Parenting a child with autism can be one of the toughest, most overwhelming jobs. Your daily life revolves around your child, from dealing with meltdowns to driving to various therapies.
It is important to take the time to ask yourself, “When do I have time for me?” You are human and if you do not take time out for yourself, at some point you will find yourself empty with nothing left to give.
Remember your child’s success is dependent upon you. When you have nothing left in your tank to give you will become impatient and frustrated, which in turn affects your child and may lead to more meltdowns or increased anxiety. Self-care is a mindset and it is necessary to maintain for you to survive as a parent. When you are your best self, so can your child be at his/her best.
I have many parents say to me, “I don’t have time.” My advice is…make the time! Self-care means giving yourself permission to pause, slow down, and take time for you. With clients who struggle with self-care, I have them participate in my 21-Day Self-Care Challenge. They say it takes 21-days to change a habit.
So, if you are in the habit of NOT taking time for yourself, let’s change that starting today! I recommend starting the challenge when your child is in school because school provides a natural respite for you. Instead of running some errands, use that time to take care of YOU. Believe me, the errands can wait. For 21 days, take 10-15 minutes a day to care for you. By caring for you, you are saying to yourself that you are worth it and you are important.
To start the challenge, print a monthly calendar and decide when you will begin the challenge. Just like setting up a token economy system for your child, you will do the same for you. Once you have decided your start date, write down 21 self-care activities you can perform daily for yourself. I have created a list of 10 easy and simple self-care ideas below:
1. Take a walk
2. Listen to your favorite song over and over again
3. Take a bubble bath
4. Indulge and eat your favorite food
5. Sit outside for five minutes and take deep breaths
6. Watch a movie
7. Read a book
8. Take an exercise class
10. Learn to say, “No”
When you complete your 21-Day Self-Care Challenge, reward yourself with something big like going away by yourself for the weekend or meeting up with friends for an evening of fun. In just 21-days you will begin to see your mood change. Studies have shown self-care helps with positivity, improves confidence, and helps with self-esteem.
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This ultimately affects your mood as a parent. You will see you have more energy and patience, which then affects the mood of your child. So the next time you are faced with the decision of running a minor errand or taking time for yourself, ask yourself, “Does this errand contribute to my self-care? Is it helping me become the best version of me?” If the answer is, “no,” then drop that errand and go take care of you. YOU are worth it!
This article was featured in Issue 94 – Daily Strategies Families Need