Caregiver Stress and Autism

November 22, 2019 - Dr. Kristen Hurley, PsyD, HSPP, Clinical Psychologist

Caregiver Stress and Autism

By Dr. Kristen Hurley, PsyD, HSPP, Clinical Psychologist

Having children can be exhausting. Having a child with a special need can sometimes compound that stress. You love your child so much, but you don’t get a break. On top of all of the day to day stress of managing your household and keeping everyone alive, you’re also thinking of bigger picture concerns for your child. Taking time for yourself is like a distant memory – what did you actually do with all of that time before kids?

As cliché as it sounds, it really is important to take care of yourself so that you can take care of your child(ren).

Ask yourself this question – What am I doing to take care of my mental health?

If you don’t have an answer to that question, and a lot of us may not, it’s time to change that.

You don’t have a lot of time, and that’s okay. Do something small, but make it intentional – something that you do on purpose to take care of yourself. To think of a place to start, ask yourself a few questions.

  • If I knew that no one would need me for a while, what would I do?
  • What do I find meaningful?
  • What did I used to enjoy?
  • When do I feel the most relaxed/at peace?

Use your answers to these questions to decide on one small thing to add/change to your schedule. Find 5 minutes, and start doing that one activity! (You may decide to replace a few minutes of social media scrolling time with this more meaningful activity). Or add your activity to the time you spend driving or cleaning (e.g., podcasts, audio books, music).

Here are a few suggestions to get you thinking:

  • Physical activity: walking outside, yoga, exercise video
  • Relaxation/Mindfulness: give yourself a foot massage, light a candle, guided imagery or mindfulness exercise (search for this on YouTube or a relaxation app),
  • Creativity: practice creative hand lettering, draw, color, make a wreath, sew/knit/crochet
  • Mental distraction: look at a magazine, read a book or listen to audio book/podcast, do a puzzle
  • Social Support: call/text a friend, send someone a card/letter

Use these ideas as a jumping off point, but don’t get hung up on picking something “perfect.” The important thing is to prioritize your mental health by intentionally finding 5 minutes for yourself each day. You’ll be surprised at how it can start to really make a difference.

Of course you may also want some extra support, and it’s important to get that. Consider looking into respite services, local support groups for parents of children with autism, and mental health therapists. Please feel free to call us at Cornerstone to talk with our parent liaison about local services at 317-888-1557.


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November 22, 2019, Dr. Kristen Hurley, PsyD, HSPP, Clinical Psychologist

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