Practical Self-Care for Intense Times
Parenthood is never a walk in the park. For those of us parenting children with special needs it’s more like a marathon. In the jungle. At night. We hit the wall often and hard. From the first time I found myself exhausted beyond recognition I’ve been curious how I might journey with more care. Nowadays “self-care” has become one more thing we are trying to perfect. But let’s be real, often, as parents of children with special needs our child’s daily needs are critical and non-negotiable. During those intense times we rightly lose track of our own needs. And we often then forget to pick them back up until BOOM! Wall.
What are some ways we can keep from hitting the wall so hard and so often? We need real ways that fit into our daily moments and lighten them.
● Name It. Self-care is individual and doesn’t need to use up resources. For me it could be a phone call with a friend, petting my dog, taking three deep breaths and reflecting on the vastness of the sky. When we name the ways, we love ourselves we grow gratitude and awareness. In turn, we notice more and more opportunities to love inward.
● Set Priorities– Without changing a thing we can turn the dial and find ample opportunities to keep self-care priorities. Here are some examples of priorities that help us opportunistically fill our buckets.
○ Connections- This has the power to affect how we show up throughout our day and improve our sense of satisfaction at the end of the day. For example, sometimes practicing reading with my daughter feels like a job, a checkmark in my day. And other times I recognize it as a chance to connect. It is both more enjoyable and more effective when my aim is to connect.
○ Fun- I’m surprised sometimes at how long I can go without remembering to do something fun. I don’t mean big, just fun. A movie and snuggling on the couch, a water balloon fight, candlelight indoor picnic, living room dance party. Just everyday accessible fun.
○ Creativity- Approaching situations as creative opportunities helps us stay flexible and stimulated.
○ Comfort- Sometimes as much as we know exercise and a plant-based diet would improve our moods we just need some comfort. So, when we lie around in bed, eat Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups over the sink, or choose Netflix over yoga we can remember comfort is a priority too.
● Set Intentions/Goals– Use the language that appeals to you. I like intentions. Goals seem more like work. Once, in a particularly swirling time of my life I simply promised myself that anytime I found myself alone in the house I would immediately sit down for at least five minutes.
● Set Boundaries– Kind boundaries help us not just reserve energy but also communicate well, follow through and maintain healthy relationships. Look for a future blog post on boundaries!
● Set Reminders– However we plan our days, ahead of time or last minute we can put fun stuff out there first. Schedule 15 minutes to play with our child. Schedule a 30-minute nap. Netflix. A walk. Leaving those items for our “spare” time lets them slip by. And, sure, we’ll have to change our plans. We can reiterate our commitment to ourselves by rescheduling instead of canceling.
Take care of yourselves out there in whatever ways feel right to you. Be well!
Written By: Jamie O’Conner, Outreach Coordinator