Monday, August 15, 2011

Tips for Handling Stress

It is totally normal for caregivers of all kinds to experience stressful times, especially when caring for a child who is experiencing challenges or has special needs.  When under stress, remember, you are not alone, and these feelings do not mean that you are weak or a bad caregiver.  It is important to take the necessary measures to ease these feelings before they hurt someone verbally or even physically. 
Here are some tips:
·         Give yourself a TIME OUT!  Yes, caregivers need a time out too.  Finding 10-20 minutes a day just to clear your mind can work wonders.  Whether it is a short walk outside, enjoying pleasant scenery, or simply closing your eyes in meditation this short bit of time as a regular routine can help to de-stress yourself.
·         Let your child know that you are feeling stressed out, angry, or whatever the feeling may be.  By identifying your feeling and appropriate coping skill, such as a few minutes of time to yourself, you are modeling a technique that is great for our kids to learn when they get overwhelmed. 
·          When we are angry or stressed, it is important to postpone implementing punishment until we have had time to think it through calmly.  If you happen to lose your temper, or make remarks that are hurtful, it is also important to say that you are sorry.
·         Create a “to do list”.  This is helpful in remembering what we need to do for the day no matter how old we are!  It is also self-fulfilling to see each item on the list checked or crossed off.
·         Journal your thoughts and feelings.  Journaling is a great outlet in processing what has been happening and allowing you to think things through.  Reflecting on the journal entries during similar times can also normalize the situation for you when feeling overwhelmed.
·         Connect with other caregivers that are in similar situations.  Support groups are also a great way to validate your thoughts and recognize that you are not alone.  Learning more about what your child may be going through based on their disorder or challenge through the internet, doctor, therapist, or counselor are all great ways to find out about local resources that you can connect with.
·         BREATHE!  Literally, breathing techniques are a great way to decompress and de-stress.  You may feel a little silly at first, but here are some steps:
1.        Place your right hand over your chest and your left hand right above your belly button.
2.       Breathe in and out slowly 5 times, paying attention to your breathing pattern with your hands still in place.
3.       Repeat this 2 additional times or as needed.
The idea of this technique is for you to be aware of your body when in a relaxed state of mind.  As you practice this technique regularly, you will recognize the signals your body is giving that you need a time out for yourself.
Remember, all of these tips are also great ways to model healthy coping skills for your child.  By following through and being consistent with regular self care, you are promoting positive behaviors and, in essence, showing your child that they can do the same thing!
By: Naomi Berger-Perez, MA, LPC, LMFT