15 Easy Ways to Beat Stress and Boost Happiness

This post is being written after I spent all of last week in the hospital with our son, who was having some difficulty dealing with a GI bug of some sort.

He is back home and doing much better now.

The morning after we returned home from the hospital our daughter got sick with what was most likely the same stomach virus our son had.

We all know having sick kids equates to not getting enough sleep, and let me tell you that sleeping on a hospital chair/couch is not at all restful either.

My body is great at telling me when I’m worn down and stressed out, so doing research for this blog post on Stress Awareness Month is going to come in handy as I seek some ways to get extra relaxation and rest.

For me personally, more stress brings on more anxiety.  When I’m away from home in the hospital or not feeling the best myself, it is a challenge to get to the gym to exercise.

Sometimes I just plain do not have the energy, so it is important to find little ways to take better care of myself, and to decrease the anxiety that stress can create.

If my stress and anxiety are not well managed, some real health issues can surface, and if mama is sick, running a normal home life is very difficult.

So do yourself and your health a favor and take a look at some of these great ideas to eliminate stress this month and every month!

Try out adult coloring books

Listen to music that makes you happy

Find a positive phrase, scripture, quote to repeat to yourself

Keep a gratitude journal of things you are thankful for


Try yoga, jogging, or Pilates from free online videos

Take a break, even just for a day, from social media like Facebook and Instagram

Get outside for a bit…nature and fresh air can do a lot for the soul

Soak in a hot bath

Go for a walk – a 10-minute walk can relieve anxiety

Laugh…it reduces stress hormones!

Spend five minutes breathing slowly and deeply to reduce stress hormones

Get a massage or spa treatment

Listen to a funny podcast

Get a good night’s sleep


3 Strategies To Get you Walking

Walking is also an easy activity for children to join in and explore the world around them.

Despite these perks, let’s face it–walking can get really old, really fast.

So how can you stay motivated to keep this incredibly easy and beneficial activity in your everyday life?

Use these three strategies to not only get you walking, but keep you walking.

1) Podcasts

Podcasts are audio files that can be downloaded or streamed from your computer or smartphone. iTunes alone boasts that it has hundreds of thousands of free podcasts.

With such an extensive inventory available to you, finding a topic you’re interested in (or already love) should only take a quick Google search.

Looking for information about the latest cerebral palsy or other special needs equipment? Look no further.

Are you a gardening enthusiast? Take your pick.

How about a lover of episodic horror stories? Got you covered.

2) Library Audiobooks

Library cards are free, and they provide access to far more than just the printed and bound books that line the shelves.

Many libraries also allow cardholders to check out digital materials like audiobooks (through sites like this one).

The audiobook files are usually downloaded through a connected app, where they can be played at your leisure.

When your checkout time expires, books are automatically returned for you.

Check out a story to listen to with your child, and see if this helps encourage them to keep walking as well.

Visit your local library’s website or speak with a librarian to find out what sort of digital offerings they provide.

3) Stream Your Favorite Shows

This one works better on a treadmill when you don’t have to worry about watching where you’re going, but it’s a simple and inexpensive way to get your mind off of your feet.

If you’re like most content consumers these days, you probably already have at least one streaming service you frequent.

If not, subscriptions to Netflix, Huluand Amazon Prime only cost around $8-12 per month.

Not sure if this is for you? Each service offers a short trial period for free.

Another delightful thing about walking is that it’s easy to do with others–friends, spouses, children.

So strap on that Upsee! It’s time to walk.

7 Signs of Caregiver Burnout as a Special Needs Parent

A mom is a mom and caring for their child is in the job description.

I agree, of course, but caring for a child with severe autism is so much more. It’s an up all night, never sit down, zero to life journey.

I have 2 children. Cooper, my first born, is loving, caring, funny and was diagnosed with autism at age 3.

He is now 6 and his autism falls on the severe end meaning he is nonverbal with severe sensory issues and no self-care. This includes being potty trained.

There are days where I feel less like a mother and more like a personal care attendant.

I have entered uncharted territory with my special needs son.

I just put him on the bus. And by that I mean I physically handed his flailing, screaming body to the bus aide.

I am covered in sweat. I can feel the fresh bruises on my thighs. The pinch marks are visible on my upper arms. My face is beat red. My lip is fat from a swift head butt.

I smiled to his bus driver as he said, ‘tough morning?’ It took everything I could do to smile and nod and mutter, ‘you could say that.’

