Managing stress, anxiety and overwhelm as a parent/carer

Parenting can be difficult, and is described by many as rewarding but hard work! However, life as a parent/carer can be overwhelming, exhausting, and filled with stress and anxiety. The added pressures of caring responsibilities can weigh heavily, sometimes leading to poor mental health within families with a disabled child. 


So why is life so difficult for parents/carers? Many people struggle to understand the challenges that families with neurodivergent or disabled children face, and this can create feelings of loneliness, isolation, and anxiety as parents/carers feel that their child, as well as them as parents are not understood or that other people don’t ‘get it.’ This can lead to avoidance of talking to or spending time with friends family, and the wider community, which can impact the whole family. 

For parents/carers, meeting the additional needs of their disabled child is something that they work to do 24 hours a day, and this can leave little time or energy to spend with other people, or even to take care of their own physical and emotional needs. The challenges and caring responsibilities faced will be unique to the individual family but could include dealing with constantly trying to keep their child safe (some children have no concept of danger and rely completely on caregivers to keep them safe), incontinence, feeding difficulties, challenging behaviours, sensory differences, therapeutic interventions and programs such as physiotherapy, increased number of appointments and meetings, managing medication, using mobility aids and other equipment, and much more. Meeting the needs of any child can be tiring, but working to meet the needs of a disabled child can take parenting to a whole different level! 

Anxiety regarding the future is another major source of stress for many parents/carers. Living with a neurodivergent or disabled child can feel uncertain, with many families experiencing worrying thoughts about what the future may hold for their child and the family as a whole. Most parents/carers experience anxiety concerning how they will cope with meeting their child’s changing needs as they grow older and worry about who will care for their child as an adult when they are no longer able to. When the family includes siblings, parents are often struggling to juggle their needs too, which can be extremely challenging. It’s no wonder many parents/carers are stressed, anxious, and exhausted! 

How can parents/carers help themselves to reduce stress, anxiety, overwhelm and exhaustion?

It can feel like an impossible task and something else to add to the already impossibly long to-do list! However, as the old saying goes, we can’t pour from an empty cup! But self-care-type activities can feel far from reach and unrealistic for parents/carers, leaving the house to visit the gym, a café or restaurant, or enjoying some retail therapy takes more work to organise than most parents can manage. For many, even activities carried out within the house are open to interruptions, even if another family member takes over the caring responsibilities for a while. And for single-parent families, there is little opportunity for this to happen at all. However, we can find small ways to make a big difference in our lives. 

Re-frame those difficult thoughts

Our thoughts have a direct impact on our emotions and ultimately our actions and behaviours. When there is a storm of negative thoughts or worries whirling through your mind it can feel impossible to do anything to reduce them, bringing a sense of anxiety, hopelessness, and despair. Many people try to ignore the thoughts and worries, pushing them away or burying them, but they usually come back into the mind at some point unless they have been dealt with.

Acknowledging the thoughts, and then working to find a more neutral alternative can be more effective. For example, if you have a thought such as “I’m never going to cope with my child’s behaviours when they become an adult” this could be re-framed to “My child is growing up and I don’t yet know what challenges this will bring, though I will face these and deal with them when they come, just as I have done so far.” This isn’t “positive thinking” as it can be difficult to believe positive thoughts when feeling anxious, low, or depressed. Instead, it changes the thought to something more realistic and neutral, with less emotion attached to it, which can help you to feel calmer and more balanced, and better able to manage everyday life as a parent/carer. 

Find the tiny snippets of time

Many parents/carers fill any spare time they have with household chores that they struggle to do when caring for their child. Endless tasks such as cleaning, the weekly food shop and ironing all need to be done, but using some of this time to care for you is vital.

Whether it’s when your child is in school, when they are being cared for by someone else, or when they are in bed, use some of this time to do something you enjoy such as exercise or a hobby, spend time outdoors, whether you take a walk or even just step out into the garden or onto the balcony to listen to the sounds of nature and breathe in the fresh air, watch a TV programme, learn a new skill, call a friend or family member for a chat, engage in meditation or self-hypnosis, or even just sit quietly with a favourite drink and snack. It doesn’t need to be a big chunk of time, even a few minutes at a time can make a huge difference to our mood and mental health. 

Make the most of your community

Many organisations provide activities and support to parents/carers within the local community. Some offer coffee mornings, craft sessions, telephone support, advice, and much more. Accessing this type of support can help parents/carers to feel less alone and isolated and can offer time to chat and “offload” with people who can understand and empathise with the challenges they are facing. Many organisations can also signpost to other sources of support which may help with various aspects of life as a parent/carer.

And breathe!

Even during those times when taking just a minute or two is difficult or even impossible, there is something important and powerful that we can all do to help ourselves feel calmer. Breathing is something that we do all day and all night, regardless of how busy we are! How we breathe can have a huge impact on how we feel. I bet at some point you’ve noticed how your breathing pattern changes when you feel upset, anxious, or angry. In the same way, when we consciously change our breathing pattern, this can also affect the way we feel. Many of us will hold our breath or experience other changes during difficult times and following these simple steps can help you to regulate your breathing, balance your mind and body, and bring a sense of calm within you in any situation. 

  • The first thing to do is to breathe all the way out, emptying your lungs as much as possible. 
  • Then focus on slowing your breathing down, especially your out-breath or exhale. 
  • Next, you can begin to focus on making sure your out-breath is longer than your in-breath, so if for example your inhale is four seconds long, try to breathe out for at least six seconds or longer.
  • Continue with this until you notice your breathing is slower and you are feeling calmer and more settled. 
  • The more you practice this, the easier it becomes, and the more benefits you will gain from it. The key is to practice this when you are feeling calm so that you can draw upon it to use when you feel upset, worried, or anxious. 

Find individual support with hypnotherapy 

Working with someone such as a qualified and accredited hypnotherapist can help to address your own individual challenges in a safe, non-judgmental, empathetic environment on a personalised, one-to-one basis. Our mental health and mood have a direct impact on those that we care for, so working through your difficulties can have a profound positive effect on those around you, as well as yourself.

A major benefit of hypnotherapy is that it can re-teach you to relax, helping you feel calmer and more level-headed and better equipped to deal with the added pressures, stresses and strains that you as a parent/carer are under. 

As a fellow parent/carer to my autistic son, I have a deep understanding of the challenges faced, and how these can differ compared to other parents. Coming from a background in special education and being an experienced advanced-level hypnotherapist, I am here to support you. If you’d like to know more about the support I offer, you can view my profile or email me now to find out more. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Hypnotherapy Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Oldbury, West Midlands, B68
Written by Tracy Jones, AdvDipH ADPR (Advanced Level Practitioner) NLP Practitioner
Oldbury, West Midlands, B68

Tracy J Jones - Advanced Level Clinical Hypnotherapist and NLP Practitioner.

With over 10 years experience as a hypnotherapist, Tracy specialises in stress, anxiety, and related conditions, as she understands the huge impact these have on every part of life. She is passionate about enabling people to live a life they love, free from anxiety.

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