Raising a child generally comes with various levels of stress. But for parents of children with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDDs), there are extra challenges and increased demands, often around the clock. Without taking conscious steps to prevent caregiver burnout, the stress can lead to all sorts of physical, mental, and emotional health problems.
It’s crucial that parents of kids with an IDD recognize the importance of proactive self-care. Without it, they won’t be doing themselves any favors, nor will they remain at their best for their children and the rest of their family in the long run.
While everyone has to find the right approach for themselves, their family, and their situation, there are plenty of general ways to prevent caregiver burnout that can offer some guidance.
How to Prevent Caregiver Burnout
- Continuously educate yourself about your child’s condition. The more you know about it, the better equipped you are to help your child with minimal stress and maximum success.
- Develop routines. They’re very helpful for keeping your days manageable and maintaining a sense of being in control.
- Confide in one or more trusted friends or family members regularly, and vent your frustrations without feeling guilty (they are perfectly normal!).
- Learn to delegate and to ask for help. Everyone needs it sometimes.
- Learn to say no, too, when people are making requests for your time and energy that you simply can’t healthily manage.
- Take a little time to yourself every day to chill out, listen to soothing music, take a bath, read, or otherwise unwind. Remember, taking care of yourself is not a luxury; it’s a necessity.
- Join an in-person or online caregiver support group or forum. Look for one that’s dedicated to parents and caregivers of people with your child’s particular IDD.
- Find a way to get some exercise daily, or as close to it as you can manage.
- Regularly expose yourself to humor from funny family and friends, comedy shows and movies, humor books, stand-up comics, and other sources.
- Get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night.
- Eat a nutritious, well-balanced diet comprised primarily of whole foods. This has significant beneficial effects on how you feel physically and mentally, your resilience and attitude, and your long-term health.
- Consider seeing a therapist to talk things through and get some personalized professional help managing stress.