Caregivers’ Guide to Self-Nurturing

Caregivers of children with autism have to take care of themselves so that they can respond patiently and effectively to their children’s needs. Here are some suggestions from Autism New Jersey to help you nurture yourself:

Start with the basics. While sleeping well, eating healthily, and exercising daily might sound too basic, other techniques cannot help overcome sleep deprivation or low energy. We spend so much of our time in our minds that we often need reminders to take care of our bodies. The number of hours we sleep can slowly decrease as we strive to get “just one more thing done.” In doing so, we may make ourselves less available for the next day’s activities. Try setting a goal for going to bed by a certain time some nights of the week.

Eating well gives us enough energy for our activities. Keeping healthy snacks and water at hand is a great way to remind ourselves to keep refueling. From simple stretches to a rigorous workout, our bodies need movement to stay energized and healthy. Think of activities you could add to your daily or weekly schedule to keep moving.

Pay attention to your breathing. This simple activity can give you a moment to connect with your body’s rhythms and increase your awareness of its needs. It may even help you to see a problematic situation in a new light.

Maintain a positive attitude. Whenever possible, look at the bright side and give yourself credit for all that is right in your life.

Reach out to others who can be great listeners and help lighten your load. Know what their strengths are and be realistic about what you can expect from them. Consider attending a support group. (Find one at autismnj.org.)

Pursue hobbies. Pastimes are relaxing and can give your mind a rest from caregiving and work.

Know yourself. What drives you to be the best person you can be? What situations frustrate you? Take the time to actively think about the elements of each situation. Consider how can you prepare ahead of time to have more pleasant experiences and less unpleasant ones.

For more information, read More Than a Mom: Living a Full and Balanced Life When Your Child Has Special Needs by Amy Baskin and Heather Fawcett (Woodbine House, 2006).

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