Being a dad in many ways is a lot like dominating a video game. It takes skill, persistence and problem-solving to survive and eventually conquer.
Much like that favorite role-playing game (RPG) or first-person shooter (FPS) we occasionally face that stressful Boss-Level challenge that can smack us harder than a pimp-hand to the face.
Usually those obstacles come in the form of a foreseeable hiccup: crazy diapers, temper tantrums, school issues, day-to-day disagreements with wifey.
But sometimes these real life expert-mode challenges comes in the form of a seemingly invisible, yet formidable enemy – like stress, depression and new father anxiety for the noobs in the group.
It’s a major issue that haunts all parents (fathers and mothers alike, along with the novices and expert-level parents) and can deal major damage.
Especially for the first-time dad still trying to get a handle on this new normal.
According to numbers released by the American Psychological Association:
- Over 30 percent of men have experienced some form of depression in their lifetime.
- Almost 10 percent battle with these thoughts on a daily basis.
While our virtual counterparts in the gaming world allow for a brief escape from some of these issues, the real life fatherhood issues of stress, depression, and anxiety stuff is not a game.
It’s a serious situation that we all must face head on if we plan to defeat this boss-level challenge.
- We can’t just hit the reset button and make it all magically go away.
- We can’t just reload our last saved game and act as though these issues never happened.
- We can’t just put the controller down and walk away from life until we’re ready to pick it back up again.
At one moment, we were living the good life. It was okay to sleep in to noon on weekends before bumbling around to figure out lunch, dinner and pre-game drinking. Maybe a round of Madden was tossed in there somewhere.
Now it’s suddenly a daily grind of Groundhog Day with 6:00 a.m. wakeup calls, constant vigilance over this little person, and non-stop responsibility.
Just when the rigors of the office drama and emails and meetings come to a close, the opportunity to unwind by blasting aliens and slashing goblins on your PS4 becomes less of a reality.
Instead it’s heading home to handle the X, Y oz Z of fatherhood.
One kid is enough to flip our world around on its head and totally fuck up our entire concept of time. For every child tossed on top of that, it can wreak all kinds of mental havoc on our situation.
Let’s not even get started with the concept of multiples (that’s twins, triplets, etc. for the peeps scoring at home).
Here are 6 strategies for Overcoming New Father Anxiety:
In the gaming world, only when you find the right combination of the Skills, Persistence and Problem-solving will you be able to finally defeat that video game and YouTube it for the masses to celebrate in your victory.
For us dads, there are no prizes here and no actual victory. We just get to fight on for another day in the battle of attrition that is fatherhood.
Find social support
Men need to suck it up and realize that you aren’t the first to feel this way, nor the last.
It’s not manly to ignore major stress and anxiety, it’s actually more manly to realize the problem and face it head on.
Bond with fellow fathers by joining a dad’s group on Facebook, like the one offered by our friends at the DadNetworkUK. Or hit up social meet-up style groups like CityDadsGroup.com or National At-Home Dad Network to meet in-person.
It doesn’t even have to be a commiserating session of dads crying on each other’s shoulders.
Simple interactive with other dudes going through similar issues can be enough to improve conditions.
Take time for yourself
The involved father can easily fall trap to the concept that we must be present 24/7/365 in order to be a stand up dad. This is a fallacy and a dangerous precedent to the set. It quickly leads to burnout.
Instead, take some time to reset. Video games have the pause button. Life doesn’t. But getting 30 minutes to an hour alone each week can work in the same fashion.
This is especially true for the stay-at-home dads that are constantly surrounded by kids all day long.
It’s the closest thing we have to that magic Reset button from our Nintendo days.
Get more involved
This seems a bit counterintuitive, but for the first-time fathers, it can be tough to make a connection to the new member of the family, leading to host of stress and anxiety while trying to determine how to be a more active member.
So much of the early days of responsibility fall on mommy for those that opt breast-feed. It can feel like daddy is just a spectator in the game while mommy conquers dragons and levels up.
Adding more responsibility to the adventure can sometimes work wonders in improving the self-worth of the new dad.
Find any and every other way to get involved. Maybe mommy is pumping milk, that allows for an opportunity for dad to feed the baby from the bottle.
When not doing that, step up to the plate for the diaper changes, cooking and anything else you could possibility do to help lighten the load for everyone.
Never forget that the father’s role in parenting is just as important as the mother’s.
It can be easy to think otherwise based off of what we see in media, sitcoms and commercials. Don’t let that stereotyping bullshit encourage gender biases and discourage your involvement.
Clear your mind
Getting time alone isn’t quite enough. I encourage all dads to step away from the technology and sit down to journal about their wins, loses, stresses, depression, anxiety and just day-to-day adventures.
Meditation. Journal. Yoga. It works wonders to reduce the negative effects of anxiety and stress.
Work your muscles
When you’ve got a tough upcoming battle to wage with your Mage, Stealth or Warrior, it’s important to step back and level up with some easier battles to bulk up before the big boss.
In life, we hit the gym to gain experience points. Get those endorphins pumping for at least 2-3 hours per week. This can be a combination of a cardiovascular, strength training, walking and flexibility/recovery work.
Unlike your favorite RPG, it’s not really possible to overlevel in real life.
Work your relationship
Chances are that if you are feeling some anxiety as a result of an inundation of bottles, diapers and colicky babies and toddler rants, there is a strong chance that your significant other is battling the same boss.
Much like in the gaming world, your partner is equipped with special and complementary skills that, when focused in unison with your own skills and experience, can finally get a handle on that seemingly impossible level or boss (baby/kid).
Find some ways to rekindle that relationship and get back to the business of loving each other unconditionally and communicating like a team.
The only way to successfully achieve Paladin-Dad status is to understand that teamwork may be the only way to navigate the toughest of levels and challenges.
It’s easy to be light-hearted and funny about some serious shit regarding the stress and anxiety of fatherhood.
But this is not a game. It’s not a joke. And if you don’t get a handle on this, it can lead to some real issues in relationships with family. It can lead to burnout.
And if real serious issues are not handled over time, it can potentially even mean Game Over.
Do whatever you can to hit the Pause Button, calm yourself and realize that anxiety is all part of the game, we’ve all been there before and you too can defeat this boss level fight with the right strategy.
Images courtesy of Unsplash