Even though my rational brain knows that there's only so much thinking and doing I can accomplish on any given day, I still expect that I'll have the time and energy to do more. And yet, the harder I try and push, the more depleted and overwhelmed I feel. And I don't think I'm alone. Many parents feel like they should be able to do more, accomplish more, help their kids more--especially when they have kids on the autism spectrum. But what happens when we are too hard on ourselves, focus too much on what we should do and not enough on what is possible in this moment? We can start to feel like Lucy in the candy factory…and we know how well that turned out.
1. Set realistic expectations: No parent, kid or strategy is perfect. Expect glitches and acknowledge that you are doing the best you can with what you know right now. It's okay to make mistakes--everybody does.
2. Delegate: What tasks can you let go of and let someone else manage? Expanding the network of competency is key to managing expectations and stress. Keep the crucial tasks and let the others go.
3. Build in support: It's hard to manage so many moving pieces without adequate support. Thinks of how to divide tasks within your immediate family. What jobs can a partner or spouse, if available, take on? Which jobs can children manage? Can you reciprocate with friends or extended family to make on-going tasks easier?
4. Distraction: Find an engaging activity you enjoy to take your mind off your regular concerns. Although we may think we don't have the time to think about or do fun activities, we will be more effective and creative if we take some time away.
5. Relaxation: For some parents, meditation may offer a break from the anxiety and worry that cloud the mind when faced with on-going concerns. Learning how to watch your breath and let thoughts come and go helps some people feel less reactive and anxious.
6. Physical activity: Many parents feel that physical activity provides an outlet for stress. Some prefer exercise with a friend and others like solo activities. Imagine how much better you might feel when your physical and mental health is addressed.
7. Have fun: What makes you smile? When do you laugh the hardest? What are your most pleasant memories? When our days are filled with tasks to do, it is easy to let the things that bring us joy fall off the radar.
Don't think of these tips as another "to do," but as a way to shift how you might spend your time, money and energy when you have a moment to think about it. No pressure...