Have you ever heard the advice to “put the oxygen mask on yourself first,” so you’ll be better able to help others with theirs? This is never more true than when you’re raising a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Self-care is about far more than “me time.” As a caregiver, you need to keep your body and your mind in tip-top shape so you can cope with the challenges that crop up from day to day.
This means slowing down and looking for ways to take care of yourself so you’ll have plenty of you (physically, mentally, and emotionally) to go around
Self-Care Tips for Special Needs Parents
1 – Get outside
Even if it’s while your kid is in therapy, step outside to change up the scenery. Waiting rooms
can be so dull and your mood will soon mimic your surroundings.
If it’s a nice sunny day, then that’s a bonus. There are studies about how the sun can boost your serotonin which improves your mood. And if the sun is nowhere to be found? Go outside anyway. Breathe some fresh air. Give it a try.
2 – Crank up the tunes!
Music can transport our souls to a different time or place. Singing along is an even better stress reliever! Turn it up loud and enjoy yourself and you will literally feel your shoulders relax and your mood improve. It’s especially effective if you get some movement in at the same time. Pick songs that uplift your mood and make you want to shake a leg.
3 – Take care of your nutritional needs
Dietary changes are also proven to boost your mood. So try to be mindful of good nutrition and be sure you are getting enough fluids. This is not always as simple as it sounds. Trust me, you might find yourself running from appointment to appointment and grabbing convenience food in between. Try to make little tweaks that will add up to feeling better in the long run. Instead of more fast food, turn it into a salad by throwing it onto a plate of greens and veggies.
4 – Tag team
Enlist your partner to take some solo shifts so you can have some breathing space. For instance:
My friend’s husband could fall asleep in approximately 2.2 seconds. My friend, on the other
hand, has major issues with falling and staying asleep.
He agreed to handle any night time issues and she wore earplugs so that she could recover from any sleep deprivation. This literally saved her sanity in the early years.
To be honest, she was reluctant to ask for help because she was worried the person she asked would run screaming or consider her selfish to want “me” time.
Eventually, I learned that it was necessary to have others cover every once in a while so that you could recharge and replenish yourself.
You need to tag out every once in a while to soothe your soul even if it’s just for a half hour!
Then you can come back with renewed purpose.
5 – Feed your soul
Make sure to carve out some time for meditation and practice gratitude on a regular basis.
This is not an innate way for us to think or act. In the beginning we do have to be intentional
about this and you can choose to write in a journal to make yourself accountable.
Start by writing two or three things for which you are grateful and be consistent about it.
Eventually it won’t be so difficult and your perspective on life might even change to be more
6 – Talk to an adult
Seriously, I cannot stress this one enough. You need to seek out people who you can relate and with whom you can share this journey. Even if you are not able to leave the house, find an online forum. It is so important to feel connected, especially to others who “get it”.