Because parenting a spirited child is exhausting, we regularly forget ourselves in the process. This is what builds up stress over time. I won't go into the details of how detrimental chronic stress is to your health. It is an issue that needs to be addressed for parents of special needs children. Our children need us. We are their biggest support system. If we neglect ourselves, we won't be in our best shape to care for them. This is why it is essential to actively look for ways to reduce stress and recharge.
Here are a few ways to help you de-stress and recharge:
1. Find respite care.I can't stress this enough. I put this off for myself for a very long time. But after a few exhausting weeks of summer, I realized I need it more than ever. If you are in Ontario, find respite care at www.respiteservices.com
2. Pursue A Hobby.Find one activity you are passionate about that is not related to your child. You may not have much time to dedicate at first, but if you can find a hour once a week to do something you love, it boosts your confidence and helps reduce stress levels. Give yourself a chance to define your interests and become a person.
3. TherapyWe are immersed with the idea of giving our children all the therapy they need, that we don't realize we need it too. Having a child with special needs is a challenge that a therapist may help with. They can help you sort out your feelings, the guilt, or struggle you face internally.
4. Pamper yourselfWhether you get a facial, your hair done or a massage, do something special for yourself once a month. Carving out that time in your calendar for yourself will give you something to look forward to on those stressful days. Schedule those days on the day your child is with respite care.
5. Socialize with others who understandI found that having a friend with similar struggles helps. Parents who struggle with similar issues can exchange ideas, advice and commiserate. Their empathy is genuine as well as their advice. You can share your issues with a family member or friend that don't share your struggles, but sometimes I found I was met with silence, or well meaning advice that was irrelevant or even offensive. Find a parent support group within your community. A great place to start if you live in the Toronto area is the Geneva Centre for Autism www.autism.net. There are ample amounts of Facebook groups as well that you can join, including our new Facebook Page.
Lastly, start slow. It can feel unusual to do something for yourself. Expect a certain amount of guilt, but don't let it deter you. Remind yourself that you are taking care of yourself so you can better care for your child.