For Your Wellness
An incredible number of books, magazines, articles, television shows, and apps are dedicated to helping us practice mindfulness and relaxation. They often have images of flowers, relaxing baths, solo walks and hikes, quiet reading time, and calmness over a cup of tea. As the parent of a child living with autism, this imagery can make self-care feel out of reach. The idea of having moments of alone time where there aren’t “must dos” feels like a dream. The reality is that you already rush through your daily personal routine. After all, you have a child that needs you and requires your attention.
That shouldn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to give yourself much-needed relief – even if it’s not a picture of you doing a perfect “downward facing dog” on a beach in Hawaii at sunrise. It is about looking after yourself and understanding that protecting your physical and psychological health is crucial.
Review Your Stressors
Set aside 10 minutes, and with a cup of coffee, tea, or favorite beverage in hand, step back for a moment and create a list of the specific causes of your stress. What stops you in your tracks and impacts your ability to flex and cope? If this list appears never-ending, try to group and organize issues into categories and break them down into bite-sized pieces. You aren’t going to eliminate every area of stress in your life, but you may find things you can do to improve the situation. Are there easy wins like small tasks you might ask of your partner, friends, or family? If there are big things that leave you overwhelmed and needing help, seek it out immediately. Your child needs you, so prioritizing your own physical and emotional well-being is essential to protecting them.
Make Time for Activities that You Enjoy
It’s important to spend time doing things you enjoy. As much as you love your child, it’s important to make time to do things that you like to do as an individual outside your important role as a parent. One way to ensure that you practice this form of self-care is to schedule the time for your preferred activities. Consider where your child will be during these times and plan for their care – Will they be at school? Will you need a trusted babysitter? Will their other parent be able to care for them? We can get so consumed in our role as a parent that we sometimes forget our identities. By making time for activities you enjoy, you will find satisfaction and feel energized that you can be more focused on your child when you spend time with them.
Get Some Rest
I know this sounds like a bad joke for any parent of a child impacted by autism, where bedtime is a daily battle. If they aren’t sleeping, you aren’t sleeping, which leads to challenges for everyone involved. Long-term sleep deprivation greatly impacts your physical and emotional well-being and makes it hard to deal with everyday life. If this is your situation, identify moments when you might be able to catch up. For example, when your child is in daycare or school or when you have family over. Even a brief nap will help you better cope with everyday challenges.
Nurture Your Social Networks
We’re not talking about going down a social media rabbit hole. Instead, identify the people around you who represent your personal support system. Cherish family members who offer to help, accept the support of friends, and be ready to hand over control to those you trust, as it will give you a few moments of ‘me time.’ If you feel unsupported, why not ask friends, family, and other parents you meet about their support networks? They might know about groups you could join or introduce you to people who are in similar situations.
Spending Time with Your Child as Self-Care
It’s important to spend time doing things you enjoy and connecting with people who aren’t your child, but there’s also nothing wrong with viewing quality time spent with your child as a form of self-care. The essential part is self-awareness as well as mindfulness when you are experiencing time with your child as self-care. Keep in mind that this should not be your only form of self-care.
Five minutes might be all you have for yourself, but this can be a great start and even enough. At the beginning of the day, set the alarm a little early or arrange for your partner to take over the childcare. Use this time to shower, drink your coffee alone, or even sit in the bathroom and practice some mindfulness techniques. In the evening, take five to recognize what you have achieved during the day and focus positively on the successes, big or small. It’s easy to lose perspective and focus on the negative. Recognize each small step for the victory it is. For Your Wellness