Instead of feeling like it’s one more thing to add to your to-do list try these tips instead!
As parents of kids with autism or other special needs it’s easy to put yourself on the back burner. You give of yourself to others all day long there’s not much time left for anything else.
You hear the term “self-care.” You know it’s important to give yourself a break. As a special needs parent how can you fit in caring for yourself? If you practice self-care usually another area gets backlogged. It can be hard to find childcare. It just seems like too much work.
Do you have these thoughts when you think of self-care?
Today I will share with you some tips to help you practice self-care when you’re short on time. These self-care tips will help you easily work some me-time into your day without feeling like it’s a big sacrifice.
Self-Care In The Little Things
What does self-care look like? Getting a massage, going out for a nice adult-only dinner, a weekend getaway. These are all great forms of self-care. They aren’t the only way to take a break though.
Self-care can be practiced in smaller ways too. Simple is better! Instead of making it a big production try these little self-care ideas:
Sleep When You Want To:
Are you exhausted at the end of the day and feel like you just want to crash when everyone else is in bed. Do it! Do you set your alarm extra early but want to sleep in an extra 15 minutes? Sleep in! Give yourself permission to sleep. Rest is a form of self-care. The laundry, grocery lists, or checking emails can wait. Or compromise, do one priority task and then go to sleep.
Eat What You Want To:
Cooking dinner is a daily task. Why not fix one of your favorite meals once in a while? Eating your favorite food is a form of self-care. Doesn’t have to be fancy either. If you love frozen pizza pop one in the oven! You may not get to eat out whenever you want so take time to eat something you love when you’re staying in.
Exercise Anyway You Want To:
Exercise is obviously a great form of self-care. If you have kids with special needs you may not be able to get to the gym or leave the house. Exercise doesn’t have to be just lifting weights or a 3 mile run. Any type of movement is exercise. Helping your kid with sensory activities? Make that your workout! Kids love to dance? Have a 15 minute dance party together. Going to the park? Go for a walk to get there. As long as you find ways to get your heart thumping you are practicing self-care through exercise!
Other Ways To Practice Self-Care:
- Take an extra 5 minutes in your shower
- Listen to your favorite songs while driving in the car
- Reset with a game on your phone for 5 minutes
- Wear your favorite outfit
- Instead of daily to-do lists make weekly to-do lists so you have several days to get things done instead of just one
Have you heard the quote “Shouting ‘self-care’ at people who actually need community care is how we fail people.” by Nakita Valerio? It seems like all people need to do is practice self-care and we’ll be fine. It’s not that easy, especially for special needs parents.
Rethink self-care. Don’t think you need to live life alone. One of the best forms of self-care is reaching out to others and building a community. Here are some tips to help you do that.
Know Who To Ask For Help:
Who are the trusted people in your life you know you can count on? If you don’t have family or friends nearby do you know what services you can seek? If not ask your child’s school social worker, therapist or doctor. They can connect you to things like respite programs, transportation providers or specially trained daycare providers.
Ask For Help:
Sometimes people don’t offer help because they don’t know a person needs help. While it would be nice if people freely held out a helping hand it doesn’t always work that way. There is no shame in letting someone you know you need help.
Simple requests for carpooling, baby-sitting, or respite will relieve you of the burden of always being on call. It will help you get out of the house to run necessary errands or do something you enjoy.
You don’t have to ask for outside help either. Delegating chores to people in your household who are able to, can make a big difference. Sharing the load gives you time to focus on other important things.
Call On Other So You Can Do Big Self-Care:
There are times you should have an evening out or a day of pampering. When you call on others to fill in for you these bigger self-care activities will be more enjoyable. Here are some tips to help you plan for it:
- Plan ahead as best you can. Things come up, but even still plan ahead.
- Pick a time that isn’t a busy time. Are times more hectic than others? Go during a downtime.
- Ask a person or service you trust and have used before. Placing your kids and responsibilities into the hands of someone you trust will help you enjoy your time away.
- Clearly communicate things you’d like to see or need to get accomplished while you’re out. You don’t need to come home to a messy house or worry about your kids not getting something they need just because you’re gone. Put your helper to work!
Self-care can feel like a chore to many special needs parents. You have unique circumstances. You can’t go off and do something whenever you want. You have many things to take care of. You might be tired and it’s too much work to get self-care into your life.
Finding self-care in the little things and calling on your community are the best ways to practice self-care when you’re short on time. Using these tips will help you feel great so you can take care of your family!
Elizabeth Purpero is a licensed school counselor and licensed professional counselor-in-training. She has her master’s in counseling psychology. Elizabeth has worked as an autism therapist with children and teens. During her career, she has worked in intensive at-home therapy programs utilizing ABA and play therapy along with OT and speech therapy techniques. She has also worked as a mental health therapist helping clients address their mental health issues as it relates to autism. Elizabeth’s background working with the autism community has greatly helped her work with students in schools too. She has helped teachers implement effective strategies, create goals for IEP’s and make classrooms more sensory-friendly. Mark Twain once said, “Write what you know about,” and Elizabeth enjoys writing about autism-related topics and providing additional resources to help those impacted by autism.