De-Stress
With SWEEP

Did you know that as a parent your stress directly impacts your child's stress level - even if you think you are expertly hiding your angst? With the economy and the usual daily stressors, anxiety for individuals as well as families is on the rise. Follow these tips to reduce stress for yourself and family.

The stress and pressures of life create mental despair, marital strain, and an increase in substance and physical abuse. If you and your family are feeling the toll of overwhelming stress, read on to learn how to SWEEP your stress away.

Family eating dinner.

Statistically stress is at an all time high

Stress seems to be an embedded part of life – everyone feels it, complains about it and searches to reduce it. And with the stock market plunging, the threat of foreclosures, unemployment and other life-impacting hardships, stress seems to be even more profound.

But an uncertain economy isn't anything new – the US has suffered from previous hard times – so why is stress so seemingly pervasive?

Dr Charles Sophy, medical director for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) and celebrity psychiatrist in VH-1's Celebrity Rehab 2 with Dr Drew, says there are several reasons that it seems a growing number of people are suffering from anxiety and stress.

"Education is one reason. People today are simply more aware of [stress] so it 'seems' that more and more people are suffering from it. The truth is, though, it is [education] that leads people to identify, for example, stress and anxiety in themselves, whereas before perhaps, these feeling or actions would go unidentified," Dr Sophy explains.

People are also struggling with stress due to the state of the world we live in. "Things changed tremendously after 9-11. The world was stirred up, and people felt less safe in this country for good reason," says Dr Sophy. "This triggered waves of anxiety and depression for millions of people, some who were already predisposed to these conditions and some who never had much stress or anxiety before."

Anxiety and stress are also created when parents are feeling the pressures of life while doing their best to raise their children. "The world today moves extremely fast, and particularly for parents, stability – once kids are around – is quite difficult to maintain, says Dr Sophy, who is board certified in adult psychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, and family practice.

De-stress with SWEEP

Because parental stress directly impacts the stress levels and well-being of the whole family, particularly the children, finding ways to manage stress is an essential part of maintaining family health and harmony.

Woman sleeplessAccording to Dr Sophy, the worst-case scenario of not keeping stress and anxiety in check is suicide, but there are many other effects of stress that can be quite debilitating. He says, "Scenarios that are more common include sleeplessness, appetite changes, and losing the ability to find pleasure, both mentally and physically, for example."

To help individuals and families effectively reduce stress and find physical and emotional balance, Dr Sophy created a technique he calls SWEEP, which involves being aware of five key areas in life and keeping them in check.

"These five areas in my SWEEP technique are: Sleep, Work, Eating, Emotional expression of self and Play. By referring to these areas as SWEEP, my patients have a way to easily remember what to check on regularly," Dr Sophy explains.

To put SWEEP into practice, start by asking yourself the following questions:

Sleep – Are you getting enough quantity and quality of sleep? When you wake up do you feel good?

Work – Are you fulfilled enough at work, even if staying home is your work, to be happy at the end of the day?

Eating – Are you using food to stay healthy and energetic? Is mealtime a time for relaxation and communication?

Emotional expression of self – Do you let the important people in your life know how you are feeling? Do you allow yourself physical and emotional intimacy?

Play – Are you letting yourself enjoy life? Do you have a way to let go of worry and direct your energy to a positive place?

Though merely asking the questions won't miraculously eradicate your stress, but asking does put you in touch with areas in your life that need attention, giving you an entry point to make positive changes. Dr Sophy says, "If checked regularly and strengthened when deficits are found, SWEEP will help to keep stress and anxiety at a minimum."

Most important, using SWEEP to help with your stress management can also reduce the stress of the rest of your family. Dr Sophy adds, "Children understand and sense a lot more than we realize. Our emotions trickle down and before long we start to see in them what they see in us. The SWEEP technique is the best way to be equipped to be a loving and healthy role model."

SWEEP is also an easy to learn stress management technique that children can use. Teaching them how to effectively deal with – and reduce – stress as well as take care of themselves arms them with the ability to handle stress when they become adults.

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