14 Aug Wellness Tips for the Caregiver
When you have a child or teen who is experiencing depression, anxiety, substance use or any other condition impacting their mental health, it’s often hard to find the time to take care of your own needs. But it’s extremely important that you don’t let guilt or shame stop you from focusing on your physical and emotional health.
“Many parents or other caretakers think that they should put all of their energy into their child’s needs and that taking out time for their own well-being is selfish,” says Andrew Malekoff, Executive Director of North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center. “Nothing could be further from the truth, because if you neglect your own health you won’t be able to be fully present when your child needs you.”
Parent Support Groups
Many groups exist for parents who are caring for children with all kinds of special needs, including mental health issues. Call North Shore Child & Family Guidance Center at (516) 626-1971 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to ask about our support group and therapy offerings; visit NAMI’s website at namiqn.org/programs/family/ or email them at Office@namiqn.org; and for NAMI Huntington, visit www.nami-huntington.org/
The stress of caring for a child with mental health issues can be even harder than if your child has a physical illness, adds Malekoff. “In our society, there is still a stigma associated with mental illness, and that often stops people from asking for help. But even if they’ve taken the steps to get therapy or other treatment for their child, they often don’t realize or accept that they, too, need support.”
Taking care of your mind and body will help create the resilience and strength that you will need in your role as a caretaker. In celebration of National Wellness Month, following are seven wellness tips to keep in mind so you can be at your best for yourself and your children.
- Get enough sleep. When you are overtired, it’s very difficult to function well. Take a break from time stealers like social media and television and use that time to rest!
- Meditate. Numerous studies show that even a few minutes a day of meditation will help reduce your stress. Not sure how? Google “how to meditate” and you’ll find lots of helpful tips and videos. You can also google “meditation on long island” to find a group.
- Exercise. Whether you go for a brisk walk, workout at a gym, or take a yoga class, the benefits of exercise are undeniable. Exercise boosts endorphins, those “feel good” chemicals, and also promotes relaxation.
- Try massage, acupuncture or other body treatments. Don’t consider it a luxury; think of it as essential to keeping your strength up for the challenges of caretaking.
- Take a break. That might mean going to a movie, engaging in a hobby or meeting with a friend.
- Spend time in nature. A walk on the beach, hike in the woods or time tending to a garden are among the many options, all of which will help bring down your stress level.
- Ask for help. Family and friends rally around you if your child has cancer. The good ones will want to be there for you when the issue is mental health, too.
Remember, being your best for your child requires taking care of yourself. Working on your wellness instead of feeling guilty is an essential part of helping everyone feel their very best.