in recent history, there is no road map, no set of instructions, and no examples regarding how to parent in times like we are living in. It’s a far more dangerous world, resources are not as available, and when they are, they are expensive. The other important factor when it comes to parenting is that with the stress that comes from a new and undefined way of living, parents are coming into the parenting process already stressed, and today’s children have been caught in the middle of this seemingly directionless lifestylee. This combination causes resistance by both parents and children, and the communication and the necessary level of commitment has been compromised. The result has been increases in confusion, direction, anxiety, and anger.
Can you help spell out some of the problems that come with being a stressed parent?
Depending on individual situations, there can be many. The more pronounced problems that come from being a stressed parent include: change in sleep habits, indulgence in alcohol and other drugs, physical problems, increased emotional duress, and parental burnout. This burnout, when it comes to parenting, is extremely important. Some of the signs of parental burnout include the exhaustion that is related to one’s role as a parent, feeling ineffective in one’s role as a parent, filling some resistance associated with parenting responsibilities, feeling distanced from the children, and giving in when there is an understanding that it’s not the right thing to do. If this begins to happen, it’s a good idea to seek help. Start with right the primary healthcare physician, and consider a professional counselor to help you through what you’re experiencing.
Here is the main question of our interview: Can you share with our readers your “5 stress management strategies that parents can use to remove some of the stress of parenting?” Please share a story or example for each.
The first strategy is time and energy management. Too many of us are parenting on the run, and this never works. Take the example of the parent who works a typical 40-hour work week, has all of the financial burdens that we are experiencing today, is not sleeping well, is tired and a little more irritable than usual, and still has all the parenting chores that must be addressed. It’s a good idea to become a bit more efficient with your daily family planner. Try to prioritize what must be done, and spend a little less time doing those things which are not priorities. Remember, desires are not priorities, only needs are assigned that status.
The second strategy is personal self-care. It’s important to stay away from those accelerants and substance abuse practices. Getting enough sleep, eating properly, exercising, if possible, and reducing the pace of your life by excluding items that are not necessary, and carry with them the tendency to become overinvolved, and overextended. It’s difficult to feel good about your parenting practices when you are attempting to include several hours of social media time and computer games, television shows, and social time with friends, with all the usual day-to-day issues that come with parenting and running a home. Sometimes, self-care may even include a weekly session with the counselor. Parents who take care of themselves, usually are more efficient as they attempt to take care of their children.
Communicate often, and with undivided attention. You see, the rule is that you are going to spend time talking to your children. That might be trying to fix something that went wrong, disciplining them, and all the communication that now must be applied after something has going wrong, or you can include routine times for communication with your children in your daily schedule. Children thrive in situations where communication it’s open, and always available. Sometimes being a good parent has more to do with warm loving communication that occurs routinely than it does with the grandiose, short-term, quick fix, ways of doing things. Make time for communication in your home, do it often, and let your children know you’re interested in them. It may take time, but hey will return the favor. in the end, you avoid trying to fix situations which have occurred as the gap between you and your children widens, or you can be more proactive and stay in touch with them on a routine basis. communicating with your children is always a winning proposition.
Make a list of what you feel is important to provide as a parent. Make that list specific to your own children. All too often, parents don’t formulate a formal list of the things they need to do generally, and specific to each day. That list will include items like their nutrition, education, extracurricular activities, and should also include time for communication, and, if possible, family activities. In short, don’t parent on the fly. Have a plan for the way you are going to parent. Make a list for the day, and do your best to check off each item. I’ve dealt with many people in my private practice, and those parents that seem to have the most problems with the children, don’t seem to have daily plans to help guide them. It’s understandable that many parents will be single parents, and that difficult situations will exist in many families. On the other hand, that just makes a plan for the day that much more important. If you routinely cannot get to many of the items on your list, it may be a signal to you that you need some help. Don’t be afraid to get it.
Make parenting your first priority. I always advise parents to take a good look at the priorities in their lives, and those of their families. We all want to say that our children are our most important priority, but we have to be willing to commit the time and the energy to show them that they are. I found a huge correlation between parents who are willing to parent with children as their first priority, and those who have happy loving and productive homes. Items like earning a living and taking care of your home are absolutely essential. Making parenting your first priority doesn’t reduce the significance of other items in your life. It just says that with everything you do, your focus belongs on your children first. This helps you to stay on top of what’s going on, and you will spend much less time becoming frustrated, exhausted, and burnt out. Once again, you are going to put the time in. Decide whether you want to be proactive and address your children as your priority, or you want to be reactive and fix the problems that arise when you are not. Considering the way the world has changed, parenting is more important today than it ever was. Successful parents are going to understand this, and do their best to be on top of things. Oh, and by the way, you will need to expend far less energy by being proactive then you will be as a reactive, troubleshooting, kid-fixer.
Do you have any favorite books, podcasts, or resources that have inspired you to live with more joy in life?
Stephen R. Covey, Eckhart Tolle, and Wayne Dyer are all good sources of self-empowerment. People also may want to consider resources that teach practices like meditation, and anything that keeps you close to the spiritual part of who you are. I do offer one hint to everyone. Make sure that whoever you decide to follow includes steps that are actionable to you along with the information they are purporting to supply you with. It’s always nice to acquire new information, and there’s a wealth of it from a variety of different venues. The key to all of it, however, is that you can use it. So, regardless of where your information comes from, make sure that you know exactly how you’re supposed to apply it. That’s what helps you change your world.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’m glad you asked that. Something I’ve talked about for many years is a practice I call “One Person At A Time”. It’s something I have practiced in my life for decades, and it simply means to express love and joy to everyone you meet, one person at a time. Personally, I don’t think any other approach can work. Regardless of how we live life, most of us have the ability to touch one person, and make that time special for that person and yourself. Since it’s only one at a time, it seems small, but the beauty of the program is best seen when everyone is willing to do it. Little movements practiced consistently, always yield big results.
What is the best way for our readers to continue to follow your work online?
Readers can find me, and all the information about The Fix Yourself Power Zone on my personal website at: https://www.faustruggiero.com/
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.
I thank you, also. As always, it’s been a wonderful opportunity to spend time with you. God bless!