If you have a child with autism, you’re more than just “mom” or “dad.” On any given day, you’re a parent, caretaker, advocate, interpreter, cheerleader, therapist and dietitian. With so many parts to play, it’s easy to ignore your own needs. But when we let ourselves get depleted, we have nothing left to give.
That’s where a self-care routine comes in. Self-care is far from selfish. In fact, by practicing self-care, you can actually improve your family’s quality of life. Here are four self-care tips for parents of children with autism:
Put Yourself First
As a parent, putting your child’s needs first comes naturally, but there comes a time when it’s equally important to prioritize your own self-care.
Self-care is more than just “me-time.” Just like your car needs regular maintenance so it doesn’t break down, your body, mind and sense of self need to be cared for — or else you’ll eventually run out of gas. And that’s what self-care is all about.
By putting yourself first and taking care of your needs, you can ensure there’s plenty of you to go around — at home, at work, with your children and in your relationships.
Slow Down Your Mornings
One way you can integrate more self-care into your life is by giving yourself 15 extra minutes to get ready in the morning. If that means waking up earlier, then go ahead and adjust your alarm clock. All that matters is that you give yourself time to care about the person in the mirror. Pick out an outfit that makes you feel confident, take a few minutes to do your hair or makeup, or let yourself stretch the muscles that have been tight.
By slowing down instead of racing into your day, you can help yourself feel better and more equipped to handle the challenges the day throws your way.
Take Time off for Friends and Hobbies
Another way you can practice self-care, increase resiliency and make sure you have the energy to care for your family is by taking some “time off.”
Doing what we love actually recharges us. So as much as you feel that you need to always be on-call, it’s equally important that you do the hobbies and activities that you love, that fuel your fire. According to Lisa Firestone, Ph.D:
“Just because it feels good to us doesn’t mean it denies others. In fact, by tending to our own needs and practicing good self-care, we alter the very quality of how we relate to others. Our families, friends, and coworkers get to experience us as the best and fullest versions of ourselves—happy and present.”
So go ahead and take a much-needed and well-deserved evening or day off.
Attend an Autism Support Group for Parents
Sometimes self-care looks like talking with people who understand your challenges. Attending autism support groups is a great way to practice self-care while also connecting with people in your community.
When you spend so much time taking care of others, it’s easy to overlook your own needs. But that doesn’t mean they’ve disappeared. By incorporating some self-care into your life, you can replenish depleted energy stores, build resiliency and ultimately — have more of yourself to go around.
Remember: there’s no right or wrong way to practice self-care; what matters is that you do it.