Parents of children with special needs are often pulled in numerous directions between home, work, childcare, and the need for personal care measures. According to Cleveland Clinic, parental fatigue and burnout is real, and can set in without warning. One way to combat it is to create a self-care “treatment plan” that will keep you happy, healthy, and focused on the most important things in life. This article provides a diagnostic framework for parents to use in determining their relative level of fatigue, as well as some ideas on treating their core fatigue causes.
Assessing Your Fatigue Level
Before you can effectively implement self-care, anti-fatigue measures, you need to make a self-assessment. Rate your personal levels of anxiety and depression, including how well you sleep. Are you getting regular exercise? Do you have a viable support system inside and outside your marriage? How time-consuming is your caregiving burden? Once you have a clear picture of where you are, you can proactively address each issue. Build in time for physical activity to help reduce anxiety, and consult your primary care provider if depressive symptoms persist. Set regular sleep and wake times. Employ outside child care assistance where needed and look for ways to prioritize your marriage.
Keeping It Together
Sometimes, parents who have been overwhelmed with special needs childcare responsibilities find themselves overcompensating when it comes to self-care. While you’re on the right track in terms of making yourself a priority, you don’t want to over-burden your social support systems. For example, taking a day every other weekend for a spa visit can be healthy; doing it multiple times a month can create undue financial burdens. Likewise, you don’t want to take advantage of a generous neighbor by asking them to continually run errands or pet sit. Find a viable system that allows you to take the time you need for positive, healthy self-care without over-taxing your resources.
Pursuing Personal Goals
One productive way to care for yourself while still benefiting your family is to set new personal goals that are good for you, and by association, good for the family. You might take up a new hobby that’s just for you, or that the whole family can enjoy together, like hiking, playing a team sport, or learning a new style of cooking or gardening. According to Become, you might consider going back to school to advance your education or pursue your passion by starting a small business. You’ll want to start by forming a limited liability company, or LLC. This can protect you from some kinds of liability, give you flexibility, and make it easy to file taxes. You can do the legwork yourself or pay an attorney, but using a formation company is your best bet. LLC formation rules vary from one state to another, so learn yours in advance. Just search, “How do I start an LLC?”
Knowing When To Ask For Help
Sometimes life can get simply overwhelming, and it’s critical that you are able to recognize when you need to ask for specialized help. Maintain regular appointments with your personal health caregivers, and bring concerning issues to their attention. For example, if you have major changes in mood, sleeping or eating patterns, or you find yourself relying on caffeine and alcohol to get you through typical days, it’s time to ask for help. Regular healthy meals, adequate sleep, stress reduction techniques, and making time just for you can help you develop healthy coping strategies that benefit the whole family.
Raising a special needs child is a lifetime commitment. As such, developing a self-care, fatigue-fighting toolkit will be necessary to ensure you are caring for yourself in such a way that you are available and open to the needs of others.
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Article by Gwen Payne