He gave me that look. Any parent that has been in the midst of an autism meltdown knows the look. It feels like pity. Typically it comes from a good place, but it still hurts.

I was embarrassed enough already. I felt disheveled and unsettled.

I was the mother to this little boy and I should be able to handle all that he can throw at me.

I mean….he is only six. But he is also nearing 65 pounds. He is strong. He is healthy. He is in way better shape than I am.

The second I turned to walk towards the house I burst into tears. I was able to choke them back long enough to turnaround and wave to my son.

Just like I do every single morning.

He needs to see my smile. He needs to know that mommy isn’t rattled. He needs to know that mommy is fine.

Except, just like the day before, I wasn’t fine. I was hurt and exhausted and confused.

As I waved I couldn’t help but think, ‘Why me?’ My hands were still shaking.

I knew I should hurry up and leave for work. I was already late. But I was rattled and crying and I looked terrible. I needed to quickly reapply my makeup but first I had to stop crying.

I refill my coffee cup for the 4th time that morning and take a quick peek in the mirror.

I didn’t even recognize myself. Bloodshot eyes with huge bags underneath.

My skin was pale. I see bruises on my upper arms. My roots are grown out not to mention greasy. I can’t shower when I am alone with my son.

He needs constant supervision.

I let myself go down the rabbit hole of feelings that accompany raising a child with severe autism.

The self-pity. The ‘why me’s’. The ‘this isn’t fairs.’ The ‘I can’t do this for the rest of my life.’

Let’s be clear here…I love my son more than I can put into words. He is my life. He is my purpose. He is my joy.

But, his care is sometimes more stressful than I know how to handle. We are entering a new world. He is getting older. He is getting bigger. And I am still the same size.

Caring for an upset and inconsolable infant is one thing. Caring for an upset 60 pound 6 year old amidst of an autism meltdown is different.

I am not scared of Coop yet. But I can see a glimpse into the future. Little boys turn into teens that turn into men.

I have heard of caregiver burnout and if you search the term you will see a theme. The term refers typically to caregivers that care for adults.

Caring for my son with severe special needs is a 24 hour a day job.

I also work full time. And yes, you could say he is in school for 8 hours a day. Well, much of my day is spent making phone calls, replying to emails and doing the business side of autism.

On top of that I am sick all the time. I catch every bug that goes around. I never feel rested. I never have a break. Even if I go out with friends or take a break I feel out of place. Or guilty.

Do you ever feel that way?

Here is a list of signs of Caregiver Burnout for Parents. If you are experiencing any of these you need to try and take a break. Find respite care. Call a friend or a family member to help.

Caregiver burnout is dangerous for you and your family.

1. Your emotions are like a roller coaster. Daily you experience a wide variety of emotions. You feel furious one minute, sad and helpless the next.

2. You are always sick and rundown. You can’t figure out why you catch every bug that is going around.

3. You consistently cancel or don’t make plans with anyone. If you do go you feel out of place or can’t turn off the worries about your child. No one can care for them as good as you can.

4. You know you should have hobbies, but you just don’t have the time. Frankly at this point you don’t even know what you like anymore. You struggle to self-identify.

5. Even though you are married you’re the go-to caregiver. Always. Your spouse helps of course but the sole responsibility falls on you. You have no babysitters. You have no respite.

6. Your self-care has gone downhill drastically. You joke about not having time to go to the doctor or dentist. How could you fit it in…what would you do with your child during the appointment.

7. You struggle to sleep, relax, or rest. Your mind is constantly on the child you care for.

New Year – New Me!

In fact I wouldn’t quite say abandoned, more like abused my physical and emotional well being.

I have eaten badly, drank too much and haven’t taken any responsibility for what I have been putting in my body, all the time making excuses and trying to prove that somehow I deserve a treat.

A treat is something you reward yourself or others with spontaneously, not something you include in your everyday life, as that becomes the norm.

Whenever we would have a bad day of Zachariah being unsettled or poorly, or an extra bad night where I’m lucky to get any sleep I would easily turn to food, food being the treat that I supposedly deserve for being a tired and grumpy Mummy.

And everyone around me would encourage this idea ensuring me that I’m allowed to treat myself again because I did an all nighter.

The thing is, this so called treat obsession has in fact damaged my body and my emotional state, as I have gotten bigger and ridiculously unfit and to be honest it’s made me feel rather disgusting, so how is this treat doing me and my family any good?

