Accepting the Journey, Stress and All
April is both World Autism Awareness and Stress Awareness Month. The irony isn’t lost on me.
Let’s be honest: Loving, supporting, and advocating for our kids on a good day is stressful. And, personally, these last twelve months have tested my resiliency and commitment to show up as my best self for my daughter. Caring for a child with autism means that there will be stressful events and you will feel stress.
My response to this stress was to simply bury it in my little black box of emotions. Please learn from my mistakes, and don’t be a martyr. Believing that I could do it all and not taking time for myself resulted in my body breaking down due to the tremendous stress that it was forced to keep.
All those emotions that you’ve been denying--all those feelings that you’ve buried--let those come to the surface and see the light of day so that your body can accept and release them. Storing negative emotions in our body has long-term impacts that are only recently coming to light.
Acceptance is one of the keys to managing caregiver stress.
I was in denial about accepting my new role as a caregiver and also denying the fact that stress was inevitable. You see, a certain amount of stress in our daily lives is normal. It’s when stress becomes overwhelming and prolonged that it starts to impact our mental health and overall well-being.
The good news is that we have a choice and we’re not alone on this journey.
Knowing that stress is inevitable allows us to better accept the stress which then allows us to better ride the waves of stress when they appear--such as the uncertainty of programs and services during a global pandemic and the unpredictable behaviour of our kids when routines and schedules change.
The flip side of this caregiver journey is that we learn to savour all the good moments--the belly laughs, the hugs, the first steps, learning to ride a scooter, saying a new word, etc.
Our lives are forever changed for the better--stress and all.
Living a happy life doesn’t mean that there’s no darkness or sadness, it simply means that we choose not to dwell on it. When we choose to accept that the path will be bumpy, we can learn how to manage the potholes. Your answers to the following questions can help you identify the small changes you can make to improve your well-being today and strive for a happier path.
- What kind of support do you have?
- What do you do to stay active?
- What do you do to relax?
- What do you do for fun?
Yes; we’re allowed to have a fun and happy life as caregivers! Don’t get me wrong, I often have to remind myself not to let life get so darn serious.
- It costs nothing to play some music and dance.
- It costs nothing to send a text to connect.
- It costs nothing to go for a walk in the forest or on the beach.
- It costs nothing to close your eyes and take ten deep breaths.
Wishing you all love, grace, and compassion as every day is autism awareness day in our world.
**A version of this article: Accepting the Journey, Stress and All also appears on Caregiving.com. Caregiving.com cares for you as you care for family and friends.
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But now I understand the importance of hope. Parents of children with autism need stories of inspiration and hope so that they never give up on their kids.
Simply having the discussion and mindset shift feels better - and also gives me reassurance that I can trust myself as a Mom.