3 Trusted Tricks to Tackle Caregiver Stress
Stress is something special needs parents know all too well. After all, we live it every day. However, that doesn’t mean it has to take control over us all the time.
With April being Stress Awareness Month, it’s a good time for us to think about the stressors in our lives and productive ways to reduce it.
As a caregiver to my 12-year-old Angel, Juliana, keeping my stress in check isn’t always easy. Taking care of another person requires a lot of energy. Angels can be hyperactive and may display other challenging behaviors. Behaviors such as irritability and outbursts are common for Angels and negatively affect the stress levels of parents, according to the article “Maladaptive behaviors in individuals with Angelman syndrome,” published in the American Journal of Medical Genetics in 2019.
Being aware of stress is a good thing, but it’s not enough. Like a seasoned magician, I have a few tricks up my sleeve to help me cope. The following strategies help me tackle stress head-on.
Trick 1: Changing my actions
No matter how well I know my daughter, her behavior can still be unpredictable. There are times when she just won’t cooperate. Yes, it’s stressful and hard to accept. When these scenarios occur, I adjust the situation by doing something different.
Right now, for instance, I am minimizing how much Juliana navigates the stairs. She knows how to walk up and down the stairs, but for some reason, ever since we changed the carpet on our steps, getting her to come down without a fuss has been challenging. Trying to coerce her before she’s ready results in a “screamfest” that could wake the dead.
Going downstairs is a necessity. But instead of multiple trips up and down the stairs each day, we limit Juliana’s trips to just one. My husband and I alternate the things we must do upstairs or downstairs to work around this odd struggle.
When summer comes, Juliana and I will go back to practicing the steps again. But until then, changing what we are doing makes good sense.
Trick 2: Reevaluating my values
As a practicing minimalist, I am always looking for a better way to simplify, remove, or adjust things in my life. This trick isn’t always easy for people to understand. Sometimes I just say no and refuse to go along with things that will add more stress than value.
Not long ago, my husband and I got into a little fuss because I refused to attend a race at Juliana’s school. My husband is a big runner, and running races is important to him. I enjoy running for exercise, but attending another race at her school was not a high priority. The race was going to occur at the end of a very busy week for me. I simply couldn’t justify the added stress and energy the event would take.
Trick 3: Switching to default mode
Finally, if the first two tricks don’t work, I go to my default mode: I stop doing things. This is probably counterintuitive to most people, but it works for me. When things get crazy, sometimes the temptation is to do more to catch up or stay on track.
I do the opposite and maybe to a fault. For me, when the going gets tough, I stop going. A good example of this was during the last Christmas break, when Juliana got sick. Our celebration was already scaled back, so when Juliana got sick, I took the opportunity to rest more and avoid adding additional plans to my schedule.
As the parent of an Angel, stress will always be a part of my life. It’s something I’ve come to terms with. But stress forces me to find more creative ways to cope and manage the problem. Stress Awareness Month is a great reminder that stress won’t have a grip on me as long as I work smartly to minimize it in my daily living.
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