7 Essential Coping Skills For Single Parents To Lean On When Life Feels Overwhelming

Keep this list handy for those times when it all feels like too much.

List Of Healthy Coping Mechanisms, Skills & Strategies For Single Parents Feeling Overwhelmed Photo: A L L E F . V I N I C I U S Δ

No one said life would always be fun, and when you are a single parent, feeling overwhelmed comes with the territory.

There's no guarantee you'll have someone to lean on when times are tough, in those times when your child is acting out and trying to be independent, or perhaps ‘more independent’ than you’d like.

Your child may be dealing with their own overwhelming struggles in school or with friends while you’re busy trying to balance parenting, work and (heaven forbid) time for yourself.


So while it's critical for everyone to have a go-to list of healthy coping mechanisms, skills and strategies for dealing with stress and overwhelm in life, for single moms and dads, it's all the more vital.

RELATED: 10 Essential Coping Skills To Lean On When Life Feels Overwhelming


That feeling of never having enough hours in your day, hands to support and help you, or kind ears and soft shoulders that understand what you’re going through is one that's familiar to me.

I’ve raised two children as a single parent myself. I know it’s not fun.

In order to be proactive in supporting yourself through the toughest of times, here's a list of 7 healthy coping mechanisms, skills and strategies you can turn to when you feel overwhelmed.

1. Slow down and breathe

What I noticed is that the more overwhelmed and stressed you are the less likely you are to be breathing. And yes, I’m talking about those slow deep breaths that you can feel down in your belly.


You might find that you don’t even think it’s possible when you’re feeling overwhelmed to slow down enough to even focus on your breathing and yet it’s a great thing to do. By slowing down and breathing fully you will find that your body will relax, just a little and your mind will become clearer. Isn’t that just what you need?

Slowing down is something that we forget to do when we feel life is as fast paced as it is. But slowing down involves the simple act of taking a little more time, with everything that we do.

When we think everything needs to be done now, we get ourselves so wound up that it’s no wonder life becomes overwhelming. Our mind is so far into the future, trying to figure everything out, that we forget about now, about this moment, that we’re actually spending time in; if we will only allow ourselves.

So slow down. Posting a sign somewhere prominent you can look to as a reminder is a valuable thing to do.


2. Remember, there’s always tomorrow

Tomorrow will come, and tomorrow you can do the things that you think you need to have accomplished today. You are a one man or woman show. You can’t possibly do all the things that need to be done on your own. It’s not physically possible, even if you think it is.

So take some time to slow down and write yourself a to-do list. Then prioritize those things that you really need to do today and put the other things on a list for tomorrow.

And tomorrow, if you don’t get to that thing, then consider if you really need to do it or not. When you use this method there are things that you are stressing about that you realize either don’t need to be done, at all, or can wait till the weekend when the kids are able to help.

Maybe delegating is possible too. Give some thought to delegating some of the things on your list to someone else when possible.


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3. Do only the "next right thing"

Another trick to support yourself in not spend all your time in overwhelm is focusing on only the ‘next right thing’ for you to do. This is an Oprah phrase, and it’s a great one to live by.

What it does is helps you focus on the next moment, ten minutes, half an hour, hour. You don’t find yourself way off into next week and wondering how you will get everything done.

If the next right thing is to make yourself a cup of coffee, then do it. And if it’s loading the washing machine, then just focus on that. By doing this, you notice that your mind calms down and you become more productive because you are only focusing on one thing at a time.


4. Take some time for yourself

I know, I know. You are going to say you can’t do that because you have so much to do. But you will be more productive, focused and better able to do what you need to do if you learn how to you take time for yourself.

For starters, you won't be resentful that your kids are the only thing you have in this world. You’ll feel like a whole person and not only "Mom" or "Dad" for once. That’s something worth remembering. You are a person with needs and wants you deserve to have fulfilled, just as much as your kids.

So, take time out for a cup of coffee or tea. And take your time having it. Don’t be doing other things while it goes cold on the table next to you.


Or go for a walk in the park. Nature is a great place to calm you down. The walking is great gentle and easy exercise. You don’t need to change into any special gear or travel to the gym.

Take your cell phone and go. Walk. You’ll be glad you did.

I’m guessing you've probably given up a lot of the things you loved doing since becoming a single parent. That might be yoga, bike riding, or maybe even going to the gym.

What would it take to do yoga at home, even just one evening a week? How could you fit a bike ride somewhere in your busy schedule? Can you set up your own personal gym at home by buying some weights and other exercise equipment?


There are ways for you to do some things for you. Giving yourself permission is where it starts.

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5. Give yourself a pat on the back for all that you do

Your kids probably don’t say they appreciate what you do. And most likely, not many others do either. They just watch you and secretly wonder how it's possible to be the superhero doing all you do.

If you aren’t getting praise for all that you’re doing on your own from anyone else, learn to high five yourself. Stop and take a look at how much you do accomplishing in your week. Notice how many hours a day you focus on giving your kids a great life, and be proud of that.


Tell yourself that you are doing the best you can with the time and energy that you have. Give yourself a break and ease up on thinking it’s not enough. Believe me, it is.

6. Ask someone for a hug

When you’re on your own with no other adult there to support you, you’ll be missing the hugs people in relationships (hopefully) get to receive on a regular basis.

Find someone or some people who are willing to be your huggers. Talk to them about your need for hugs and ask them to be there for you — in silence, and when you need it.

Hugging can calm down a busy mind and body. It feels great and helps you connect back to your body rather than living in your busy mind constantly.


Find someone to hug, and hug them regularly.

RELATED: 9 Easy Ways To Be A More Positive & Effective Single Parent

7. Find someone who will listen without offering advice

This isn't always an easy thing to do because a lot of your friends and family will want to give you advice.


That's great — and it’s not what you want.

You are managing fine on your own. Or if you’re not, then sure, go and seek advice from someone you trust.

But sometimes you need a safe space where you feel able to talk — about what’s happening, how you feel overwhelmed, what’s not working and what you are trying. Anything and everything that you would want to talk about, you can, with the proviso that there is no advice given.

Find your talking buddy and share with each other. You’ll both feel better when you do.

This list of healthy coping skills is great for making it through those times you feel overwhelmed.

You’re doing a great job as a single parent. Know that what you’re doing is awesome. And believe in yourself.


You’re kids will turn out great. Take care of you.

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Karen Cherrett is a relationship coach who supports her clients in strengthening all relationships, even with themselves. Visit her website for information on her seven session intro package.