Take some time to play!
I have discovered the Fountain of Youth and it lives in my apartment. It goes by the name of Scott and strongly resembles a 6-year-old boy. My downstairs neighbors will tell you that instead of a soothing tinkle, this fountain sounds like stampeding herd of elephants. But he does help me feel young by providing me with a powerful drug.
Don’t worry—the drug’s all-natural. Dopamine, straight from my own brain. I get it because Scott gets me to be more playful than I would normally be and persuades me to try new things. Both of these activities stimulate your brain to produce more of the neurotransmitter dopamine, which makes you feel happy. And—for me at least—happy feels younger. Play also stimulates the development of new neurons, so even if my body looks its age, Scott helps my brain stay young. (Check out this article by my friend Margaret on all the benefits of play.)
Case in point: At the beach this past summer, Scott started doing forward rolls in the surf. “Try it!” he urged, his scalp full of sand. “It’s really fun!” I did not think it would be fun in the slightest. But, what the heck, I did it just to humor him. You know what? It was, as Scott would say, really, REALLY fun, sort of a cross between body-surfing and riding a rollercoaster. The sand washed out of my hair eventually. (If you called it an organic exfoliating scalp treatment with Atlantic sea salt, it would probably sell.)
A more recent example: I came home tense with stress last night, and Scott asked me to play air hockey. “I have to fix dinner,” I told him. “Pleeeeeeeeeease?” he begged. So I played a few games. We did one with a hex bug skittering all over our mini air-hockey table as interference (“Level 2 air hockey,” Scott called it.) By the end of 3 games, I didn’t need that glass of wine so badly and I started dinner in a much better mood.
The responsibility and logistics can feel overwhelming. But the fact that we have kids also gives us a secret, scientifically proven weapon to fight all that single parent stress. Don’t forget to play with them!
What’s your destress secret?
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