There’s a lot of talk about percentages these days. We’re often told people are “giving it 100%” whether it be at work, sport, or family life. Sometimes, it’s even higher: 110%, 200%, 1000%… there’s no limit to our level of commitment, regardless of whether it’s actually possible to give more than everything we’ve got.

The thing is, giving 100% is usually a fallacy, or worse, it’s the path to burnout and failure.

In our daily lives we have so many duties, and modern dads have more than any other men before us. We’re family men, successful colleagues and leaders, fit and competitive sportsmen, and social eagles. The motto is “work hard, play hard”, and men today have to do it all. If we’re always operating full-on, with nothing more to give, then we’re leaving ourselves very little space to recover.

There’s an expectation from society that men should have it all and do it all.

This constant pressure to always be “on” and “at the top of our game” has consequences. It’s believed that, at any one time, around 1 in 8 men are diagnosed with a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression. This could be anxiety born out from all the stresses heaped upon men, or depression that men feel they have nowhere to turn. But if you think about it for a moment, very few of us ever talk about those deep-seated feelings, so how many more men in our society are suffering mental anguish in silence?

New fathers feel more pressure than most and male post-natal depression is a real thing.

In today’s society, modern millennial dads are expected, and expect to take a full role in raising their children. This is great for dads, families, and society in general as I’ve posted about in other areas. But with this new empowered family dynamic comes an additional pressure that men need to measure up as dads, as well as colleagues in the work place. A recent survey by the National Childbirth Trust found that over a third of new dads were concerned about their mental health.  So what can we do about it?

A first step towards easing stress for dads is to take away the pressure.

It’s all too easy to get caught up in the excitement of everyday life, taking on more and more responsibility, and trying to do it all. Why? Because it’s expected from society. Look at this advert for a well-known razor blade (with amazing 80s soundtrack and video!) showing us that we can do it all, if only we buy their brand of hair removal.

You’re looking sharp, you’re looking good, you’ve come so far,
And we know how to make the most of who you are,
Father to son, it’s what we’ve always done,
Gillette, the best a man can get,
On so many faces it’s plain to see,
We give you all we have to give for all a man can be,
Where the race is run, you’re the champion,
Gillette, the best a man can get.

It’s time to stop believing that we have to be the champion all the time. Sometimes it’s ok to give less than 100%. For most runners, a marathon is about finishing and doing the best we can do for ourselves. It’s not about beating everyone else. Fatherhood should be like this, too. It’s not a constant sprint.

No man being honest with himself or with those around him can reasonably expect to operate at 100% all the time.

Bosses need to understand their employees will work hard, and will give it their all when necessary, but they can’t expect 100% all of the time. 80% is good enough. Partners and children should understand that dads are doing a good job but they can’t always be switched on and fully engaged with everything. Sometimes it’s ok to give 80% and watch something mindless on TV.

Men need to believe that whatever the pressures of society, they don’t have to conform to everything. They don’t have to say “yes” to every request. And if they give 80% to the world, then they can keep 20% for themselves.

There’s a quote from the first Bourne film when Matt Damon’s character is sat in a café and explains “at this altitude I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start to shake”. Elsewhere in the film, Jason Bourne switches in an instant from unassuming passer-by to deadly assassin. He knows when he needs to give it his all, when to dial it up to 100. Modern dads need to operate steadily most of the time, knowing when to step up and do what it takes when needed.

This is one of the best ways to look after ourselves and be the best dads we can be.

Sometimes it feels like there is so much going on in the world and we cannot do anything to keep up. Sometimes things seem to overwhelm us and there is no opportunity to do those things we most enjoy, most of all being with our children. We’ve all been there. The dreaded week from hell.

The reality is that it’s unlikely we face severe stresses all of the time, but we do at least experience these things some of the time.

It’s not healthy if you’re in a constant state of stress; you will get completely run down and eventually won’t be able to function. But every now and then the majority of us feel like we’re having a week from hell, or everything’s coming at once. It’s particularly difficult as a parent, especially millennials, as we can’t just take time out like in our pre-children days.

When times are tough but you’ve just got to keep going on, perhaps these six small tips will help.

Draw a line and say no to everything else

The first thing to do is draw a line in the sand. Just stop. However important new tasks or requests may seem, say no to them. If you’ve recognised that things are tough there’s no point for you (or others) to take on even more at this stage. Once you stop you can take stock.

Write absolutely everything down.

The best budgeting advice tells us to have a clear idea of our outgoing expenses. This should be the same in our personal lives. When it comes to commitments, we should write down everything we have done over the past two weeks. Find out how you got to this position. What exactly has been sapping your emotional and physical energy? It is only then that we build a true picture of what we need to do.

Capture every to-do.

There may seem like a tonne of things to do and it’s all overwhelming. Having lots of stuff to get done is one thing, and there may not be much we can do about it, but we can try to help our brains to cope by making it as easy as possible to sort information. Therefore, write everything that needs to be done on a piece of paper, or your computer, or your phone. You will only get a true sense of the tasks ahead of you if you can see them plainly. Trying to hold all this information in our minds just sets us up for failure. The stress of trying to hold on to all that information can overwhelm us more than the tasks themselves. Every task, no matter how big or small, should be scheduled to allow an opportunity for its completion.

Schedule everything on a calendar.

When it comes to actioning all your tasks there’s no better place than to schedule them on your calendar. We’re used to scheduling events, so why not actions? They’re events in themselves anyway. If an action is on the calendar then it will get done. For example, if you need to pick up dry cleaning, why just have that on a to-do list when it can go on the calendar for a specific time. You then have the powerful influence of a deadline to motivate you to complete that action. The human mind will always respond to a deadline!

Delegate willingly.

Don’t think you can do it all by yourself. It may seem like you’re the only person who can do something, but there are family and friends who may be better suited to the task. Think like a CEO and try to appoint people to specific roles. E.g. can your dad/father-in-law take on a DIY job to help relieve the pressure on you? Once you’ve successfully delegated some of your time-hungry tasks to the right people, then get out of their way and let them own the task. Doing this will take the pressure off you and help you realise there are people in your life who are able and willing to help.

Switch off/carve out moments of quiet.

Sometimes the shit hits the fan and everything comes at once. We may feel overwhelmed by what’s in front of us and things may seem like they will never get done. A constant state of heightened stress isn’t good for us and eventually our bodies will stop functioning, the fight or flight instinct will kick in and our minds will focus on protecting us. A little bit of stress every now and then is a good motivator. But it’s important to listen to our bodies. Amid all of the mayhem, make sure you schedule some quiet time for yourself. Be that reading a book, watching a movie, going for a run, or just a walk. Don’t feel guilty about taking some time out. And when you do it, know that there are others around who are keeping things going. A President or Prime Minister cannot be always on the go; they take regular holidays to recharge and so should you!

Stress and anxiety is part of life. We all experience it and it’s completely natural. Little techniques like the above can help us to manage these things.

They are increasingly important in a world where we are always “on” and the demands of modern millennial parenting keep getting bigger.