As a caretaker, you may often feel overwhelmed. We’re here to say don’t put that emotion – frustration, exhaustion, whatever it may be, on the back burner. Hand-holding a person with autism will come with its highs and lows. But you can only give from a full cup, not one that is empty, so fill yourself up first. It’s how you can give your best to the person you are guiding.
To begin with, have a practical outlook about the path ahead. Each individual is different and needs their own time to make progress. It cannot be rushed. Keep your expectations real to avoid disappointment. Over time, you’ll find that the journey has tempered you to become more stable, grounded, and patient, knowing that everything happens in its own good time. Remember to make time to upgrade yourself in the field. This way, you as a caretaker and those you look after will flourish in new ways.
Time management is a critical part of maintaining a packed schedule which also includes other people. So be open to networking and building a support group over time. Delegate activities be it to family, friends, or peer group members. Caregivers of individuals with autism can now find plenty of online support communities. Be vulnerable while sharing your experiences in order to build authentic relations. Being validated matters, as does receiving advice and empathy. Setting aside time for activities where your happy hormones thrive is important. While exercise is a non-negotiable daily activity, find what else floats your boat and surrender to it for a fixed duration every day. Meditation is a useful habit to cultivate as it also extends to bringing about mindfulness throughout the day. Knowing that ‘This too shall pass’ is a valuable reminder when stressed. Keep in touch with your friends and family so that you have a circle outside of work.
Initially, the joy of caregiving may lead to overlapping hours of personal and professional time. But as the routine sets in, so will burnout. Setting boundaries from the beginning ensures better mental health for the caregiver while the organization employing your services will also know to respect those timings. If it gets too much, seek out coping mechanisms such as therapy or consulting with autism professionals for insights and strategies.
Work is only one aspect of your life, it does not define who you are as an individual. So let guilt out the window and assure yourself that taking care of yourself is how you can bring the best of yourself to the table.
Also, read this: Technology In the Lives of Individuals with Autism