In Part 9 of the series, “Every Family Has a Story,” Darla Johnson shows you how to take care of yourself when you’re caring for someone else.
Click here to read previous posts in this series.
Do you know anyone who is totally engrossed in sports and nothing else? Or is always talking about hunting? Or is all about the latest “reality TV” show? Or the only thing ever out of her mouth is preceded by, “Did you see on Facebook…?” Do you ever just get enough of it and want to yell, “Would you just get a life?!”
If you have a special needs person that’s significant to you, I propose that you may need to “get a life.” Please don’t take offense, rather, allow me to explain.
Caring for a child or adult with special needs can be very taxing. It can put a strain on other relationships. It can bring about financial hardships. It can be very isolating and lonely as well. It can keep you so busy with his/her care that you don’t care for yourself. It’s in these instances I would challenge you to “get a life.”
By that, I mean you need an escape. You need some interest or activity that diverts your focus from the special needs situation. Maybe your personality is such that you need a quiet diversion that allows you to relax and unwind. Or perhaps your personality is such that you need something that fuels your fire to keep you going. You probably have a good idea of which category you fall in. And, depending on your circumstances, you need both—I know I do.
When I’ve had a long day at work and I come home to help share the load of all the usual household responsibilities and add in an appointment for one of our special needs children, I’m going to need a way to relax at some point in the evening. Then there are seasons I may go through where we have a long-term issue to deal with for one of our special needs children; it’s at those times I may need a “pick me up” and meet for coffee with a good friend.
I probably don’t need to cite to you a long list of health issues that can arise if you don’t take care of yourself. It’s likely you’ve heard news reports or have read about those through the years. You already know that you need to eat calorie-appropriate, balanced meals at regular intervals, get some exercise and adequate sleep. You may be groaning at those common prescriptions, thinking that I don’t know your life so I should just butt out. But you can’t get rid of me that easily.
Those of us who share the common bond of caring for someone who has special needs need to stick together. We need to help each other out. Take care of one another. So this is my way of taking care of you—by reminding you to have some kind of time to yourself, on a somewhat regular basis, in order to avoid burnout or going crazy. I’m going to give you some practical ideas to get your imagination moving; tailor-make the ideas to suit your needs.
Suggestions for Relaxation
- Lie down and close your eyes. Beginning with your toes and working your way up, inhale deeply and tense your toes, then exhale while you release them. Move slowly up your body, one muscle group at a time.
- Close your eyes and imagine your happy place. Spend several minute there and conjure up several details about it—the scenery, the atmospheric conditions, the sounds, whether other people are there or not, what’s going on, etc. Make it completely yours.
- Read a book in a genre you love, or try one you’ve not sampled before.
- Journal your thoughts, feelings, dreams and goals in a notebook.
- Draw, doodle, paint or color. There are a lot of “adult” coloring books to choose from because someone finally recognized coloring as a relaxation technique and not just child’s play.
- Go for a walk, with a friend or alone
- Sit down and do absolutely nothing
Suggestions to Energize
- Go for a jog outside or run on the treadmill; ride a bike
- Shoot some hoops or toss a ball with someone
- Meet with a friend and talk about everything you love
- Set some personal goals for things you want to accomplish, whether they’re household things or creative outlets like writing a poem to publish
- Do some outdoor activity you’ve never done before (with a guide, if it could be somewhat dangerous for a rookie) like kayaking or horseback riding
- Whatever it is that lights your fire and keeps you going for a while
Whatever you choose to do in order to relax or gear up, make it completely yours. If possible, don’t include the special needs person in your life. Because this is a break for you and you likely need this once in a while. You can more so be at your best when you don’t feel so overwhelmed with the responsibility of caring for another person. You have to take care of you too; your special needs person relies on you to be the healthiest you that you can be. So grab a friend and go for a stroll, because we were never meant to walk alone.
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