Many people don’t realize it, but stress is a very natural and important part of life. We need stress, but not too much stress for too long. Stress helps keep us alert, motivates us to face challenges, and drives us to solve problems. These low levels of stress are manageable and can be thought of as necessary and normal stimulation. But what about when you experience too much stress? There is little doubt that parenting a child with developmental differences is stressful. You may feel like you’re always on duty, with no time off for good behavior, and no one to help. Raising a child with special needs can feel like running a marathon without the proper training. So, we experience stress.

Distress, or too much stress, results when our bodies over-react to events. It leads to what has been called a “fight or flight” reaction. Such reactions may have been useful in times long ago when our ancestors were frequently faced with life or death matters. We react to many daily situations as they were life or death issues. It is how we perceive and interpret the events of life that dictates how our bodies react. If we think something is very scary or worrisome, our bodies react accordingly. Stress is a physical or physiological response to an event or a mental image.

When we view something as manageable, our body doesn’t go haywire; it remains alert, but not alarmed. The more we sense danger (social or physical), the more our body reacts. Problems can occur when we are constantly under stress. If we react too strongly to daily hassles, or let the small over-reactions pile up, we may run into physical and psychological problems. Some common ailments that can be caused by stress are: gastrointestinal problems, insomnia, heart disease, depression, and severe headaches. Possible results of uncontrolled stress could be: drinking, overeating, smoking, and abusing other substances.

What we all need is to learn to approach our stressors in more realistic and reasonable ways. Strong reactions are better reserved for serious situations. Manageable reactions are better for everyday issues. Stress will continue to be a part of life, however it can be controlled. Become aware of what your stressors are how you feel when you are stressed.   

Here are some problem solving techniques:

Positive imaging- visualize yourself feeling confident and less stressed. Imagine yourself being in Control and responding in an appropriate manner. Describe your feelings, posture and attitude.

Pro active planning- make plans before things get out of control. This is the get your ducks in a row idea.

Proper physical preparation - be ready for all eventualities. The diaper bag idea - being equipped for accidents and emergencies.

Reframing- Analyze how you describe an event or situation, then consider alternative descriptions or other courses of action. Restate your response.

Learn to relax. 

Exercise, get enough sleep and eat healthy.

Talk to friends.

For most advocates stress isn’t just a possibility, it’s a constant. So it is vital for parents to have techniques that work for them and they are comfortable using. Learn ways to manage stress so that stress doesn’t manage you.