Recently, I re-read an article that Catherine St. Louis wrote in The New York Times in 2014. She presented research about coping techniques for parent caregivers of children with chronic health needs. This paragraph stood out for me.
“All parents endure stress, but studies show that parents of children with developmental disabilities, like autism, experience depression and anxiety far more often. Struggling to obtain crucial support services, the financial strain of paying for various therapies, the relentless worry over everything from wandering to the future — all of it can be overwhelming.”
The research focused on two coping approaches. “The first group practiced meditation, breathing exercises, and qigong practices to hone mental focus. The second received instructions on curbing negative thoughts, practicing gratitude and reclaiming an aspect of adult life. Both groups were led by specially trained mentors, themselves the parents of special-needs children.”
Not surprisingly, both groups reported reductions in stress and anxiety and even “how to redirect their anxiety into positive action.” The group given the meditation techniques seemed to report greater reductions in anxiety.
When my child was diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder I also experienced high levels of stress, anxiety, sleep deprivation and fear. It was then that I refocused my writing journey to include all of what was happening in my life. I found great relief and new wells of creative energy. I became a better advocate for my daughter too.
I have had similar reports from parents in my Writing as a Righting Journey workshop where we use writing and body awareness to help reduce anxiety and find ways to channel it into creative, and more productive thinking and action.
Next week I’ll be presenting my work at an international health humanities workshop in Spain and in November, I’ll share some insights of my work at a Mayo Clinic conference in Phoenix, Humanities in Medicine. Stay tuned.