Our doctors tell us self care is important. We hear it from our spouses, family members, and friends, but do they ever really get it? Do they ever really understand what it takes to get self care, especially when you have a child who is autistic or has special needs?
In my opinion, yes they do, because they need self care, too. If they’re not raising a child with special needs, it may be hard for them to understand that aspect, but still, nonetheless, we ALL need to take time to practice self care.
I don’t claim to know the key to a successful self care routine. I’m a hot mess most days, but I like to think of myself as an organized hot mess. I have lists, routines, alarms and reminders going off on my phone, and a plethora of things to do from housework to going to actual work to taking my child to his therapy appointments, running errands, etc. I thought I would tell you all a little bit of how I manage self care on my end. No, it’s not easy, but you have to do it!
- The very first point I’m going to speak on is sleep. Sleep is so, so important and if you have a child who is autistic, this may not be an easy thing to do. I know I really struggled with it for the longest time, but there came a time I had to suck it up and sleep when he slept and take naps when my husband or family could watch my son. Instead of catching up on house stuff or binge watching Netflix, I slept. Once my kiddo started school, that was a game changer because I could sleep during the day and still have time to run errands and get things done around the house. I know sleep isn’t easy for everyone to get. I understand your kids may not be in school yet or you may be a single parent or don’t have family to babysit. I know it’s hard, and my best advice would be just to sleep when your child sleeps. You hear that when your kids are newborns. You don’t think you’ll still be hearing it when you child is 3,4,5,6 years old or older, but I’m telling you, you got to do it.
2. Do something for you at least once a week. This can be anything. Like sleep. No, really, sleep, go for a walk, watch a half hour of your favorite show, paint your nails, go to the salon, call a friend on the phone, sit outside. ANYTHING big or little. I like to write, walk my dog, watch This Is Us, and message my friends back and forth on FB Messenger. We laugh a lot. Laughing is so good for the soul- make sure you are getting enough of it in life. I sit on my patio, I listen to music LOUD, or go for a drive. These things add up. Even if you’re with your kid or someone else, it truly helps. You have to have things for yourself to be happy. If you don’t do them, you can’t blame anyone but yourself. Your self care is your responsibility and nobody else’s.
3. Exercise. I can’t believe I’m giving advice about this subject considering I rarely exercise myself, but it is important. Exercise literally brings out the happy chemicals in our brains and makes us feel better. Maybe not while were doing it, but afterwards it does. I walk. That’s it. Outside in the fresh air with my dog. It’s good cardio and not only is it exercise, it is a form of doing something for ME! I love being outside and I love my dog. It’s a win-win.
4. This is the last of my points and probably one of the most important along with sleep. It is critical you eat right. Now, I’m no skinny Minnie by any means. In fact, I’m actually a little overweight, but I still do my best to eat good because it is important I live a long life to be able to care for my child. I need to maintain low cholesterol and not have a heart attack or stroke and unfortunately, the statistic for Americans having those two things in their lifetime is significant. So pay attention to what you feed your body. Eat your vegetables. Opt for a salad over a hamburger. Have a smoothie. Make good food choices so when the weekend comes, you can have that donut or fried chicken. Making good food choices has been the hardest aspect of self care for me because I love my carbs and sugary treats, but day by day I’m getting better and better at managing a healthy diet. I have more vegetables and fruit in my fridge than I ever have and I’m determined to keep it that way.
Self care is hard. It isn’t easy when we put so much before ourselves, but ask yourself, if it is so easy to promise your all to others, then why not yourself? It’s okay to put yourself first. There is no shame in that.