You know the big hospital appointments, the ones where you need to really get yourself in the zone and build up to?

Whenever we would have one of these, I would plan my treat in advance and have it ready for when we leave the hospital.

So I basically told myself that it was going to be a hard appointment and I would need a treat to make it all better again.

What I’m potentially saying here is, treats fix everything that I feel is hard to digest and out of my control.

As I type this out, I am beginning to realise just how unhealthy it really is!

As I’ve realised what I’m doing I have been trying to figure out how to change this frame of mind into something more beneficial for my well being.

For a start I’ve had to accept that I do not deserve these so called treats every time I’m feeling tired, upset, confused or lacking control, (the list goes on).

But learn to manage them in a more healthy way. The way I do this is pray, process all my worries through prayer and find peace that what will be will be, and that all will be good.

Whatever comes our way we may not be able to control but we can get through it together.

If it’s out of my depth then why waste time worrying over it in the first place, I keep telling myself.

This is hope and faith. These two things are what I have been lacking in my journey, without these two things I have been turning to food and alcohol to make me feel better.

It’s time for change!

Now I will be making some big adjustments to my daily routine, the first has being the start of a new diet, a diet that is primarily organic foods and drinks, everything natural and nutritious, it’s time to start giving my body the goodness it deserves.

The second has been signing up to a fitness group to get myself back into healthier state. I have set goals to keep me focused, one being to run two 10k runs for charity.

One of the charities being for Epilepsy, as my biggest frustration in my life as Zachariah’s Mummy is the nasty epilepsy, so I want to be active in trying to help find a cure!

It’s time to stop feeling sorry for myself and start making a difference.

As I am absolutely sure that when I start getting healthier I will start looking at life differently.

Yes, there will be hard days, but I will handle them with more positive and be proactive in trying to turn the day around.

I hope to be able to lift my son more easily and be fit enough to cope with his dramatic growth, as my biggest fear is not being able to cuddle my own son, and the way I’m going this could soon become reality.

I’m doing this to be a better me, a more able Mummy and Wife and to feel good about myself again.

I’ll conclude by saying, how can I expect other people not to feel sorry for me when they hear about how challenging life can be as a special needs Mummy when I’m actually here feeling sorry for myself and feeding my treat addiction?

What can you do today to make a difference in your life?

6 Best Hand Creams Chosen by Special Needs Mums

Days spent changing nappies/diapers, constant washing and applying anti-bacterial gels, hopsital stays, the friction of daily lifting and the endless use of baby wipes soon take its toll, leaving hands dry, chapped and very, very sore.

The pain of dry, cracked hands can have a big impact on the challenges and daily routine of caring for a child or children with special needs.

Hands are exposed to the elements as much as the face, they are one of the first places to show aging this shows just how important it is to protect them.

We asked some special needs mums what their favourite hand creams were.

This is what they came up with:

Bodyshop Hemp Hand Protector

‘My hands were always sore and dry but not anymore. I always find the winter months particularly bad and would often have hacks but one application of Hemp Hand Protector before I go to bed is enough to restore the moisture and repair the hack. I’ve tried many hand creams in the past and this is by far the best. Truly an amazing product.’

Claire Smyth

Crabtree & Evelyn Verbana & Lavender

‘This is my favourite hand cream. I absolutely love the smell, it dries really quickly and leaves my hands silky smooth with no horrible residue. I got it given to me as a gift so I don’t know how I’ll feel about buying it for myself as it is much more expensive than previous ones I would’ve used. But it repairs any damaged or dry areas almost immediately. My mum also uses it so it reminds me of her.’

Laura Rutherford

Nivea Smooth and Nourishing Hand Cream

‘I love this hand cream. It leaves my hands soft but it’s also great for Ethan’s hands as his little hands curl. This cream, I’ve found, dries quicker and keeps his skin soft rather than other creams which take ages to dry, meaning his hands curl in again with wet cream on, Nivea doesn’t do this! It also gets bonus points for being cheap.’

Ger Renton

Soap & Glory Hand Food

‘This is definitely the best hand cream out there. I put it on before I go to bed and when I wake up in the morning the dryness and sores have repaired leaving my hands feeling smooth and ready to tackle the day ahead. It smells fantastic too.’

Sarah Brisdion 

Bio Oil

‘OK so not technically a hand cream, but I started to use Bio Oil on my hands a few months ago and already notice a big difference in my hands. I add in a bit of aqueous cream to make it last longer.’

