Sure, you know you are stressed. But do you know exactly where that stress is coming from… and, what you can do about it?
As a Counsellor and Psychotherapist it is my job to listen to people and help them make sense of their issues. However, Counsellors themselves are not exempt from life’s bumps and storms. As I sit here and write this article, I acknowledge that this is one of those times when I need to take my own advice. I generally pride myself on practising what I preach, especially in the area of self-care; but sometimes an emotional tsunami hits and not only is it hard to function, it’s hard to figure out what to do about it.
Last week, a very dear friend passed away. With a heavy heart and a well of tears, I’ve found it much harder to function. It has been harder to simply get through day-to-day life.
So I’ve looked through my bag of tools to figure out what I can do.
I’ve accepted help. I’ve asked for support. I’ve taken quiet time. I’ve adjusted my to-do list. I’ve cleared spaces and taken low priority things out of my schedule. In other words, I’ve taken things off my plate – which, I might add, is actually much harder than it sounds for many of us.
May I say here that when it comes to writing about autism, it is impossible to generalise. Parents of children with autism are as different from each other as their children. Their circumstances are different. Their histories are different. Their trauma thresholds are different. Their coping styles are different. Their challenges are different.
I’ve counselled many parents whose plates are overflowing with major life challenges as well as autism. Often, people are dealing with one or more of these… (and this list is far from comprehensive):
If your head is spinning, and you feel you’re at breaking point; stop and get off the ‘treadmill’ if at all possible.
compartmentalise – often when we’re stressed we unconsciously weigh ourselves down by keeping a mental to-do list. Get a pen and write down your responsibilities on a piece of paper. Try to isolate and prioritise each task, focus on one thing at a time, and put the rest aside for later; one step at a time.
ask for help – it is difficult to ask, but you may be surprised how much support your loved ones are willing to give you if you ask. Sometimes others have a clearer perspective from the outside looking in, and may be able to offer ideas or solutions.
accept help – whether we ask for it or not, many of us don’t want to burden others with our troubles; but you may be surprised that it can actually be a compliment to someone who cares for you when you accept their help. Remember, there is giving in taking, as there is taking in giving.
take some time out – if you have someone to cover you, take some time out; go for a walk; a short break, a big break, whatever you can manage. It’s amazing how much things can look different with just a little bit of perspective.
And finally, try to stay in the moment – When you’re stressed you can easily find yourself in a kind of daze, which can lead to those annoying little mistakes that make things appear worse than they actually are.
One great way to stay in the moment is a technique called “Notice 5 Things” where you pay close attention to five things you can see, hear and feel around you.
Taking a couple of minutes to become conscious of your environment can break the mental “spin-cycle” and might be all you need to feel centred again.