TAKING CARE OF YOU
By Dan Coulter
A while back, I wrote an article urging parents of kids with special
needs to deal with stress by taking breaks and finding other ways to
relax. Given that I've been burning the candle at both ends with a
blowtorch recently, I thought it would be a good time to revisit the
While I usually follow my own advice, I occasionally...sort
of...backslide and catch myself doing things that I know are counter
productive. Hey, I'm human.
In this case, however, I've been able to keep up with taking breaks and
relaxing with exercise since the beginning of the year, even through a
series of stressful events. So, if you read the first anti-stress
article and need a booster shot, this is my testimonial that taking some
time for yourself pays off.
I did pretty good with breaks and exercise last year. But when my wife
and I took on multiple projects in our business early in 2006 on top of
the demands of family life, I risked getting sucked into the "non-stop
work" vortex. This vortex was, too often, my daily life while I was in
the corporate world. My wife has felt its pull for years, taking on the
main role of dealing with schools and doctors for our two kids with
special needs. I've talked with lots of special needs parents who know
the vortex well.
Maybe getting a bit older has given me some perspective to help deal
with its pull.
Whatever the reason, I'm convinced that continuing to make taking some
personal time a priority in the face of demands and deadlines (not the
top priority, but a priority) has kept me sane and in much better shape
than I'd be in otherwise.
One of the best assets in my stress-beater portfolio is an early morning
walk. For me, it has to be early morning. Once the phone starts
ringing, getting away to walk is like trying to escape a black hole's
gravity well. Walking early was a particular challenge because my wife
and I tend to stay up late. There's always lots that needs doing and
the next thing you know it's time for "The Daily Show" at 11 p.m. and we
might as well stay up a bit later. It's hard to stay up late and get up
to exercise before the workday starts. One solution to this was taping
"The Daily Show" to watch during lunch the next day.
I carry a small voice recorder on my walk to capture any good ideas or
"to do list" items that my mind generates along the way. This way I can
clear my head of them and deal with them later without stressing out
that I'll forget.
Another benefit of walking daily and cutting down on my meal portions
has been losing 20 pounds. You know those weight loss.orgmercials that
look so bogus? The ones where people go on a wonder diet, lose weight
and tell you how much better they feel? Well, my wonder diet was just
eating less, but the feeling better part is true.
I've seen a lot of people deal with stress. I've always admired the
people who dealt with it well and tried to model their behavior. But it
was hard to model someone who dealt with stress by taking time for
himself when I felt guilty doing it myself. It's easier after you've
given it a try and see that it makes you more productive.
Managing stress also can help you deal with other people.
When stressed, many folks tend to withdraw into themselves and focus on
the task at hand. Without intending to, they risk being non-responsive
or short with others. No surprise, this turns people off.
If you have a child with special needs, you can use all the support you
can get. But if your reaction to stress is to withdraw, you may
actually alienate people who could potentially help. This includes
school personnel, friends, neighbors, relatives, and especially people
you meet for the first time. Reducing stress can help you stay open to
people and get help and understanding when you need it most. In
addition to helping me keep fit, my
walk helps my attitude.
I also take short breaks during the rest of the day. I figure that even
if you have tremendous demands on your time, you deserve a bit of
balance in your life. The scale may tip heavily towards your
responsibilities, but if it tips too far, you risk falling over. And
were would that leave the people who depend on you?
When you stretch yourself too thin, you also risk losing yourself and
some of the best of what you have to offer the people you care most
about. You can tell you've been lost when you suddenly find yourself
again -- in a song on the radio or a line from a book or a movie. Maybe
you're looking at a picture. But you hear or see something that shoots
to the center of who you are and is instantly, recognizably special to
you. At these moments, you touch some of the most valuable things you
have to offer your family. Not just food and shelter and
contact. Those parts that make you feel your worth as a person.
Thoughts that generate caring and confidence and.orgfort.
It's easy to lose touch with them when you're stressed. A little
relaxation can help you find them - and share them.
Your stress reducer may be different from mine. While I can r.orgmend
walking, I think almost anything you enjoy doing can be helpful if it
gets your mind off your problems and lets you relax for a while and
recharge your batteries.
Just remember, if it's your job to take care of everyone, that includes
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Coulter and his wife, Julie, produce videos to
help families dealing with Asperger Syndrome and other special
needs. You can find more of his articles at:
www.coultervideo.org . Dan
hosts an Internet radio show, "Life In The Asperger Lane," at 12 P.M.
Eastern Time (USA), the second Saturday of each month on Autism One
Copyright 2006 Dan Coulter All Rights Reserved Used By