Self Care For Parents
Let’s be honest, self care for parents is tough!! The research shows us it is extra tough to find time for it when you have a special needs child. Unfortunately that means it is all the more important to prioritize!!!
Lets take a look at some categories of self care:
Physical Health through Food and Exercise- When people are stressed, busy or tired healthy eating and exercise are often the first to go. The reason this is so unfortunate is because what we eat not only impacts our physical health but also our mental health. When we eat junk food anxiety and depression spike. Prioritizing good food for your whole family can give you all a big boost in mental health!!!
Exercise is so easy to push off and not do!! The things is, it is sooooo incredibly powerful when it comes to it’s impact on our cognitive abilities and our mental health!! Exercising 30 minutes a day 3 times a week can have long term effects on your emotional regulation, decrease your changes of illness and improve your memory and concentration. There are are so many fun ways to move as a family! Working out does not have to mean going on runs or lifting weights! Have a dance party, go on a scavenger hunt! Whatever movement brings you joy!
Social Connection- Finding time for friendship can be especially hard for special needs parents due to the needs of their children! This doesn’t take away from the fact that we are social creatures who struggle when we are not in community. Finding your tribe is such an important part of your mental health. Thankfully there are more and more parent support groups where you can meet parents in similar positions who understand your struggles. Check out your local autism societies for information on groups and activities!!
Sleep- Sleep impacts every area of our life!! I cannot stress enough how important that is!!! The research shows that kids with special needs frequently struggle with sleep issues, which means parents are not getting good sleep either!! The good news is behavioral treatment for sleep issues is very expected. Dr. Hanley has an amazing free youtube video on sleep issues that is incredibly helpful if you are struggling in this way.
Alone Time- If we do not take time to be alone and decompress our emotional regulation will struggle. We feel selfish for taking alone time but if we don’t our kids will suffer. Nothing impacts our kids more than out own mental health!
If your mental health is struggling, know that you are not alone. Pick a manageable target behavior off this list to start moving towards better mental health!