Self care is important for parents raising kids with special needs. Guest blogger Laurie McLean is here to explain why self care is important and how to make it a priority in your busy life.
Chances are if you are a parent of a child with a disability, you have felt burn out at one time or another. Perhaps you feel a chronic state of stress and you carry a heavy burden that seems too much to bear. You may have bouts of anxiety or even depression. After all, many of us live in a state of hyper-vigilance and the PTSD associated with this has been compared to that of combat soldiers. So the very notion of self care for special needs parents may seem impossible and not likely to occur any time soon.
The key to improving self care, particularly for special needs parents, is to shift one’s mindset. Self care is not an all or nothing endeavor. Every little bit helps. Remember, it is precisely because you are a caretaker to your precious child with special needs that it is even more imperative that you take care of yourself. Then you can be around and able to provide the best possible care for your child for a good, long time.
Following are some simple mindset shifts to help special needs parents learn to make self care a priority.
Our physical needs are perhaps the most straightforward when it comes to self care. We all know we should eat nutritious foods, hydrate and move our bodies. What we need to remember as special needs parents is that exercise and good nutrition are not additional chores. They are not tasks to check off of our to do list. We all are consumed by the incredible needs of caring for our children and do not need to feel pressured to add any more responsibility to our days.
One way to change our mindset is to think about that feeling when we are finished. Visualize how you will feel when you have stretched your body or completed an aerobic workout. Think about the satisfaction you will feel after you fuel your body with nutritious food and drink some refreshing water. That can serve as your motivation. We rarely regret the exercise we get or the nutritious meal we consume once we are finished.
Mental & Emotional Needs
Often our emotions can feel like they are consuming us. We feel mentally burnt out from the chronic stress of worrying. This hyper-vigilance may lead to a state of anxiety that we just cannot shake or a sense of hopelessness that seems endless. It is essential that we allow ourselves mental breaks. There are many forms these can take, but the reality is that we need to honor the fact that we cannot ignore our mental and emotional needs.
One key to improving our mental state is to connect with people. Many special needs parents feel isolated and alone. If your situation makes it nearly impossible to get out and meet other parents, then virtual support groups are also an option. Just talking to others who “get it” and having a community that will support you and understand your struggles lifts some of the emotional burden. Please do not try to walk this path alone. You are invited to join this Facebook Group to make connections, get support, and experience a true camaraderie.
Remember to be gentle with yourselves. Self care is not an exercise in perfection. We all know that our children are beautifully and wonderfully made. It’s just as important to remember that we, as their parents and caregivers, are as well. We are worth honoring our physical and emotional needs and allowing ourselves self-care. The little steps you take today to improve your self care will pay off when you are healthy, strong, and around longer to care for your children.
Laurie McLean is a blogger, special needs parent, coffee fiend, dog lover, special education advocate and recovering perfectionist interested in balance, humor and self-care. She helps women learn to give themselves grace while they simplify their lives and make the most of their motherhood journey, no matter what unexpected things may come their way. You can visit her blog, Life with a Side of the Unexpected or check out her page on Facebook.
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