Maura McCrystal 

Aveeno Hand Cream

‘I have two kids in nappies so good hand cream is a must for me and I swear by this one. It leaves my hands repaired and nourished after each use.’

Vaila Morrison

Refresh and De-Stress

There are so many clichés out there like, “Happy wife, happy life,” and, “If mom isn’t happy, nobody is happy.”

While families can look different from one another, there is a sense of truth to those cliché statements if your family unit contains a mother or father who is a caretaker for a special needs child, maintains the household, organizes and tracks everyone’s schedules and activities, schedules and attends doctor’s appointments, and the list goes on.

These tasks are tiring for parents who are raising healthy, typically developing children.

These tasks can be downright exhausting for those raising children with special needs due to the extra demands that life brings.

I am not implying this makes the children any less of a blessing, but it can make daily life more stressful.

My goal here is to share a few things that have been part of my routine as of late to refresh and de-stress in the hopes that it will inspire you to find an activity or hobby that does the same for you.


I have been participating in a class at the local YMCA that combines yoga, Pilates, and Tai chi.  It has been a great activity for me as it makes me feel calm and centered by the time the hour has passed.

I’ve never been the type to go out and run five miles to feel like I’d had a good workout, but this class combines strength with relaxation that makes me feel less stressed.

Whether it’s kickboxing or pilates or spinning class, find a positive outlet for your stress that will bring you into better health, which is good for you and your family!

Friend Time

Moms need time together.

Dads need time together.

There is something about a group of girlfriends indulging in snacks and chatting that can refresh me differently than a date night with my husband.

My closest friends and I try to make it a priority to get together for girls movie night, or go out for coffee to catch up and spend time being friends and adults.

This is a welcome break from being, “Mom”, for a couple of hours on a Friday night once in a while.

I encourage you to make time to connect with your closest friends – the ones that you can laugh with until you cry, tell old stories with, and leave feeling like you got a bit of yourself back.


I recently participated in my first craft fair.

While I didn’t sell as much as I had hoped at the craft booth shared with a friend, preparing all of the items was so much fun for me.

I have always enjoyed being artistic and making things, so putting together some home décor items and gifts is a creative outlet for me that there has not always been time for.

I didn’t make time for it.

Having the deadline of the craft fair held me accountable to getting everything ready on time, and that was good for me. It would do all of us mamas and dads good (and our families too) if we scheduled a deadline or set aside time for ourselves to do a hobby we enjoy.

The Secret Epidemic Affecting Special Needs Parents

It is so common for me to hear this.

It is the centre piece of every support group, the most common theme on online special needs parent forums, the single most heard words when I meet up with people.

For some of those parents, it is so bad that I encourage them to see a doctor for support.

In my years as a fellow special needs parent I have found there is a secret epidemic affecting so many special needs parents and it needs talked about:

We need to talk about depression.

Depression in the special needs mum or dad is so understandable but too often goes unnoticed.

People see a mum crying and think she is having a bad day.

What they don’t know about is all the other nights she cried in private and no-one knew.

My eyes are more tuned to see people struggling since I have walked that path.

I know what it is like to look at my child and worry for his future.

I know what it is like to feel there is no hope.

I recognise that feeling of failure when you realise your child is just not developing as they should.

I know the pain of taking your child to hospital when they should be outside playing with friends.

It is isolating when your child is disabled or has special needs and it is ok to admit that.

Society sadly expects us to be positive, upbeat and encouraging and often I see parents who are so emotionally overwhelmed, so sleep deprived, so beaten down by the system, that they have so little hope.

When you have a child who struggles in school every day, a child who won’t eat, or has no friends, or is being bullied for being different, or who cannot play in a park as the equipment is unsuitable for their needs how would you feel?

If your child was denied the support they need, or could not communicate, or is living in pain every day…

Would you not be heartbroken?

Is it any wonder there is an epidemic of depression among parents of children with additional needs?

While so many are on medication, and this is vital, we also as a society need to recognise that special needs parenting is exhausting and draining.

Medication is wonderful but what about better support and understanding for our children, better care for those in society who are full time carers, training for staff so they can better meet the needs of the most vulnerable, and a society less prone to judge and quicker to encourage?

The current epidemic of depression among special needs families is concerning, but what worries me more is that continual budget cuts and ignorance in society is breeding not only depression among the parents but sadly I am now seeing siblings, and even special needs children themselves, struggling with the same issues.

