“By Sanika Natu, M.A Clinical Psychology”
Caring for a special needs child is a full-time job. Not only are you physically exhausted all the time, but your emotional health gets affected as well.
There may be days when you feel as though you’re on the verge of breaking down from all the stress and exhaustion, but thinking about your own emotional state seems like a far-off idea considering the number of responsibilities you need to meet before calling it a day. Days like these end up taking a massive toll on your mental well-being.
While trying to do the best you can for your child every single day, it is only normal to barely get any time for yourself. While looking after your well-being might seem like an extra task on most days, it is critical that you actively engage in looking after and keeping a check on your mental health.
Here are some ways you can look after your well-being –
Make Time for Yourself
As a parent, it is easy to feel as though you don’t have enough hours in a day for you to do the things that need to be done. In a day this hectic, taking out time for yourself might seem close to impossible. However, you must dedicate a little bit of time (even if it’s just a few minutes) for yourself.
This time can be dedicated to a hobby or it can just be a few minutes of doing nothing. Try to take out time to do the things that help you relax and make you feel grounded for the rest of the day.
Research has shown that mindfulness exercises have proven to be effective in helping parents deal with anxiety and stress (Benn et al., 2012.)
Mindfulness also helps with self-compassion; a strength that all of us can benefit from immensely.
Some simple mindfulness techniques that you can practice include – indulging in positive self-talk, taking out some time at the start of the day to practice guided meditation, or doing a body scan meditation.
There are loads of mindfulness-related resources available online. You can even consult a trained professional if you wish to seek a mindfulness-based therapy program.
Seek Professional Help
If things get too overwhelming and coping with day-to-day stressors feels increasingly difficult, seeking professional help will surely aid in making things easier.
Therapists and psychologists have a good understanding of the challenges you may be facing on a daily basis. They are trained in implementing various strategies and techniques catered towards specific issues.
Hence, looking for therapists who have experience with parents of children with special needs will surely help.
Join a Support Group
A support group consists of like-minded individuals going through a similar situation. Support groups provide a safe space for empathetic listening and understanding.
Parents of special needs children often end up feeling isolated and alone because the people around them might not be able to relate to their circumstances. Sometimes, talking to people who understand what you’re going through makes a world of difference.
Support groups give parents a chance to share their worries and confusion in a space void of judgment. Parents are also encouraged to share their parenting experiences, which might end up being valuable lessons for other parents.
Support groups are great in providing a healthy outlet for you to vent out your worries and feelings.
Remember that experiencing challenges and obstacles in your journey of parenting is quite normal. It is also normal to have days where you might feel as though you aren’t doing enough.
The very first step to looking after your mental well-being would be trying your best to believe in the fact that you are doing your best with the resources that you have. The acceptance of being “good enough” will prove to be more constructive rather than aiming for perfection.
On the bad days, know that it is perfectly fine to reach out for a little extra help. Recognizing that you may be experiencing burnout and might need help is in itself a sign of strength. Remember that the very act of seeking help and actively working towards taking care of yourself is a building block of your journey of taking care of your mental well-being.
Benn, Rita, Tom Akiva, Sari Arel, and Robert W. Roeser. “Mindfulness training effects for parents and educators of children with special needs.” Developmental psychology 48, no. 5 (2012): 1476.
“Sanika Natu has a Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology and has experience in working with children.
Sanika is passionate about destigmatizing mental health in India, and her work in that area includes a study on emotional empathy, resilience and mental well-being among young adults, besides writing articles for iSmartmoms.”