How To Care For Yourself When You're More Than Tired
Raising a child with special needs is a beautiful blessing, but it is one that can leave you worn out and run down unless you choose to take care of yourself. We love our children, but we often have difficulty loving ourselves as well. When you have a child with special needs, the vast majority of your energy, both physical and mental, likely goes into his or her care. If you feel depleted and continually fatigued, it’s time to prioritize your own
Why Am I So Tired?
Parental fatigue is not exclusive to caregivers of special needs children. Everyone feels exhausted and overwhelmed from time to time. But, for those of us with kids on the spectrum, tiredness has turned up to a whole new level. By the time our children are nine months old, many of us have begun to wear ourselves down mentally worrying about their lack of facial expressions. By the time they are toddlers, we have learned to expect the fight against even minor changes, such as a different colored bedsheet.
How Bad Is It?
There’s no universal grading scale that can tell you how tired you are. But, parental fatigue can be defined on a personal level. Think about your daily life. Are you sleeping well? Do you have plenty of support from your friends and family? Do you spend more time caring for your child than you do performing household chores or prioritizing your own needs? Does your child have behavioral concerns?
What You Can Do
Just as there is not a grading scale, there’s no one hard and fast set of rules that can tell you how to fix your fatigue. This will be highly personal to you, but if you prioritize sleep, start exercising, take a break from caregiving, and eat a balanced diet, you may notice an increase in your energy levels.
Something else to consider is pursuing your own personal goals. While it might be more work for you, doing things like starting your own business, spending more time on your romantic relationship – Fatherly notes that your marriage can suffer if your children are your only priority – and learning a new hobby are all great ways to provide yourself a respite from your responsibilities.
If you start a business, look for ways to navigate stress from the very beginning. First, make sure you have enough money in the bank to support you and your family for at least the next six months while you build a client base. Next, protect these assets by forming an LLC. In CA, your LLC can be formed online, but you’ll want to read up on state-specific guidelines before you do. Once you’re established, you have a more structured way to pay taxes, and may even be able to write fewer checks to the IRS.
If your marriage is suffering because you focus solely on your children, try to schedule at least one evening each week to spend with your spouse or partner. A date night might include a walking tour, painting, or taking a hike, all three of these activities can be found throughout the state. As an added bonus, you may find a new hobby that you can do together, which will give you something to look forward to as a couple.
Taking care of yourself sounds great, right? Well, it is. But, you may find some resistance. It’s not unusual for children on the spectrum to become angry or annoyed at change. The My ASD Child blog notes that this is because they are so highly sensitive to their environments. But, sometimes, change is exactly what everyone needs. To offset some negativity, also try to plan some special time for you and your children so your entire family can just be together. You might watch a movie that features children on the spectrum or do something that your child has been asking to do.
Taking care of yourself isn’t always easy. However, when you are no longer living, but are instead simply existing to service someone else’s caretaker, you may find that you're less effective and may even come to resent the labor of love you cherish so much. Be real with yourself, and understand this point: self-care is not selfish.
Having a child on the spectrum takes work. Unfortunately, this can leave you fully depleted. Learn how to prioritize yourself by practicing self-care. Whether you choose to pursue a personal passion or simply step out for date night once a month, you must do things for yourself to be a better caretaker.