Having a child with special needs may tax all of your inner resources as you navigate the multiple systems to get the best care for your child. At the same time you likely have other obligations, such as spouse, other children, work, other family and friends all competing for your time and attention. You may be experiencing a variety of feelings depending on where you are in your personal journey. For parents with a new diagnosis, you likely feel shocked and scared. You wonder if anyone else can possibly understand what you are going through. For families that have been dealing with the unique challenges of their child, you may feel exhausted and isolated.
You likely find yourself putting yourself last, not getting enough sleep, social time and time with your spouse. You feel guilty, tired and sometimes downright cranky! Carers often sacrifice taking care of themselves in order to put others first. The downside to this is that caring requires stamina, and not taking care of yourself increases your stress level. Increased stress can lead to a variety of negative emotional and physical health outcomes. The old adage is true; you have to “take the oxygen first” so that you can have the strength and wherewithal to care for your loved one.
Of course, taking care of yourself is easy to say but how are you going to add anything else to your plate you wonder?
- Think small steps. What is just one thing you could do for yourself? This could be a ten minute break where you listen to music and close your eyes.
- Identify the who, what, where and when of what you want to do. Making a firm plan, aka a commitment increases the likelihood you will follow though. For example, I will meet my friend Mary at Coffee Bean on Monday morning at ten for a half an hour.
- How confident are you that you will be able to do what you intend? If you give yourself less than a seven out of a scale of ten, it may mean that you should find something else that you can be successful at doing.
- My husband has a saying at our house, “if mama is happy, everyone is happy”. There is truth in this in that as a parent our attitude can really set the tone in our homes. Taking care of you is a gift to everyone, including your child who depends on you.
Remember that good self care is selfless, not selfish! Take care of yourself! You are a very important person. Best, Dr. Lisa
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