7 Practical Self-Care Activities for Stressed Out Special Needs Parents
I’m exhausted at the moment. Life is always busy but at the end of the year the sense of busyness goes off the chart.
It’s right now that I need to practise self-care the most. It’s at times like these that I need to find time for me and time to look after myself to help me keep going.
However, it’s no surprise that self-care is one of the first things that fly out the window when life gets out of control. As a special needs parent, I always put everyone and everything else first, ahead of my own needs and wants.
Which is why I’m physically, emotionally and mentally spent right now, after weeks of running around, preparing for transitions, attending appointments, keeping up with commitments and trying to keep up with everything else too.
I’ve shared before why it’s important for us to focus on ourselves as carers, how to find ways to make time for ourselves, suggestions for others to help care for us and how we can find support as carers too.
Today I want to share some practical ways we can look after ourselves and practise self-care every day. All of these suggestions can be done while at home and won’t take a lot of time. Hopefully there will be some practical things that you can do too, to help support yourself through the busiest of busy times!
7 Everyday Self-Care Activities for Special Needs Parents
Find a quiet spot and just breathe
I’ve been known to lock myself up in my bedroom or in the toilet just to grab a few minutes of alone time when at home. Some days this is an act of desperation as I attempt to control my growing anger and frustration (and sometimes despair) when things are tough.
However, this can also be used to pre-empt those moments. Taking the time everyday to be alone and listen to your own breathing can be a practical way to care for you. Giving yourself permission to “just be” for a few moments can allow you to centre yourself, get on top of your feelings and give you the strength to keep going.
This technique has definitely helped me maintain my composure and remain calm in the face of my kids’ outbursts over the years. It doesn’t work every time (some days I need to walk away and scream and stamp my feet to get my own anger out of my system!) but it’s an easy starting point to kick off your daily self-care regime.
Stop for a few minutes and listen to your favourite song
Music has always been essential part of my life. I’ve always felt more connected to myself when listening to music and I personally find it can directly impact on my mood.
There are classical pieces that thrill my soul and inject me with energy and inspiration. There are pop songs that make my body move and make me smile, even when I’m in a crappy mood. There are powerful ballads that help release my feelings (sometimes we all need a good cry). And there are jazz & soul tunes that remind me that we all have our trials and tribulations in life – they are definitely good for perspective.
Even if you are not a music person, you will have at least one song that speaks to you in some way. Take a few minutes each day and listen to it. Let the music wash over you. Invite the feels and the memories in. Allow the music to transport you somewhere else for a few minutes. I guarantee it will help you face the day in a better frame of mind.
Make the effort to enjoy your daily bath/shower
Often my morning shower is a whirlwind as I try to get washed and dressed as quickly as possible in order to get the kids off to school. This is largely because I expend a lot of time and energy getting them all ready and find that I have little time for me. Story of my life really…
We all need to bath or shower each day so it makes sense to rethink this task and look at it as an opportunity for self-care instead. In my case, I sometimes shower at night when my husband is home so I can spend more time on me, comforted by the fact he is there to look after the kids.
It’s a rare chance to be alone and it’s a prime opportunity to put self-care into action. Enjoy a bubble bath. Practise mindfulness in the shower. Crack open the fancy shower gel or bath bomb you were given last Christmas and take some time out for yourself. We all deserve it!
Remember to look up at the sky
I was lucky enough to have a few hours alone with my husband at an outdoor concert over the weekend. We took our picnic blanket with us and listened to a whole host of bands from our youth. As we listened, we found ourselves laying back on the blanket and taking in the perfect blue of the sky.
It was soothing to feel the warmth of the sun, the touch of the breeze and the crunch of the grass beneath us. It was beyond relaxing to lay down, close our eyes and listen to the music while experiencing all these sensations anew. I cannot remember the last time I laid down outside and looked up at the sky. Can you?
It’s something we can all do very easily. Even if you don’t have access to grass or a yard, just take a moment to be at one with nature. Go outside, close your eyes and breathe it all in. Look up at the sky and take in the clouds, the blue and the breeze. Take a moment to appreciate the beauty all around you. It’s so easy to do, yet so easy to forget.
Savour your favourite foods
Food can be very good for the soul (if not quite as good for the waistline!). Putting aside a treat just for you can be an easy pick me up on those days where everything seems too hard. It can also be a form of self-care to plan to make your favourite meal, just for you.
Let’s face it, we are no doubt all cooking multiple meals a day to meet the needs, preferences and sensory requirements of our families – what’s one more meal just for us?
Taking the time to savour and enjoy your favourite foods is an easy and achievable way to practise daily self-care. If you can, take yourself out to your favourite restaurant or cafe for a treat from time to time too. I regularly meet up with a friend at my favourite cafe so we can catch up and I can savour some of their delicious gluten free treats!
Buy yourself something – just for you!
If you are like me, you’ll have no qualms in buying clothes, toys, therapy items, books, etc., for your kids. But when it comes to buying anything for me, I really have trouble justifying any sort of expense. It makes no sense, as I too need clothes and books and personal care items in my life, but it always seems like a luxury, rather than a necessity.
In this day and age of internet shopping, you don’t even have to leave home in order to treat yourself to some retail therapy. While our finances may not allow a huge shopping spree, sometimes it’s just enough to buy something small & inexpensive as as way of prioritising us and our needs.
Buying something small from time to time, just for you, is a practical way to value yourself and to practise self-care. Having a delivery to look forward to or bringing home a shopping bag just for you can really lift the spirits. It’s not something you may do often, but the occasional purchase just for you is another way to practise self-care.
Just say no
I hate saying no to anyone, I really do. However, it’s possibly the most practical self-care activity I can do for myself, let alone for my kids and for my family. This time of year is crazy and frantic as it is – saying no to more invites and requests for help, is often the best way to prioritise yourself and your needs.
You are not being uncaring or unfriendly by saying no. It’s not possible to be everything to everyone and you can’t say yes to everything – it’s impossible. We need to look at this another way – instead of seeing “no” as a negative and as a sign of failure in yourself, look at “no” as a proactive way to be kind to yourself and to your family.
Set aside the guilt and practise saying no (feel free to practise with me, as I’m still trying to let go of the guilt myself!)
Do you have more practical ideas to practise self-care as a stressed out special needs parent? If you do, please share so I can find even more ways to be kind to myself!