Caring for another individual always comes with stressors. However, caring for an individual with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) comes with its own unique set of challenges that can easily turn into a full-time job. Caregivers commonly fill their days with multiple therapies, meetings, support groups, and extracurricular activities for their loved ones, in addition to typical daily responsibilities. While these services are important, these busy and often hectic days are missing one very important aspect: time for self-care.
Numerous research studies have shown that people caring for individuals with autism report higher levels of stress than those caring for typically developing individuals. This puts them at a higher risk of depression and anxiety disorders. Chronic stress can also affect physical health and lead to fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, and even diabetes.
It may seem like a daunting task to add anything else to an already busy day. So let’s focus on small changes that we can make this year to help alleviate daily stressors and increase overall emotional and physical well-being.
Make yourself a priority
It’s easy to sit down and make a to-do list that includes all the needs for your family and your home. But what if you made yourself a priority each day? Every day, consider: What can I do today to meet my physical, emotional, and intellectual needs? Some examples include:
- Physical: Exercise (by yourself or with others), eat healthy food, get a massage, enjoy a long shower or bath, or sleep (when you can!)
- Emotional: Spend time alone each day, find things that make you laugh, say “no” to extra responsibilities, spend time with family and friends, or see a therapist
- Intellectual: Read a book, listen to radio programs or podcasts, be creative through an art project or a journal, or return to old hobbies
Surround yourself with support
Research has shown that having a strong support system can mediate caregiver stress. This includes family, friends, and community or clinical services. Some ways you can create and develop support systems include:
- Make time for friends. Consider creating one night each month dedicated to seeing friends.
- Join a support group. Did you know that ASNC has more than 50 chapters and eight Hispanic Autism Support Groups around North Carolina? Find one near you.
- Ask for help. There are a multitude of services available for your loved one that are ready to help you. Contact an ASNC Autism Resource Specialist if you need help discovering the resources available.
The cards may feel stacked against you when your day is already filled with other responsibilities. However, by changing what we can control, it may help us be better equipped to deal with the things we cannot.
Learn more about resilience and self-care at our upcoming conference in March 2019! https://www.autismsociety-nc.org/autism-conferences/
- Costa, A.P., Steffgen, G., & Ferring, D. (2017). Contributors to well-being and stress in parents of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 37, 61-72.
- Derguy, C., Bailara, K.M., Michel, G., Roux, S., & Bouvard, M. (2016). The need for an ecological approach to parental stress in Autism Spectrum Disorders: The combined role of individual and environmental factors. Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 46, 1895-1905.
- Self-Care for Parents, from Program for Early Parent Support
- Why Self-Care Is Essential to Parenting, from Child Mind Institute
ASNC’s Clinical Department staff is composed of PhD and master’s-level licensed psychologists, Board Certified Behavior Analysts, and former special education teachers. We provide individualized intensive consultation using evidence-based practices to support children and adults across the spectrum in home, school, employment, residential and other community-based contexts. We also deliver workshops to professionals on a wide range of topics including but not limited to, strategies to prevent and respond to challenging behaviors, best practices in early intervention, functional communication training, and evidence-based practices in instruction for K-12 students with autism.
To find out more, contact us at 919-390-7242 or email@example.com.