By Kelly Wilton
Whether we like it or not, stress is a part of our daily lives and it is here to stay! As parents to children with disabilities, we deal with a variety of different stresses to attend to each day, including NDIS reviews, therapy and education appointments, medication changes, hospital admissions, behaviour strategies for neurodiverse children, family relationships – to name just a few; you probably tend to think some days, it’s all just too much!
So how can we stress less?
What if we told you that stress is a natural part of our lives and by learning about stress, you will see how certain strategies can help you cope so it has less of a negative impact.
Sounds crazy, right?! How can I learn to live with stress and embrace it?!
As special needs parents ourselves, we all understand that stress plays a BIG part. The worry, the uncertainty, the grief, the trauma, the ongoing PTSD. We all have an abundance of beautiful moments of love in our lives, however the reality is that we are under enormous amounts of pressure, that are simply another world away from other family units.
However, the fact is that when we’re totally stressed out, we are not as good at parenting. And just as importantly, we DESERVE to spend the time we need to look after our own needs as well as our family’s needs.
And let’s not fool ourselves, we can be our own worst enemies sometimes as there is actually a LOT we can do to reduce stress. Most of us know this, yet when we’re in survival mode so much of the time, it can seem too hard to do anything about it.
Well, I have some good news. Here’s an opportunity to by guided through a step-by-step process that takes less than an hour to make sure stress doesn’t get the better of you.
I recently took part in Susie Hopkins’ ‘FREE stress management crash-course for parents of kids with disabilities.’
Susie is also a special needs parent – so if someone’s going to get it, you can guarantee it will be Susie! However, bonus for us, she’s also a stress management expert!
I learnt so much and found it was such a great process. It made me realise it doesn’t have to be as difficult as I thought it was to lower my stress levels.
Physiology – stress is here mamas but it ain’t all bad!
We’ve all heard the ongoing dialogue that too much stress is bad for us; it can bring on dire health implications for ourselves. However, did you know that stress is actually a part of our physiology? This was a huge eye opener for me to know that stress isn’t always the enemy!
When our body’s stress response is activated, our body releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. If we can recognise the current situation and activate our body’s response in a productive way, we can utilise stress productively. Think of when you’re annoyed at something (or someone!) you might turn that hyper-focus and adrenaline surge and drill down by what is needed to finish that overdue project at work.
Or what if you used that energy burst to get through your most urgent tasks? Think of getting ahead on your next NDIS battle – get those spreadsheets, reports and emails in order so it makes it easier for you next time!
Susie includes so many interesting insights into how stress can be managed by using practical tools and strategies so that when you come down from that burst of adrenaline you’re treating your mind and body connection to the rest and reset it deserves because working at a hyper level long-term is no good for anyone!
Think yoga, breath work, stretches. All simple stuff that can equally help you start the day, as to unwind from it.
Write and reflect
To grow and make change in any area of life, we need to dig deep and do some soul searching.
How does your stress currently impact you in your life? How does it affect your relationships, work and other areas of life? How would you like things to change – how do you want your life to look?
In order to help us reflect and answer these questions, we need to normalise stress. It’s part of our make-up – the fight/flight response is inbuilt in all of us. How we respond to stress is what makes us all different.
Our expectations on our children and ourselves can be a huge source of stress. If we reframe our expectations and work with where we are at, rather than where we think we ‘should’ be, it’s a great start!
Part of the process is to stop and reflect on the changes you need to make and how the obstacles that may come in your way, can be overcome. It’s a process with becoming more self-aware. Are you flexible with your mindset? What can you do to grow and learn, and not feel stuck by the stressful situations you are in?
Lifestyle factors – getting enough sleep to help our stress. It’s very tricky when our kids don’t sleep so this will be a big one if you have challenges that are impacted with medical reasons. This is an opportunity to reach out to others to get the help you need to help your yourself and your family.
Exercise – helps with emotional regulation – any type of exercise will help with your ongoing emotional wellbeing. The recovery period between stressful situations will become less over time the more you work on your health.
Deep breathing – can really help to settle your stress response during the day, which in turn helps you to refocus during the day – whether it be with your child, in hospital, at work, even in the car driving to the next appointment.
Community – our biological response is to share and support one another. To reach out, offer help is a human nature that over decades has been lost, has been seen too often as ‘not coping’. But to cope with life, we all must share our struggles as well as our joys. Something that our social media scrolls don’t always reflect.
If we don’t start managing our stress in ways that are going to enhance our wellbeing, then we will certainly run into trouble at some point with a health complication. Learning about strategies and working on no longer being scared about stress and to work with it, will make yourself and your family unit a happier one which is positive change for all!
For more information head to: https://lilowellness.com.au/