It’s lot of work being a parent. And if you're the parent of a special needs child, sometimes it can seem overwhelming (and never-ending). You love your child and want the best for them, but it might feel like there isn’t room for anything else in your life. While these feelings are normal, if you are burned out or depleted, you can’t be the parent, partner, or person who you want to be. During these moments, it's important to be proactive about self-care.
Assess Your Fatigue
Essentially, it's best to perform a self-assessment of your fatigue on a regular basis. When you notice signs that you're becoming worn out, take a break and do something for yourself. Make a note of your triggers and sensitivities, they give you little early clues before you reach the extreme fatigue points.
As noted in this study, “parental burn out is the result of too much stress and the absence of resources to cope with it”. Here are a few tips to help you either reduce stress at the source or increase your ability to cope with it.
The first important thing to consider as you gauge your fatigue is your quantity and quality of sleep. Do you sleep through the night? Do you have any trouble getting to sleep? Many parents of special needs children experience sleep deprivation due to nightly interruptions in their kid’s sleep. How can you find ways to ensure you rest adequately?
Support your nervous system
Being in nature can be a great source of healing, so see if you can go out and be among trees. Even a 15- minute forest bath (even in the winter!) can help change your body’s chemistry. At home, try to bring in more natural lighting and ensure you go outside at least once a day – vitamin D greatly helps in fighting stress.
Sometimes, the fatigue you feel stems from a combination of poor eating habits and a lack of exercise. Did you know that your digestive system contains neurons that are directly linked to your brain? Everything that happens in our digestive system has repercussions on our brains, behaviors and thoughts. Make eating healthily a priority and if that is not possible, try to supplement with probiotics and multi-vitamins, as people under chronic stress tend to get depleted faster than others. Ideally, you need three balanced meals each day. In addition, a little movement (even very slow movement) and exercise does wonders.
Unbeknownst to you, your home may actually be the source of a lot of stress, so you may need to give some attention to that, including de-cluttering when necessary to create space for fresh thinking, stillness and slowing down.
In fact, slowing down – even if just for a few minutes a day and resting in stillness will do wonders for your nervous system. Experiment with small meditations focusing on your breath, or your body, just a few minutes at a time.
Strengthen your support system
Chronic stress can lead to more serious conditions. Check yourself for signs of depression and anxiety, such as racing thoughts, digestive issues, unexplained chronic pain, or recurring negative thoughts. If you’re experiencing these things, don’t hesitate to seek help. If depression is preventing you from functioning well, and you are having trouble bouncing back, please consider getting medical help.
We are all biologically and neurologically wired for connection. Yet parents of children with special needs often feel lonely, and misunderstood. Families and friends may not understand our realities fully, and we may feel like we are going through this alone. It is important to nurture healthy connections with supportive people, loved ones or like-minded families. Nurturing your connection to yourself is also important - practicing self-compassion is key to your mental health.
It's not uncommon for parents of special kids to feel overwhelmed and stressed out, or like they are continuously experiencing trauma. However, it's important to remember that self-care is an essential part of being a parent. One way to practice self-care is by finding psychological support: this can take many forms, including parental coaching, life coaching, counseling therapy, professional psychologists, or group support. For example, our friends and colleagues at Evolve Movement are there to support you.
When you take time to do things for yourself, it can better your relationship with others as well as improve your parenting abilities and your resilience.
We are on the same journey, and we are here for you.
If you want to explore how NeuroSomatic Therapy can help reset and calm your nervous system, find better sleep, reduce stress or even reduce pain, or if you want to explore how the Anat Baniel Method of NeuroMovement® can help your special needs child, contact us below. We are on the same path, and we are here to support you.
*This post was a special contribution from Gwen Payne (email@example.com)