We need to recognise this epidemic and do something about it now!

Don’t ever be afraid to tell someone you a really struggling.

Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help.

Together we can support each other and help make a better future for us and our children.

Taking time for Me!

You know, like reading a book leisurely, doing my favourite hobbies, taking a swim (without the kids!), going to the hairdressers or beauty salon, or even going out with my husband.

I’m not saying this in some ‘look at me, I’m so selfless’ kind of way.

I’m saying it truthfully, somewhat regretfully.

I KNOW that I need to do more things for ‘me’ but life kind of gets in the way. The busy, day-in, day-out, there-are-only-so-many-hours-in-the-day balancing act that we all do.

Not only is life with kids busy, once you add a child with complex needs you take it up another notch…

I am a carer. I nurture and care for my four beautiful girls, I look after my husband and our household, and my background is nursing (which essentially is a ‘caring profession’).

I do LOVE CARING. I wouldn’t want to do anything else.

But caring can be exhausting.

So recently when I was feeling a little overwhelmed and stressed, I had a long introspective look at myself. I asked myself “how can I be a good mum, a good wife, a good nurse, if I don’t take care of myself first?”

I am finding my way at purposefully taking time for ME. With my girls at school now a good chunk of the morning and afternoon, I have a lot more time on my hands and am determined to do all those things for myself that I’ve been putting off for years. Just doing things I enjoy and that will make me emotionally and mentally happier and healthier.

I’m also juggling a back to practice course and hoping to find a part-time nursing job that will get me out of the house and mingling with people, doing something I love. I’m doing this for ME.

It’s SO important to take time for yourself! We all desperately NEED time to de-stress and do things for ourselves that bring joy, relaxation and fulfilment.

My top suggestions for, ‘ME’, time:

– have a SPA day, or mani/pedicure

– get a massage

– trip to the hairdressers

– spend an hour reading a book in peace

– spend time doing your favourite hobby

– go on a shopping trip (for new clothes, make-up etc. NO kid/food items!)

– go for a walk somewhere beautiful to think and destress (and grab a coffee!)

Not only will we feel better, but we will be better equipped to look after our children and families

Exercise – Vital for the Child with Autism, and his Mom

Picture the scene: a frazzled mother with her head in her hands, and a child desperate to focus, while trying to sit still long enough to learn to multiply fractions.

The mother sees laundry piling up around her, dishes in the sink, and feels her patience fading as she tries to help the child remain on task.

The child is frustrated; feeling misunderstood.

It’s not his fault that he has oodles of excess energy to burn.  The mother is tired and feels like she is drowning as the day is growing shorter, and there are numerous lessons remaining to finish.

This scenario is a typical homeschool day at our house.

Or, at least it has been until we discovered a magical component that had been missing from our routine.  EXERCISE!!

Mothers of children with special needs experience stress that can be compared to PTSD.

When you have two children with special needs (one with multiple disabilities), some days the stress is absolutely crushing.

It’s hard to breathe.

“How will we make it through the day?”

“How will we accomplish all the tasks before us today?”

For the longest time, I simply loaded myself up with strong coffee and started each day with a less than positive attitude, complaining when things didn’t go as planned.

We possess a gym membership, but for a long time, it had gone unused.  “Who has time for that?” was always my excuse.

When my mother decided to start working out and to put her health first, we thought it would be a good idea to join her, in support.

Soon I realized that spending time with my dear mother, chatting as we burned calories on the elliptical machine, was promoting a sense of well-being in my life that I greatly needed.

While we worked out, my son ran on a treadmill and rode a stationary bicycle next to us.

He loved being active and felt a sense of calmness as the endorphins started kicking in.

Quickly we realized that when we started our day with exercise, it set a positive tone.

We finished school work faster, and with phenomenally better attitudes.

The energy breaks needed throughout the day were lessened.

I even had the energy and the mindset to get my work around the house knocked out.

We were HAPPIER!!

On some days, my son and I skip the gym and we go for therapeutic walks outside. We discuss his favorite topic, video games, as we walk.

This allows us to begin our day without stress and with our minds fully relaxed.

Why didn’t we try this sooner? I’m overjoyed that we spend much less time arguing over schedules and school assignments now.

I don’t feel like I’m drowning anymore. Life will never be easy, but we’ve found our way to better mental and physical health.

When you have those two key elements on your side, the challenges you face become easier to tackle.