6 Ways to Take Care of Yourself When Caring for an Ill Child

time for me concept clock closeupThe film “The Miracle Worker” tells the incredible story of Helen Keller, who was born without sight or hearing. As a child, Helen was difficult, to say the least. No one knew what to do with her until a patient and miraculous woman named Anne Sullavan came along and taught Helen how to communicate. I can’t imagine there being a more stressful process than this. Caring for a person with such severe struggles would be taxing on even the most compassionate soul. Imagine if Anne Sullavan was already overworked, tired, stressed, and physically out of shape and exhausted. The results Helen’s care may have been less than miraculous.

It often seems selfish to think of taking time for yourself but taking time for yourself has exponential benefits that affect you physically, mentally and emotionally. 

Dr. Cheryl Lane recently wrote an article titled, “5 Tips for Caring for a Seriously Ill Child.” What a great article! One  of Dr. Lane’s main points read, “You’re only human, which means your body needs sufficient rest, good nutrition, hydration, and regular exercise. By making your own health a priority, you’ll have more energy and stamina to care for your child.”

Some in this position of caring for someone else may think to yourself, “That would be nice in a perfect world but I don’t know where I’d find the time for me.” It often seems selfish to think of taking time for yourself but taking time for yourself has exponential benefits that affect you physically, mentally and emotionally. Taking time for you directly affects those you care for and for that reason qualifies as selfless. So, do some of the following selfless things. Improving your mental and emotional health not only improves you but makes you a better caregiver.

  • Make Time: So many use the excuse that they don’t have time. We make time for the things that we want to spend time doing. Schedule time each day to do some of the other things on this list. Discipline begets discipline. When people discipline themselves to schedule in self-care or fun, they become more disciplined with their other time commitments. Things that used to take an hour become possible in half that time. Energy increases, making our time more precious to us and more efficient.
  • Smile: This is a pretty simple one but a lot of people forget to do it. Smiles are a focal point of positive energy. The amazing thing about smiles is that positive energy radiates outward as well as inward. To physically smile improves our personal mood without changing circumstance at all. Your child with a illness or disorder will thank you for this.
  • Exercise: Exercise is probably the number one most profound influence in building physical and mental health. It turns on the happy chemicals in the brain and prepares our bodies to deal with stress in more effective ways. Research shows that exercise has significant effects on avoiding and even decreasing depression and anxiety as well as countless other benefits. It protects against obesity and other health problems. It is pretty hard for a chronically ill person to care for another chronically ill person.
  • Eat and Drink: Eating healthy food and drinking enough water rank up there with exercise as some of the most effective mood controlling thing we can do. Fluctuations in blood sugar can strongly effect mood as well as energy levels and long term weight control and overall health. When we feel good, we care better.
  • Relax: Steal moments. Learn deep breathing, progressive relaxation and visualization techniques that can help you relax. When we learn these and practice them, we can use them at any time during our day when we need to calm ourselves and deal with stress more effectively.
  • Have fun: This may be one of the hardest things for parents that care for a child with an illness. Doing things we like to do generally take us away from the one we love and some parents even feel guilty for doing things their child can’t do. From the patient’s perspective, most children would love to hear stories about the fun things their parent has been doing. It opens the world up to them through your eyes.

{ MORE:  Just Breathe }

If you're a parent that cares for a child with a serious illness, you'll find that as you recharge yourself and bring that energy home with you, you will become a miracle worker yourself.

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6 Ways to Take Care of Yourself When Caring for an Ill Child

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3 comments

  1. Profile photo of LIZ says:

    interesting reading tnx so much

  2. Profile photo of Cait Cait says:

    I babysit for a woman who has two children one of which has serious healthy problems and the other that I watch. I sometimes keep him longer so that she can spend some one on one with the child with problems so that she has the energy to also spend time with the one I watch when he gets home.

    • Profile photo of Andy Andy says:

      That is wonderful Cait. It is so important to surround yourself with friends and people that can support and help. Thanks for your willingness to help out.

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