When caring for others always comes before caring for yourself…

Inevitably, raising a child with autism means caring for others before caring for yourself and your needs. At St. Gerard House, we see this every day. You are sleep deprived, emotionally exhausted, physically drained, lost, scared and overwhelmed beyond belief. You are in “Survival Mode”.

Whether your child was diagnosed last week or you have been living with an autism diagnosis for many years, we’re willing to bet you are not taking as much time for yourself as you should be. We want to encourage you to start making “self-care” a priority. We promise, in time, you will thank us. This week, we sat down with Licensed Professional Counselor, Kathi Bivens, to gain some better insight on what stress does to us all and why self-care is crucial for parents of autism.

What is “Stress”?
Before we can dive in to “self-care”, lets break down stress and what it means in our daily lives. In all of us, stress is the thing that promotes survival. By definition, stress forces organisms to adapt to rapidly changing environmental conditions. You are that organism, living on survival mode, adapting to the changing environmental conditions that are your every day life.

Common stress symptoms include irritability, muscular tension, inability to concentrate and a variety of physical reactions, such as headaches and elevated heart rate. If you have found yourself reading this blog, odds are you have experienced most of these symptoms and are maybe experiencing a few right this minute. With Kathi’s help, we want to give you some tools to help decrease the emotional and physical impact that stress has on an individual.

Positive Coping Mechanisms for Stress:
1. Getting to know yourself
2. Seeking support from others
3. Physical Activity
4. Hobbies
5. Learning acceptance
6. Learning forgiveness
7. Crying, Laughing

As a parent of autism, you will continue to experience stress even if you follow all of these tips and more. That is the reality for any parent, and truthfully, you are stronger for it. What we want to do is give you tools to STRESS LESS in order to increase your quality of life.

What is “Self-Care”?
“Self-care is the intentional time taken by an individual to nurture him or herself physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally on a daily basis.”

Ways to Improve Your Resiliency with Simple Self-Care:
1. Intentional Breathing:
a) Breathe in through your nose for a count of 4
b) Hold your breath for a count of 7
c) Release your breath from your mouth with a whooshing sound for a count of 8
d) Without a break, breathe in again for a count of 4
e) Repeat the entire technique 3-4 times in a row then resume normal breathing and activity

2. Butterfly Hugs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGYGKRIt9xE

3. Calm Safe Place: Close your eyes and use your imagination to go to a place where you feel safe or calm. What images, colors, sounds, smells, and so forth do you see in your safe place?

4. Laughter Yoga: We love this one! Check out a handful of tutorials from Robert Rivest online!

Benefits of Self-Care:
1. You develop a fresh perspective for yourself
2. You enhance your creativity in dealing with challenges
3. You create a positive environment with your attitude
4. You build Self-Confidence
5. Balance and Well-Being
6. Improved Coping Mechanisms

This is just the first half of our tips and tools for Self-Care! Check back with us for Part Two. Until then, we encourage you to start with these tips and work them into your daily routine. Find a little time for yourself, your hobbies, your SANITY. Your life is a priority. We believe in you!


Stay tuned, and stay up on autism!