As Mother's Day approaches and we reflect on the role that mothers play in our world, we tend to think of all the warm, caring things we associate with mothers. But what we don't often stop to think about is the cost of being in a caring role, especially for mothers and other carers of children with special needs. If you are in a caring role, do you know how to care for yourself?
What Happens if You Break?
It's a fact that carers (especially mothers) can give so much to their families that they find themselves running on empty, emotionally, mentally and physically. It is a law of health that this state cannot be sustained indefinitely and sooner or later, something will break. If you are in a caring role, can you afford to be the thing that breaks? What will happen to your family if you can't do the things you do for them now due to illness, failing mental health, or simply not being able to cope?
Taking Care of the Rock so It Can Roll
When you are the rock of your family, you have to be able to keep family life rolling smoothly or, as you know, it comes to a messy halt. The other members of the family depend on you to keep family life moving with some form of organisation or structure. But rocks can crack and you need to be able to recognize when you are in the danger zone.
Check these signs to see if any of them apply to you:
- Your days seem to have no purpose or meaning and you spend them simply trying to survive
- It's difficult to be present when interacting with your family or friends because your mind is on your next commitment, activity or task
- Feelings of exhaustion, burnout and disinterest in life are common
- You feel like you are not keeping on top of multiple areas of your life
- Holidays are rare or non-existent and you rarely sit still doing nothing
- You find it difficult to focus on one task at a time
- Making decisions is difficult because it takes so much mental energy
- You have a hard time asking for help
- Saying no to new commitments is difficult
Do You Need to Make Long-Term Changes to Care for Yourself?
A healthy life is all about balance. You need to pay attention to each area of your life if you want to live a balanced life that is sustainable in the long-term. This might seem difficult when you are already so busy, but the price of not doing so could be more than you are willing to pay. Here are some tips to consider implementing for a more balanced life:
1. Care for Yourself by Saying No
Make your yes a valuable commodity, especially if you are in the habit of agreeing to every request that comes your way. Recognize that your time and energy are finite and that some things, no matter how enticing, will have to be put aside or put on hold for the sake of your wellbeing. Know your limits and say no to anything that takes you beyond them.
2. Find One Thing Each Day to Be Thankful For
Gratitude for the things we have and the blessings in our lives can take our minds off the mundane, the things that steal our joy, or the things that are wrong. It helps to put us in a positive frame of mind. When you are in a better place mentally, it's easier to cope with the stresses and strains of life.
3. Give Yourself Permission to Ask for Help
Carers are usually an independent lot and society's expectations that we hold it all together on our own doesn't help. But reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness or neediness. It is an acknowledgement that you are in a busy phase of life and that you need to let someone else in to share the load. Knowing when to care for yourself means being able to ask for help.
4. Make Time to Exercise
Getting exercise in can be difficult for a busy carer but it is crucial for your mental health and physical well-being. Exercise releases endorphins that help give your mood a boost, but being fitter also helps you to cope with the demands of a busy life.
5. Schedule Regular Appointments with Yourself
Well, why not? You put aside time for other people, so why not you? This might be meeting with friends once a month for lunch, waking up a little earlier so you can spend some time in quiet reflection before the day begins, organising a babysitter so you can take the dog for a walk once a week or whatever it is that makes you feel refreshed.
At Life Skills 4 Kids, we understand how hard it can be as a parent of a child with special needs, anxiety or other issues. We are here to support you in any way that we can. If you have questions or would like to know more about how you can care for yourself, please contact us. We would love to hear from you!