Taking Care of The Carers

Being a special needs parent isn’t easy. No one prepares you for it. While your friends are off living their typical lives with their typical children, it can feel quite isolated and lonely. But you are not alone. There is a whole army of special needs parents and carers out there. We’re all in this together! Recently, we held a webinar about how to take care of ourselves as the carer and below are some of the best strategies and links we discussed.

Mind. uk has some great advice for carers:

“When you spend a lot of your time focusing on someone else, you may feel as if you have
no time for yourself. But looking after your own wellbeing is important for you and for
them.
We have listed some self-care ideas that others have said they find helpful. Even trying
one small thing might help you feel more able to cope.

Share how you feel


It’s important to have someone to talk to, especially if you’re struggling to cope. You
could:
• share your feelings with someone you trust, such as a family member, friend or
neighbour
• join a support group for carers
• contact the Carers UK helpline
• talk to others on the Carers UK forum
• talk to someone through online mental health tools.
Not all of these options may feel right for you. Or you might feel like you have nobody to
share your feelings with. If you are feeling isolated or alone, our pages on coping with
loneliness offer more information.


“Try to find someone you can be honest with about your feelings, without
judgement.”

Try to be realistic


If you take too much on, you may feel as if you never achieve anything. Try to get a clear
idea about what you can do. By accepting the things that you can’t change or do alone,
you may feel more able to cope. You could try identifying and writing down:
• a list of all the support needs of the person you are caring for
• what you can do and what you’ll need help with
• how you’ll know when you need a break.


“Respite is possible – and necessary. You can’t give your all as a carer – you
just can’t. You have to save a bit of yourself just for you.”

Take a break and make time for yourself


Try and take a break, especially if you’re worried about your own mental health. You may
not be able to take a break whenever you need one, but it’s important to have some
time that’s yours.
You may need an hour or two to clear your head, or a day to help you feel more rested.
You could go out, have a nap or turn your phone off for an agreed period of time. Try to
make time for things you enjoy.


“I love running and being able to get out for half an hour each evening
allowed me to clear my head and relax.”

Look after your physical health


It’s important to try and make time to look after your physical health as best you can.
• Try and eat as healthily as you can and do some kind of regular physical activity.
See our pages on food and mood and physical activity for ideas you can fit into a
busy daily routine.
• Try to get enough sleep, as a lack of sleep can make it harder to cope with
everyday challenges. It can also make stress and depression worse. For more
information, see our pages on sleep and mental health.
• Use relaxation techniques, as these can help your mind and body feel more
rested. You need just a few minutes a day to do most of these exercises. For
more information, see our pages on relaxation.


“I have come up with my own saying, which is ‘you have to make your own
normal’. Your life changes so much as a carer and you have to make a new

life for yourself. You do not want to feel excluded from life, so you make
your own normal.”

Parents with chronic illness

A lot of parents of children with special needs are also coping with health problems of their own. Many of the parents we speak to each week are struggling with fatigue, anxiety, fibromyalgia, migraines or CFS. One thing that can help is to make sure we are taking care of ourselves physically. Here is a list of supplements that can help support carers physically and mentally.

Sleep

Restorative sleep is so important, both as a carer and as someone with a chronic illness. Have a look at our blog post about sleep solutions and get started on the passionfruit tea!

Migraines, Fatigue and Chronic Pain

Supplements to help with migraines, fatigue and chronic pain include a combination of Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Co Enzyme Q10, and magnesium. My neurologist (who specialises in migraines), recommends 200mg riboflavin, 300mg Co Enzyme Q10 and 300mg magnesium each day. Please be sure to check with your GP or primary care physician first though!

Hormonal Imbalances

Hormonal imbalances are really tricky to deal with. It can be hard to get a referral to endocrinology and access the help we need. This tool by Dr Tassone (an OB/GYN and specialist in women’s endocrine issues) helps to pinpoint the areas of the endocrine system which need support. He then recommends a variety of diet, lifestyle and supplements for each Hormone Archetype.

You’re not in this alone. If you are struggling with being a carer and taking care of your own health, please get in touch with Carers Trust or visit Mind UK

They can put you in touch with local support groups, online carer forums, and grant providers; as well as providing lots of resources and strategies to help you manage.

Peta Maria Slaney

SEN advisor. Mum. Writer. Spoonie. Shakespeare buff. INFJ. Bibliophile.

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