Most parents go into parenting with all their hopes, dreams, and expectations of how it’s going to be. And then reality hits — parenting with special needs is hard. Whether it’s high functioning autism or a seizure disorder, having a special needs child involves never ending education, support from professionals and volunteers, costly bills and medical equipment that your child may outgrow in a year or two (or less). It can be exhausting and taxing, even for the most resilient parents. No matter how you slice it, special needs parenting has a way of wearing you down like nothing else. The frustration, exhaustion and worry are some of the most common feelings that parents of special needs children face.
Healthy is normal and can increase productivity. Too much stress can lead to burnout as well as physical, emotional, and mental health problems. If you keep investing energy beyond your resources, it will eventually take its toll. Parents frequently find themselves in these situations because they have been focusing on helping children and neglecting their own health.
Many special needs parents experience anxiety, depression, intense fatigue, weight fluctuations, medical issues and so on. Here are some signs you might be close to a burn-out, and what you can do to change course:
Your emotions are like a roller coaster, almost daily. Furious one minute, sad, feeling helpless or crying the next.
Reflect and reset. Pause to consider what is triggering you and evaluate your schedule. Create time for self care, practice mindfulness, breathing exercises or yoga. Schedule some time for yourself to decompress, relax or do something fun.
You are frequently sick and rundown. Combine lack of sleep and other stressors, your immune system will have a hard time fighting viruses. You can’t help others well when you don’t take care of yourself.
Support yourself physically. Taking supplements daily is a small thing, yet a simple way to support your immune system. Not enough time to eat healthy? Give yourself permission to get meals delivered or blend various greens and fruits for a quick smoothie.
You rarely spend time with friends or don’t follow your hobbies. Isolation is key to finding your way to burnout. It may feel easier to stay home than worry when you are out because no one can care for your child the way you can.
It takes a village! Finding a support system is essential. It can be as simple as finding special needs groups online. Facebook is a great way to connect with other parents. You can find groups about autism, ADHD, Down syndrome, epilepsy, learning disabilities, and more. You can find people who understand what you’re going through and can help give advice. At Apex Social we provide skilled special needs childcare which also allows you to have more time for yourself and pursue your hobbies and interests.
You struggle to sleep, relax, or rest. Your minds are constantly focusing on your children. All you can think of is the overwhelming to-do list of the next few days.
Set a bedtime routine. Having a regular bedtime and sticking to it, does wonders. Studies have shown that not looking into the lights of your electronics 1-2 hours before going to sleep improves your ability to fall asleep and the quality of your sleep. Take a warm bath and listen to calming music, do what you need to and get 7-8 hours, you will be amazed at how this improves how you feel the next day.
Caregiver burnout doesn’t have to take over your life. Make your own needs a priority too. The better you feel, the better you will show up with others.
“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” – Anne Lamott