A recent study by researchers at the University of Illinois validates many other studies linking an increased risk of stress and depression experienced by mothers of young children with autism spectrum disorders (Jeans, 2013). Fathers are at risk as well, however their symptoms may look different than those of mothers.
This is somber news, and something you may feel that you don’t have time to even think about, given how many things you have to worry about already and how incredibly busy you are every minute of the day.
Here are a few simple things you can do to reduce the impact of stress:
- Develop an awareness of how you feel in the present moment, without judgment. Tiny moments of “mindfulness” throughout the day can reduce stress. Studies show that parents of children who engage in even small amounts of mindfulness each day have greater emotional resiliency. There are even apps for it!
- Maintain connections with friends and family. While you may not feel there is time to spend with friends and family, here again research points to the fact that social connections with family provide a solid buffer against stress.
- Exercise when you can. It may very well take creativity, but even a brisk walk with your child in a stroller (if manageable) can have benefits. Any type of movement and activity counts.
- SLEEP. This should be at the top of the list, yet most of us feel that sleep is expendable. A healthy sleep-wake cycle serves as critical protection against physical and emotional challenges. Think of optimum hours of sleep (for you and your family) as a necessity, and not a luxury.