A Special Kind of Stress

Calming techniques for the chaos and anxiety of special needs life.

Raising a child with special needs is a challenging task that can drain parents, especially when effective coping methods are absent.

Brain development in children is a complex process that depends on several factors, including nutrition, social interaction, and engaging in numerous activities. This multifactorial process is primarily reliant on the parents’ commitment. Parents can make a big difference in raising their children, and consequently, how well their cognitive abilities develop.

The Role of Mindfulness

Over the past few years, researchers have inspected hundreds of clinical trials to comprehend the effects of mindfulness. Published studies have found that mindfulness benefits both physical and mental health. Practicing mindfulness helps parents of children with special needs provide care for their loved ones while preserving their mental health.

Helps with Setting Goals

Every day, parents face several challenges with raising their children. During certain times, the challenge is just too big that it blurs the goals they set for raising their child. Fortunately, the practice of meditation develops non-judgmental awareness, which became an important tool in clinical psychiatry during the 1970s.

Today, mindfulness practices are marketed to train productive workers and reduce anxiety. However, experts are putting more emphasis on the role of meditation in goal-setting. Generally speaking, meditation allows you to observe physical sensations and psychological experiences including desires, feelings, and emotions. This can help integrate your body and mind to create a heightened sense of awareness.

In a study published by the Journal of Research in Personality, researchers suggested that mindful people have an impressive trait — they are better at setting goals. In other words, each person sets goals that work best for them.

Mastering this skill is crucial for every parent who is raising a child with special needs. In fact, many organizations have already started implementing mindfulness programs to help individuals who have to cope with the stress and anxiety of caring for a person with special needs.

Reduces Stress Levels

Since ancient times, mindfulness has been strongly linked to its anxiety-relieving properties. In a 2014 meta-analysis, experts concluded that mindfulness reduces the risk of anxiety, depression, and other mental health disorders if practiced regularly. Lowering your stress levels is crucial to achieve your goals and prevent breakdowns.

Lowers Burnout Risk

Burnout is prevalent in parents of children with special needs, which is understandable due to the demanding nature of this task.

Fortunately, researchers have found that mindfulness lowers the risk of burnout in workers and parents. This is crucial as the burnout of parents can be devastating to the care of their children.

The main issue with the diagnosis of burnout is the subtle clinical presentation that could easily be mistaken for other mental health problems. By far, mental exhaustion is the most prominent symptom of burnout. It gives a parent a sense of dread and a feeling of cynicism about everything related to their parenting tasks.

Patients with burnout also report feeling angry, irritated, and moody. More specifically, parents may experience a reduced feeling of compassion toward their children. The signs and symptoms of burnout are non-specific and quite subtle, making prevention the best approach — hence the importance of mindfulness.

Improves Sleep Quality 

Raising a child with special needs can undoubtedly cause parents a few sleepless nights. Over time, the lack of sleep can impact their performance, negatively impacting their quality of life and their child’s quality of care.

Practicing mindfulness can drastically improve sleep quality, even if you are dealing with insomnia. The underlying mechanism behind this phenomenon boils down to the release of stress-relieving hormones and sedative neurotransmitters in the central nervous system (CNS).

For instance, serotonin gets released during the practice of meditation, yoga, and exercise, which is later transformed into the primary sleep hormone, melatonin. Perhaps sleep improvement is the most important benefit of mindfulness due to the debilitating effects of insomnia on mental health.

Mindfulness is a fantastic practice that tremendously helps parents of children with special needs. Learning how to integrate mindfulness practices into their daily routine will reflect on the way they take care of themselves and how they raise their child.

Anthony Cupo is a Trained Mindfulness Facilitator (TMF) from the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. He is a co-owner of Stepping Forward Counseling Center, LLC and has been meditating for over 30 years. Our article is also published in ParentingOC’s Magazine!

Download Your Free Resource 

Want to restore the lines of broken communication with your child? Talking with an intentionally closed-off kid isn’t easy — get some tips to help with our resource!