Stress is a normal response to pressure or demands that our body finds threatening. A certain amount of stress in our daily lives is normal. However, experiencing high levels of stress over long periods of time can negatively impact our mental health and physical health and can lead to a number of potential health issues.
It is well documented that caregivers of children with disabilities experience increased levels of stress. But caregivers of children with FASD have been shown to experience higher levels of stress than most people. In a 2009 study, 92% of primary caregivers of individuals with FASD had clinically elevated stress levels. These number show that finding effective ways for caregivers to manage stress is especially important for this population.
Practicing self-care is one way that we can help to reduce stress and improve our mental health. What’s more, research shows that caregivers who are confident in their ability to practice self-care show higher rates of the family needs being met, higher rates of personal satisfaction, and lower levels of parental distress.
Self-care strategies for caregivers of individuals with disabilities have been well researched, but it wasn’t until just recently that research was published on what self-care looks like for caregivers of individuals with FASD. The researchers asked 46 caregivers of children with FASD what their strategies for self-care were:
- 73.9% reported being present, which involves an activity focused on time alone
(i.e., meditation, yoga, spending time in nature, “me time”, prayer)
- 67.4% reported maintaining physical health
(i.e., exercise, walk, sleep, eat healthy)
- 54.3% reported seeking social supports, either in the form of friends and family or professional supports
(i.e., support groups, counsellors, partners, friends)
- 39.1% reported engaging in hobbies
(i.e., reading, gardening, cooking)
- 28.3% reported treating yourself to small luxuries
(i.e., pedicures, taking a bath, eating chocolate)
- 19.6% reported consuming media
(i.e. movies, TV shows, music)
- 6.5% reported seeking information, which involved educating themselves or researching solutions
(research, internet browsing, online seminars)