So, while I was taking a short break from blogging in order to make more time to help my boys transition back to school I was also researching an article idea I had about stress and parenting children with special needs. I wanted to provide my potential readers with a greater understanding of what stress is and how to cope with in relation to the challenges of special needs parenting. As a reasonably well-educated and well-adjusted mother of three children with autism, I thought I could write from a position of authority on this topic.
I wasn’t wrong, but I wasn’t right either.
You see, for some silly reason I thought I had a pretty good handle on my stress. Maybe, relative to some, I do. But, as I started researching the signs of excessive stress (or, to be particular, excessive unmanaged stress), I realized that I wasn’t managing my own stress as we as I should.
The following list describes some symptoms of unmanaged stress and my reactions. You might want to check your own reactions, because the consequences of unmanaged stress are bad for your health (not to mention your ability to parent your children effectively).
Symptoms (my responses):
- Memory difficulties. (Um, what was the question again? Um, yes, I got that.)
- Difficulty concentrating. (While I’m sure my children being out of school—and the subsequent increase in volume—is part of it, concentration has been an issue.)
- Poor judgment. (Not so much…unless I’m judging that poorly.)
- Seeing only the negative. (Not only the negative.)
- Anxious or racing thoughts. (Um, yeah, but that’s kind of normal for me.)
- Constant worrying. (Again, normal—for me.)
- Aches and pains. (Not really.)
- Nausea, dizziness. (Thank goodness, no.)
- Chest pain, rapid heartbeat. (Definitely not that.)
- Frequent colds. (I work in a wet basement, so I’m not sure my perpetual sinus condition counts.)
- Moodiness. (Unfortunately, yes.)
- Irritability or short temper. (Yeah, I got that.)
- Agitation, inability to relax. (I’m getting better, really I am!)
- Feeling overwhelmed. (Does it count if you are actually overwhelmed?)
- Sense of loneliness and isolation. (Nope. The boys are way too loud and active for me to feel lonely or isolated.)
- Depression or general unhappiness. (Yes, but I’m clinical, so that doesn’t really count.)
- Eating more or less. (I’ve eaten today, so I’ll count that as a ‘no.’)
- Sleeping too much or too little. (Too little time=too little sleep. Duh!)
- Isolating yourself from others. (Did I mention I work in a wet basement?)
- Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities. (Um, well, yeah, there’s that…but only a little.)
- Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax. (I’m addicted to cigarettes, but that’s not new. Though, stress is the reason I started to smoke and the reason quitting doesn’t go well. So, that’s a ‘yes.’)
- Nervous habits. (Yeah, again, that’s kind of normal for me.)
The symptoms of unmanaged stress correlate rather closely with the symptoms of certain anxiety-related disorders. Go figure! I have been diagnosed with both depression and OCD, so it’s hard to separate out what’s going to be normal for me and what’s actually manageable stress, but it looks like I need to work on this some more.