When our lives become devoted to caring for the well-being of another, it’s natural to deprioritize our own health. Over time, neglect for our own mental, emotional, or physical needs can lead to illness in any, or all, of these areas. Most commonly, caregivers begin to experience symptoms of depression including inability to sleep, feelings of exhaustion, severe tiredness, feelings of tension, and inability to concentrate or remember details. As they tell you on airplanes: Secure your own oxygen mask first. If you are not well, you will not be capable of caring for others. We urge caregivers to practice these strategies for keeping yourself happy, healthy, and equipped for the task ahead.
Take a Break
If you have been the primary provider for a special needs child, chances are you cannot imagine how he or she will survive without you. And perhaps you have begun thinking that you cannot survive, or do not exist, without a person to worry about, dispense medicine to, and provide for. This is not a healthy way of being for either of you. And while the care you give is special, there are others who can do the job adequately while you take a break.
If it’s not feasible for you to go away for a night or a weekend, then spend at least a few hours doing something just for you. Remember what you used to do before you were a parent and caregiver. Do you like to go to the beach, or hike in the mountains? Do you enjoy running, or reading, or going to the mall? Self-care can be a luxurious spa day, complete with massages and facials and mud baths, or it can be as simple as taking yourself out for a quiet cup of tea and looking at guilty pleasure magazines for an hour or two.
Staying up late to pore over articles on the internet is not going to fix your child or help him in any significant way. Your time is better spent getting some much-needed rest. Create your own bedtime routine by taking a few minutes to wind down after your child is settled and sleeping soundly. This may include a ban on screens and media. It could call for washing your face with your favorite cleanser, stretching or practicing yoga, or going outside and looking up at the stars.
However you need to detach and detox from the day, relax, and prepare for sleep, take that solace seriously. Get into bed with comfy sheets; wear pajamas that make you feel cozy. Try to sleep at the same time every night, as your body will fall into a rhythm, and get at least eight hours, if possible. Upon waking, give yourself any time there is to start the day in a healthy frame of mind. Drink a big glass of water, and stay hydrated all day. Eat a good, protein-packed breakfast. You won’t do your child a bit of good if you are hungry, tired and stressed.
About Kids Home Health Care cares for caregivers, so that our caregivers can care for our patients. Call us if you need a break, respite, or a get together with a friend or two who have walked in your shoes