Stress!! What a small word with such BIG impacts on our lives. The funny thing about stress is how individualized it is and yet universally how some simple (remember that simple might not always be easy), tips can help to reduce it. For my family, stress has been just a part of our lives—like most everyone else. Yes, we work with special needs, and a variety of stresses like money management, caring for a house hold of 10 and learning a whole new language, but we have found that in order to make it through everything, we need to start small. Here are 7 ways that can help lighten your load. Honestly, I can NEVER do all 7 at one time, so what I do is focus on one….and if that is all I can do and feel better than I have had success. Come on people, be kind to yourself and just…let go!
- Be Good to Yourself
- Have Realistic Expectations
- Talk to Others
- Use Relaxation Techniques (PRAYER for me)
- Find Respite Help
- Do Whatever Works for You (Ahem…Healthy things)
- Try Counseling
- BE GOOD to Yourself
Smile in the mirror. That is beautiful you smiling back. You are an amazing creation. You have many people that can list many, many things that you have touched their lives with. Here is the secret, BELIEVE them! Give yourself permission to enjoy the things said, to enjoy life, feel good about yourself, and find fulfillment in yourself and in what you do: in your family, work, and or friends. Here are some ideas to cultivate self appreciation:
- Spend time with other family members
- Take a few minutes each day for yourself
- “Pat yourself on the back” for things done well
- Take a day off from your regular routine
- Have realistic Expectations
Be sure that you have an understanding of what kids of behaviors are common for yourself, for your family, and so forth. Take into consideration the age of people you are with and their special needs. If your expectations are too high you will become frustrated when others can’t reach these. Have a discussion with others about expectations and what is important, what is right and what can be set as goal to achieve. Accept and value the differences and enjoy them for who they are. Develop realistic expectations of yourself and do NOT expect to be a supermom, super husband, super-dad, or a super-wife. Remember that we are who we are and we just need to do a little better than we did yesterday. And finally, do not compare yourself to ANYONE else. You do not know their background, their struggles, or any of their baggage. It just isn’t fair to do to yourself.
- Talk to Others
Seek support from your husband, wife, relatives, friends, or neighbors on a regular basis. Having someone lend an understanding ear as you express yourself really helps. Be CLEAR on what you would like for them to do. For example, I love to talk to my mom, however, she is a “fixer” and a “worrier”. So prior to the conversation I tell her, “please just let me vent…do not offer suggestion, or solutions. Just listen. Through my venting I will hear myself talk and I might come up with what I need. But, please just let me get it out first.”
- Use Relaxation Techniques
There are many relaxation methods that can help calm you when you are feeling stressed: counting to 10, deep breathing, sleep, and laughter. Remember that even though that sounds simple—so simple in fact that it can’t possibly work, we have science on our side to back it up. Counting to 10 allows you a few more seconds to make a better choice, regain control and just to pause. Deep breathing gives your brain a rush of oxygen—everyone needs that. Sleep allows the body to repair itself. Humor and laugher adds more positive thoughts to your brain as well. For me, I add prayer and meditation to this formula. For me it is critical, again, it is simple, but critical.
- Find Respite Help
Take regular breaks from the constant demands of caring for everyone who has special needs will give you time and energy to pursue some things that you enjoy. It is good for you and your kids/loved ones to take a break from each other. Our respite has been through family members. There are agencies that provide respite care as well. I must warn you that sometimes there might be long periods of waiting for some help. (We are on the list—it’s been nearly 7 years). I decided to reach out to my family and friends and I am able to get the amount that I need to make it work.
- Do Whatever Works for You
It is important for parents to explore any source that will help them through the stressful times of caring for those with special needs. Some parents turn to their religious faith for strength and support. Others use calming techniques and support groups to keep going. Just remember to look and try different ways (Healthy ways—walks, shopping, quiet time, alone time, eating well, going to the movies, doing a hobby) until you find what works for you to reduce your stress.
- Try Counseling
Sometimes no matter what you try, you still feel like your level of stress is high. You may want to seek professional help through a counselor who can help you work through your feelings. Please know that this is fine to do. That is what they are there for. A physician, social worker, mental health worker, or a religious organization can help you find a counselor. Look until you find on e that can really help you.