On top of the “duties” of everyday life, dealing with unscheduled meltdowns, potty training issues, countless therapy sessions, and endless fighting with the school system to get the much-needed and well-deserved accommodations and services, parenting a child with autism can be VERY stressful and overwhelming. Many parents may attest to the fact that we become really good at operating on auto pilot. It is as if our bodies operate and move in almost a robotic way. It is the same thing, different day (wash, rinse, repeat).
Because most children on the spectrum thrive on routine, a typical daily routine may be pretty much the same, with a few randomly thrown in meltdown bonuses. As parents of children with autism, we often neglect ourselves, both physically and mentally, continuously giving of ourselves until there is nothing left for ourselves. What I’ve discovered during this journey is that it is imperative that I set aside time for myself in order to de-stress, decompress, and regroup.
Below are six easy ways that helped restore my sanity and bring much needed clarity to my life as a mom of a child with autism. And the best part: it can be done in just 30 minutes or less.
- Take a nap: Believe it or not, a 30-minute power nap can do wonders for your mind and body. Taking a nap, if only for a short time, will help to stave off sleep deprivation and allow your body to reset and receive a much needed boost of energy.
- Take a hot shower: Taking a hot shower will help to relax your overworked, tired limbs and will help to relax those achy muscles. A nice, hot relaxing shower will help you find clarity. Lavender soaps and body washes are excellent relaxation aids for the body and mind.
- Take a 30-minute walk: Walking triggers the release of endorphins, which is a potent brain chemical that, when released, helps to relieve pain and stimulate relaxation…not to mention, it is great for exercise and weight loss. Walking is great for the heart and helps stave off depression.
- Get a massage: Getting a massage will allow your body to go into a state of relaxation. Massages reduce muscle tension and allow for almost immediate stress release. Some trigger-point massages allow the therapist to target your trigger points, which may aid in relieving stress headaches and pain associated with stress. According to the American Massage Therapy Association, a massage helps in reducing high blood pressure brought on by stress.
- Listen to soft music: Listening to soft music is very instrumental in relaxing your body and mind. It is also very instrumental in meditation. Music helps to reduce symptoms of depression, and it can even take you from a sad place to a happy place.
- Read a book: In addition to making you smarter, reading also helps to reduce stress. Reading a good book can provide a great (healthy) escape from the day-to-day stresses that come with being a parent of a child with autism. Try finding a book or magazine that you enjoy.
Whatever you do, please remember to take care of yourself. You are not benefiting anyone, least of all your child, when you are operating at less than your best. Being a parent of a child with autism is not a race, but a marathon….so pace yourself.
Kendra Garcia, COTA/L “The OT Strategist” is Amazon’s #1 bestselling author of the book Life beyond the Diagnosis. She is a public speaker, coach, Huffington post contributor, IEP special education parent consultant, autism mom and advocate. She works as a pediatric-adult occupational therapy provider. Kendra can be reached at www.ParentingBeyondAutism.com or TheOTStrategist@gmail.com. To connect with her on social media: @TheOTStrategist on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
This article was featured in Issue 57 – Conquering A New Year