12 Effective Ways to Handle Stress When Parenting Gets Tough
Autism is hard on everyone: those living with the condition, their friends, and their family — especially parents. Having a child on the spectrum, while rewarding in so many ways, poses its own unique challenges to parents and can be particularly trying. Fortunately, when things get bad, there are things you can do to help manage your level of stress. Here are a few stress-handling tips to try in those moments when you need a little extra support.
12. Practice Breathing Exercises
Before your patience runs out, take a breath. Practice deep (or abdominal) breathing. As you breathe in deeply and slowly through the nose, make sure your abdomen rises further than your chest. Hold the breath for seven seconds, then exhale through the mouth. Do this several times before returning to what you were doing.
11. Engage in Meditation
Take a quiet moment for yourself every day, and meditate. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, and concentrate on your breathing. It might help to remember a favorite place or make up a retreat just for your mind. This daily meditation can help keep you centered throughout your day, which can prove valuable for those more difficult days.
10. Practice Progressive Muscle Relaxation
Relax your body and your mind using progressive muscle relaxation. This is a process where you flex and relax every muscle in your body one by one. Your body will thank you, especially after being bent over, kneeling down, and strung out from a long day picking up children and toys.
Stress is both emotional and biological, so handling it requires both mental exercise as well as physical exercise. There are various ways you can get moving — whether it’s dancing, doing yoga, running, or walking. Exercise raises your dopamine levels, and this in turn lightens your mood and reduces anxiety.
8. Practice Cognitive Reappraisal
Cognitive reappraisal is basically looking at a situation from a new angle or perspective, like finding the positive effects of your trials and tribulations. You’re taking a hard situation and looking at it from a point of view of how it has helped you or led to something good. For example, you can look at how dealing with the sensitivities of a child with autism has strengthened your patience and empathy, as well as broadened your overall perspective on life. More often than not, the good is there somewhere; see if you can find it.
7. Approach Life with Humor
Finding humor in those tougher situations can help lighten your mood and your day. Research has shown that laughter actually eases stress. It increases endorphins, loosens tension, and calms down your body’s stress triggers. Allow yourself a smile.
6. Don’t Suppress Your Emotions
You’re going to have ups and downs, and that’s OK. Acknowledging your emotions and allowing them to run their course, whether it’s after an overwhelmingly difficult or joyous experience, is healthy and can help relieve tension. If your child with autism had a bad night, which kept you up and left you emotionally worn, allow yourself an opportunity to let it out at some point and express your feelings.
5. Avoid Negative News
While you can’t avoid all negative news, limit how much you’re exposed to, especially in regards to autism. Negative emotional content just brings you down, making you more sensitive to other negativity. You can’t control the news — prioritize the things that you can.
4. Focus on the Positive
Instead of fixating on what could be going better, focus on the things that are going right. Appreciate the strides and improvements your child is making, and rejoice in the little successes. When the more difficult times occur, reassess and continue to focus on the good.
3. Practice Acceptance
Accept your child for who they are. While improvement is good, it’s not everything. Focus on the present, on the wonderful person your child is. Allow your child and yourself time to just be.
2. Take Care of Yourself
Try not to neglect yourself for your child. Don’t lose track of your own dreams and goals. When you can, work on your own self-improvement and development. Maybe this means trying to be more patient or taking an art class. Don’t forget who you are.
1. Find Support
Dealing with the challenges that come with parenting a child with autism on your own can make every obstacle seem that much harder. Don’t be afraid to seek support. See a therapist or join a support group. There are parents out there in the same position as you are. Support them and accept their support in turn.
Sometimes, nothing may seem to work and stress can overwhelm you. That’s all right. Allow it to run its course, validate your emotions, and keep on going. Nothing lasts forever, especially the hard times.