You need a self-care survival guide. It’s not just your imagination. Parenting special needs kids has been shown to be more stressful. However, this stress is not experienced evenly. It depends on the coping mechanisms implemented by the parents. On an airplane, flight attendants advise you to put your oxygen mask on first, before assisting others. Parenting – especially special needs parenting – is no different. It is nearly impossible to keep giving of yourself without maintaining a model of self-care is a recipe for trouble, as Kim Albrecht describes so clearly in this episode of her Lomah Podcast.
With a long list of medical, educational and other demands, self-care often falls to the bottom. This self-care survival guide provides easy ways to fit self-care into your life. You wouldn’t skip brushing your teeth or applying deodorant, so don’t skip these either:
Exercise: Just try to be as active as possible. If your kid’s schedule means can’t leave your house, use home exercise equipment. Or walk to the drug store to get the prescription. Or try some of the 7-Minute workout apps or YouTube yoga.
Drink Water: This is a real chore for me. I am not a naturally thirsty person, so I really have to remind myself to drink water. Bubbles help. So does a little flavor, like LaCroix. In colder weather, I often switch to hot water with lemon and a touch of honey.
Eat Real Food: I know, I know – your instinct is to say “I don’t have time to cook” or “I don’t have time to shop,” but this is SO important. You are not only providing positive fuel for your own body you are also modeling this life-long habit for your children. (One “compliment” Mr. Diggy often receives is on the content of his lunches – “so healthy,” “fruits AND vegetables!”) Some of our kids may be non-verbal, but they are still forming habits. Here are some ideas of things I keep in my freezer that help to make this easier.
A Fresh Mani: Well, if it’s a Color Street mani, you can definitely do this every other week. But there are SO many fun options to choose from that you may just want to switch them once a week. Plus, a fresh set of Color Street is a day-brightener every time you look at your hands (even if those hands are washing dishes, or washing a kid who is of an age to wash himself but is not able to or doing your 7th load of laundry…)
Wine or Dessert – or Whatever Else is a Treat for You: Maybe it’s a glass of wine with dinner, a cocktail at happy hour, a mimosa at brunch, or a brownie sundae. Whatever is a treat for you – get one, make one, find one!
Reading: Sure, you spend all day on and off your phone and computer – reading emails, texts, social media, insurance documents, IEP notes, doctor’s reports…but how about reading something that YOU choose. I prefer paper books and non-fiction, but if you like romance novels on a Kindle, then go for it! (Also don’t discount the modeling that this represents as well – B typically reads 90 minutes per day – all material of his own choosing.)
Pedicure: Have you tried the pedicure strips from Color Street? They’re beautiful, they last several weeks, and they apply quickly. Plus they are shaped just right for toes.
Date Night: Or “date” day. Or “date” lunch. Or take out from your favorite restaurant that you enjoy after the kids are in bed/at a sleepover. Rethink and redefine where you can find your time together. The diagnosis has changed your life- you need to change how you do things – not skip them altogether. Of course, if the opportunity to get away together, even for one night, presents itself, seize the day and go!
Mom’s Night Out – or In: You can have a theme, like this one, or just open a bottle of wine – or brew a pot of tea – and call it an event. You can go out to a happy hour, or meet at a restaurant or coffee shop. The specifics don’t matter, just the time. A diagnosis can also change adult friendships, it is important to connect with – and make time to stay connected with – those who are still investing in your friendship.
Treat Yourself to a Subscription Box: FabFitFun is perhaps the most popular. Causebox has a focus on more sustainably made items. Pick something that will make it feel like Christmas in July – or March – or whenever you need a lift.
Get a Massage: If time and resources permit, then do this more often! If you can splurge on the closest thing you can to a getaway without getting away, do it – some day spas can be very transportive. But there are also a number of places that do head/shoulder/neck massages by the minute – prioritize that!
Refresh your Closet: I have a method to this, that I explain here. Try stuff on. Pull stuff out you haven’t worn in a while – and wear it, or pass it on. And, if a “hole” emerges, then go for a little retail therapy and fill it!
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