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  • Carrie Spencer

Self-Care to Ward Off Fatigue for Parents of Children With Special Needs

Caring for your special needs child or children can take a toll on you in countless ways. Yes, you love your child and want to do everything you can to give them a full, safe, and happy life. But that doesn’t mean you don’t get stressed, tired, or even burnt out. It’s important for parents of children with autism or other special needs to know their own limits, and what to do to prevent burnout.

Know how to assess your fatigue levels.

It can be difficult to be objective about how you are feeling, so it may help to have a method for assessing what level of fatigue you are at. One thing to look at is whether you are getting enough sleep. If you are consistently sleep-deprived, this takes a toll on your physical and mental health. Also, look at whether you are experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety. Consider, also, how much of your time is taken up with caregiving. If you find you have no time for yourself, probably caregiving is wearing you out.

What can you do about it?

This is the big question. For some parents, they may feel they truly are at the end of their rope with no support system to lean on. If this is the case, you may need to look for organizations or programs that can help both you and your child, such asAutism Vision of Colorado. However, if you have existing social and familial support networks, consider whether you can lean on them a little more. Is there someone who can help by looking after your child and giving you a break? Alternatively, can you hire a professional to help you, so you have more time and less stress?

Daily self-care routines can help.

Prioritizing self-care can seem like one other item on your to-do list. But chances are, if you can shoehorn in time for small self-care practices, throughout the day, you will be refreshed and better equipped to handle everything else on your schedule. It’s importantto know what really helps you, though, so you don’t get more frustrated pursuing activities that don’t really help. Maybe you feelbetter after a ten-minute yoga session. Or maybe something more high-energy like kickboxing is more satisfying. Alternatively, you may find you benefit from just checking out for a little while, closing your eyes, and listening to calming music.

Taking a self-care vacation.

Ideally, you can even get away for a few days. Choose a destination that you will really enjoy or where you can completely relax. Some may prefer toget away to somewhere tranquil like a beach cottage or mountain cabin. Or you may choose to enjoy some time out and about without having toworry about your autistic child’s sensory overload, like a trip to New York to catch some shows or go out dancing – or a trip to Los Angeles, to visit the Paramount studios or to see a Dodgers game. If you’re ordering tickets online, use a site that will let you check out virtual in-seat views, so you know you are getting a great deal.

Pursuing your own goals.

While it may seem your time is taken up completely with caregiving, assess whether you can rearrange your duties and your schedule to pursue some of your own personal career goals, such as learning a new hobby or even training for a new career. Some parents of autistic or other special needs children find starting their own home business to be a great way to earn more money while still being available for family needs.

Things to look out for and avoid when putting together a self-care plan.

Try to come up with a self-care plan that distributes responsibilities equitably. While it’s important for you to be able to find others to help share your burdens or at least give you a break, be cautious about asking too much of any one person, a partner for instance, who might then, themselves, become fatigued.

Because fatigue is such a great risk for primary caregivers, be aware of what it entails and how it can affect you, so you are well prepared with a plan for managing and reducing your fatigue. Know which self-care techniques really work for you and how to fit them into your schedule.

Blog written by Carrie Spencer. Check out her website at!


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