Caring for a child with autism can be an intense emotional and physical experience. It requires patience, understanding, and a lot of hard work. As a parent or caregiver, it’s natural to feel overwhelmed and stressed out at times.
Families of autistic children may experience stress because they cannot manage their child’s challenging behavior. Their lack of access to appropriate resources can also lead to financial hardship or difficulties raising an autistic child.
How To Manage Stress Of Caring For A Child With Autism
While an autism diagnosis affects the entire family, each family member can be stressed due to various things. This is especially true when dealing with the different aspects of life with an autistic child.
Fortunately, there are ways to manage the stress of caring for children with autism. Some of these include the following:
Get Professional Help
Excessive stress can lead to physical and emotional exhaustion, making it difficult to deal with everyday life. If you’re struggling with stress, it’s time to get professional help from Insight Northwest Counseling Eugene Oregon, or other service providers.
If you prefer other options than counseling and regular therapy, there are plenty of services you may consider. Before you choose, schedule an appointment with your physician to assess your physical health. Doing so will help you know if any medical complications add to your stress.
Join Support Groups
While asking for professional help is essential, joining a support group can also be helpful. Often, support groups consist of parents who are experiencing the same emotions and challenges as you are.
Knowing that other parents understand what you’re going through can help you feel validated and recognized. Plus, you’ll learn more about autism and how to care for your child better.
You can look for support groups online or locally. You’ll likely spot some on social media platforms if you can’t find one in your local area. The good thing about such support groups is that you can get more information on managing stress daily and maintaining your quality of life without compromising your autistic child’s needs.
Take Care Of Yourself
You can effectively care for a child with autism if you’re physically and emotionally fit. If you neglect your own needs, stress can cause burnout. This may worsen the situation over time.
So, don’t neglect your needs and take care of yourself. The more rested and happier you are, the better decisions you’ll make for your autistic child and other family members.
Some self-care tips you can try are the following:
- Practice Meditation: Spending a few minutes may help restore your inner peace and calm your nerves. Meditation lets you focus on your thoughts and eliminate jumbled thoughts that cause stress.
When done regularly, it could help improve your emotional and physical well-being. The good thing about meditation is it’s inexpensive, simple, and doesn’t require any equipment. You may even practice it wherever and whenever you want.
- Exercise Regularly: Any form of exercise, whether yoga or aerobics, may help relieve stress. Physical activity pumps up endorphins, the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters. It also improves your mood, enabling you to relax and weed out your worries.
If you’re not used to exercising, start with any activity you enjoy. For example, you can begin with walking, bicycling, or running. Just be sure to make it part of your routine. Once you stick with your daily exercise session, it may help you unwind and allow you to ease stress.
- Get Enough Sleep: High-stress levels can affect your sleep quality. Once it happens, it triggers your body’s stress response system, increasing cortisol levels, the stress hormone. As cortisol disrupts your sleep, it may lead to sleep deprivation, affecting your overall health. Therefore, if you want to care for your autistic child properly, you should get enough sleep daily.
Although getting the recommended sleep hours is difficult when your mind is filled with worries, there are ways to fall asleep more efficiently. You can start by modifying your nighttime behaviors to feel less stressed before bedtime.
The following practices can also help you sleep better:
- Avoid blue light exposure before sleep: The blue light from devices like phones and televisions may interfere with your circadian rhythm. The natural process regulates one’s sleep and wake cycle and repeats daily. Before bedtime, limit your browsing habits to enjoy a good night’s sleep.
- Take a warm bath or shower: This may help you de-stress, relax, and reduce your body temperature, allowing you to fall asleep quickly.
- Don’t drink caffeine and alcohol: Both caffeine and alcohol can make it more difficult to fall asleep. So, avoid consuming either one close to bedtime, especially if you have trouble sleeping already.
Getting enough sleep can make a difference in managing stress. Remember the above tips to fall asleep quickly and enjoy a well-rested night.
- Eat Healthy Meals: Good nutrition isn’t only for your child. You should eat healthily as you are vital to keeping your loved ones healthy.
Here are the tips for eating healthy:
- Eat more fruits and vegetables
- Eat fish and a portion of oily fish
- Cut down on sugar and saturated fat
- Don’t skip breakfast
- Drink water regularly
Proper nutrition and healthy food help you protect against chronic illnesses. It can also improve your mood and energy levels, crucial to managing stress effectively.
These are some of the many things you can do to care for yourself. Follow any of these tips to experience stress relief and provide better care for your child with autism.
Get Balance In Your Life
Socializing and having fun is one way to live an excellent life. To stay balanced, you should socialize with people of all ages and have a good laugh. Regardless of your busy schedule, use your free time to reconnect with your friends.
Sharing your feelings with friends may help relieve stress and give you time to laugh. Remember, laughter is the best medicine.
So, instead of staying at home all the time and keeping your worries, go out and meet some people. Letting anyone know what you’re going through will help you understand why you may feel lost, agitated, or sad.
Practice Positive Thinking
Thinking positively doesn’t mean ignoring your life’s less pleasant situations. It means you approach challenges and unpleasantness in a productive and more positive way. In other words, you think the best will happen and not the worst.
For example, if you think that others see you as a bad parent, try reversing the thought by thinking about what it means to be a good parent—not other people’s opinions of your parenting. The more you practice this, the more capable you are in dealing with things that cause stress.
Positive thinking usually begins with self-talk. It’s an endless stream of unspoken thoughts. These can be negative or positive thoughts that come from reason and logic. Some self-talk may also arise from misconceptions you created due to preconceived ideas or lack of information.
There are several benefits of practicing positive thinking to manage your stress, including:
- Better coping skills during times of stress and hardships
- Lower levels of pain and distress
- Better physical and psychological well-being
- Greater resistance to illnesses
Whatever your struggles when caring for an autistic child, start your day by practicing positive thinking.
Consider Respite Care
Caring for a child with autism can be physically and emotionally draining sometimes. It’s a job requiring parents’ or families’ extra patience, love, and dedication. So, if you’ve been stressed lately, consider respite care.
Typically, respite care is a relief service offering a much-needed break. It lets you take time off from your responsibilities and focus on your well-being. Whether it’s to attend to personal matters or run errands, respite care allows you to refocus and recharge.
There are different types of respite care: out-of-home and in-home services. If you’re unsure about the best option for your needs, knowing their primary differences will help you decide wisely.
- Out-of-home respite care service: It involves taking your child with autism to another location for a short time. It may include day centers, emergency care, nursing facilities, and assisted living facilities. Out-of-home service is suitable for those who need more specialized care or a change of scenery.
- In-home respite care service: It’s a home-based service that includes personal care, medical care, homemaker services, and emergency care. In-home service is best for those requiring daily medical care or tasks.
Choosing the right respite care service will depend on you and your child’s needs.
How To Manage Stress Of Caring For A Child With Autism
When you’re feeling well and your stress is under control, you’ll effectively navigate the challenges of caring for a child with autism. To help you manage your stress, follow the above strategies to enjoy a better life with your autistic child and family. For more options to control your stress, always consult a professional.