Parents of children with developmental disabilities work incredibly hard to make sure that their family is happy, healthy and thriving.
On any given day, he or she is most likely running around town to get children to school, extracurricular activities and making sure they are well-fed and cared for. Being a parent is stressful, hectic and chaotic, but at the end of the day it is the most rewarding job anyone can have.
Parents of children with developmental disabilities may be more susceptible to stress due to the nature of their daily routine. Often, children with developmental disabilities can be unpredictable when it comes to their behavior. They may be triggered by a different routine during the day or they may act out due to being overly tired or stressed. A parent, being protective and loyal, will do anything in their power to make their child feel better. Although they are heroes for helping their children work through their problems and troubles, they may start to feel the effect of stress and anxiety weigh on them. Taking the time to relax and unwind can help hardworking parents feel rested, rejuvenated and ready to take on the next day!
What is Stress and What Effects Does It Have on Your Health?
Stress is defined as tension that one may feel emotionally, physically or mentally. Stress can present itself as physical exhaustion or overstimulation, such as oversleeping or feeling run down. Physical reactions to stress can cause a parent to feel as though they are stretched too thin and do not have enough energy to complete all the tasks in their day. Stress can cause a parent to feel exhausted, overwhelmed and overworked. Overtime, excessive stress can take a toll on one’s body, causing high blood pressure and long-term heart problems, such as an increased heart rate.
Stress can also present itself as emotional or mental turmoil. Someone that feels stressed or overworked may start to present signs or symptoms of anxiety, restlessness, depression or sadness. Stress can cause long-term emotional and mental decline, such as developing chronic anxiety or falling into long-term depression. Stress can take a toll emotionally and mentally on an individual if he or she does not address internal traumatic events and take time to perform self-care.
How Can You Mitigate Stress as Parent?
As a parent, times of peace and quiet may be few and far between. Gone are the days of coming home after a day of work to an empty house where you have the freedom to choose what you do for the remainder of your evening. Your evenings are probably spent cooking dinner for your children, getting them ready for bed and performing your routine household chores. That in and of itself is exhausting, but when you factor in the amount of work that you had to endure during the day, it is no wonder you may feel exhausted.
As a parent with a child with developmental disabilities, you have learned that patience is a virtue and that your child’s happiness and health come first. But are you taking the time to be patient and kind to yourself? Is your happiness and health on your mind? Practicing self-care can help reduce stress and the effects that stress has on your body. Finding your stress-relief activity will be personal, as it will have to be something that you enjoy and will bring you happiness while you practice it.
Physical activity, such as going for runs or participating in group fitness classes, is a wonderful way of combating stress and the toll it takes on your body. When you participate in physical activity, your body will start o produce endorphins, causing your mood and tension levels to improve. When your endorphins kick in, you will start to feel happier and lighter, as if a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. During times of high stress situations, such as sending your child with developmental disabilities back to school, you may choose to fit in a quick 30-minute workout at the end of the day to help reduce stress and anxiety. Before engaging in any sort of physical activity, please consult your doctor.
Physical fitness that can reduce chronic stress includes but is not limited to:
- Breathing Exercises
Another way to reduce stress and mitigate future feelings of stress is by meditation. When paired with aromatherapy, meditation can significantly calm nerves and reduce any feelings of anxiety and stress. Taking time out of a busy day or a hectic schedule to dedicate to meditate in a comfortable place in your home can become your “happy place” and a place where you can come to feel relief. Meditation does not have to be complicated and calculated, in fact it can be whatever you need it to be in that moment. The beauty of meditation is that it is a time to be still and quiet, tapping into your inner most peace. Giving yourself the chance to sort through your thoughts and get a breath of fresh air and clarification can lend itself well to stress. Below are a few tips on how to meditate to managed stress:
- Focus your attention on freeing your mind from distractions and worry. By focusing on clearing your mind, you can bring yourself to a state of peace and quiet. This will take practice, time and concentration.
- Breathe deeply and breathe with intention. Focusing on your breathing can help you feel relief where you once felt stress and anxiety. Try to count to 5 while taking a deep breath and exhaling to the count of 5 again. This will allow you to focus on breathing slow, breathing deep and breathing with intention.
- Find a quiet and comfortable place where you will have no distractions. This will depend on personal preferences, as some people may find different environments more relaxing then others. It is recommended to find a comfortable place to sit, a place that allows you to burn scented candles or have oils being diffused and a place that will be quiet enough for you to meditate.
We encourage all stressed parents to go to a guided meditation class, where a meditation guru can teach you how to meditate to reduce depression and anxiety. By learning from a professional, you can pick up techniques and tips that will help you, as meditation is a personal journey that is different for everyone.
Small Lifestyle Changes to Mitigate Stress
Small lifestyle changes can help parents mitigate and reduce stress. These small changes include, but are not limited to:
- Drinking soothing teas or drinks can cause you to feel good and comfortable in a time of chaos. These drinks can include hot cocoa or green tea.
- Finding time to just sit in silence. You do not have to meditate or do anything if you do not want to but sitting in silence can allow you to decompress.
- Get a massage when your budget and schedule allow it. Asking a family member, spouse or friend to watch your child with developmental disabilities can be uncomfortable, but it will be for your own good. Take an hour or two to unwind and relax with a professional masseuse or an esthetician.
- Eat foods that make you feel good! Fueling your body with proper nutrition and foods that not only taste good but make you feel good can help mitigate and prevent feelings of stress and anxiety.
Although being a parent to a child with developmental disabilities is tough and stressful at times, it is important to remember that you are their hero. All of the hard work, dedication and commitment you have towards your child and your family does not go unnoticed. Taking time for yourself to decompress, unwind and relax will allow you to come back to your parental duties refreshed and rejuvenated! We encourage you to take the time to practice self-care and to decrease the stress in your life.