“In dealing with those who are undergoing great suffering, if you feel “burnout” setting in, if you feel demoralized and exhausted, it is best, for the sake of everyone, to withdraw and restore yourself. The point is to have a long-term perspective.”
— Dalai Lama
If you are like too many parents of children with special needs, everyone else’s care comes first, and you can tend to ignore your own needs and refuse to take time for yourself. Ultimately the cost may be hard to bear. I see so many “Supermoms” diagnosed with cancer, stricken with a heart attack or succumbing to some other disease for want of self-care and an overwhelm of stress. Lack of balance can take a drastic toll on your health. Feelings of isolation, overwhelm, depression, guilt can eat away at your well-being and your relationships. Lack of exercise, weight gain and extreme stress debilitate your own immune system. We all know how important you are to your loved ones, and you want to be there for them. At the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, we call it “primary food”– the relationships that fuel our well-being and feed our spirit. It is a necessity!
Self-care and primary food is essential to your healthy future as a caregiver.
- TAKE TIME FOR YOU: Set aside some time each day for some activity that cares for yourself and helps you to handle the stress of care giving. It can be meditation, yoga, exercise, reading selected books, listen to music, journaling. Block out a place and time in your schedule in pen as seriously as you block in therapy for your child, and commit to it.
- TAKE TIME FOR OTHERS: Establish your own support network. It can include a facebook group for parents engaged in similar solution seeking, an in-person support group of caregivers at your local school, therapy center, church, etc. or a local chapter of an organization of parents who share your concerns and hopes. It helps so much to know that others are facing the same problems you do, and what they have done and are doing about them. Be sure than you are in a group of positive solutions seekers. A group filled with negativity and demoralization can just drag you down further.
- TAKE TIME FOR YOUR PARTNER: If you are married or in a relationship, take time to be with your partner and share your concerns, fears, burdens. If not, find a friend or two that will really listen to you.
- TAKE TIME FOR FRIENDSHIPS: keep in touch with those with whom you can confide and seek advice. It is in these relationships that we find the support for our own inner strength and resolve that can make all the difference. Perhaps pre-caregiver friends are busy with other concerns and may need really understand what you are going through. Strike up conversations and get to know parents or caregivers where you take your child or loved one. They are facing similar concerns and can empathize and provide advice, and you may find that your life experiences can make for a mutually beneficial relationship.