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From the Editor
For any parent, balancing caregiving along with other responsibilities can be challenging; for caregivers of children with disabilities, it can be even more difficult as we juggle additional educational, support, and medical needs as well. Somewhere in our day, we need to take care of ourselves too. This may seem impossible, but it is essential for our health and well-being.

I am a caregiver for both my son who has a developmental disability and my husband who has a brain disease. Both caretaking roles leave little time or energy to take care of myself, but the stress builds up, and it becomes necessary for me to do something about it. I turn to prayer and meditation for relief.

How do you practice self-care? Our hope is that this issue will help you discover new ways to take care of yourself. This gift to yourself and your family may be the most important gift you deliver this holiday season.

Happy holidays and best to you and yours,
Maria Schaertel
What is self-care and why is it so important?
Self-care is the practice of taking an active role in protecting one’s own well-being and happiness, in particular during periods of stress. This practice is undertaken with the intention of enhancing energy, restoring health, and reducing overall stress.

As caregivers, we juggle family, work, bills, deadlines, appointments, and the list goes on and on! Constant stress is not good for the mind or body; did you know stress can distort your perceptions and intensify unpleasant situations? When you manage your stress levels, you’re able to assess situations and avoid making hasty decisions. Self-care is not selfish – it’s essential. 
Steps to develop a self-care routine

1.   Consider why you want to incorporate more self-care in your life.

2.    Jot down some ideas of self-care options that would work for you.

3.    Are the options easy and able for you to do consistently?

4.    Pick just one or two options to ensure success. Remember: just one step at a time.
Do you need support? Even superheroes need help sometimes
Think about enlisting your child’s help when possible. One example is teaching your child to make a simple breakfast for themselves as well as you.

Maybe a family member can run an errand for you.

Ask a friend to babysit or hang out with your adult child for an hour or two.

Check out the following websites and podcasts:

Taking care of your body and mind
Stay hydrated.

Are you eating a healthy, balanced diet?

Enjoy some regular exercise. For a change of pace, try getting your family moving in a fun family outing.

Sweet dreams. Avoid the temptation to stay up late for “me time.” Getting enough sleep may help you focus better during the day.

Take a day off from social media; sometimes watching or clicking on an outrageous story or message is enough to get you emotionally charged and feeling even worse than you were before clicking. Try turning off all notifications.

It's OK to say "NO.” To protect your energy, it’s OK to cancel a commitment. It’s OK to not answer a call. It’s OK to change your mind. It’s OK to want to be alone. It’s OK to take a day off. It’s OK to do nothing. It’s OK to speak up. It’s OK to let go.

“Laughter is the best medicine.” Find your favorite comedy and enjoy a hearty laugh. Keep a journal of the funny things your kids say.

Positive self-talk can be a powerful tool in self-care. Try practicing a Growth Mindset. Here are some examples:
  • “I like to try new things.”
  • “Failure offers opportunity for growth.”
  • “My intelligence can be developed.”
  • “I keep trying and never give up.”
  • “I embrace challenges.”
Much of the content of this issue comes from Julie Hartfield, Starbridge Education Specialist, who researched this topic for her PowerPoint, Taking Care of Yourself
Cultural differences in self-care
Here is one example of how a cultural difference may influence self-care. Sahaj Kohli, senior editor at Huffington Post and founder of Brown Girl Therapy, offers her view on self-care as a first-generation daughter:

“Self-care for children of immigrants can look different. It’s learning to differentiate between what is good for you & what looks good to others. It’s learning that your independence & choices won’t actually kill your parents or family members, no matter how much they say it will… It’s learning to manage expectations & holding our own hands. Self-care is loving our family, but also recognizing what’s toxic… Self-care for first-gens is knowing that most of the time when you choose you, you’ll be reprimanded. Self-care is choosing you anyway, and learning to manage the guilt of feeling like a bad daughter/son.”

Starbridge Family Reimbursement funds for 2021 still available!
Caring for a loved one with a developmental disability at home can increase your family’s expenses. Health, safety, emotional well-being, and enjoyment of life—all of these are important and yet money to cover these needs may be tight.

The Family Reimbursement Program is a statewide program to help families just like yours cover some of those essential costs. Individuals who have OPWDD eligibility and live at home with family are eligible to apply. Your Care Manager can help you request and complete the application or you can contact us directly!

Phone: 585-559-0846

Additional resources