Parenting is not an easy job for anyone, but the much-needed restorative downtime that most of us want to work into our busy lives can feel unreachable for an autism parent.
As a parent of an autistic child, do you feel burned out or stressed? Are you in need of time alone, with nobody to watch the kids, yet you feel a heavy load of guilt? You may resonate with some or all of this but know that there are steps that you can take to reduce the stress through focused self-care.
Without self-care, we can fail to escape the struggles of life that come with parenting autistic children, leaving us physically and emotionally exhausted.
We end up fatigued, far beyond tired. Tired is easily corrected through quality rest. Fatigued involves excessive tiredness that plays havoc on cognitive functioning, and it is not relieved simply by sleep.
10 Self-Care Tips to Nurture Ourselves
Small steps can create big change. We typically do not focus on the small things in life, yet every tiny action that we take can improve our outlook and stress levels.
Self-care typically consists of many small steps that start with a simple heart of determination and commitment.
Here are 10 self-care tips that can help reduce stress and fatigue right now:
It is easy for us to feel pressured into getting through our to-do list every day, but by pushing ourselves we forget about self-care, and our busyness blocks us from recognizing things in life like subtle growth in our children.
At RDI®, we believe less is more and that by pacing ourselves, by giving ourselves and our children space with less planned activities, developmental benefits for our children multiply. By slowing down, we free up time and opportunity to be who we are as parents, and this supports a nurturing home environment.
Take a mental break.
Disconnect to reconnect.
Disconnection for a few minutes can go a long way towards ridding our body and mind of stress, and it adds up. It can prevent feelings of overwhelm and fatigue.
The strategy for disconnection can be as simple as sitting quietly and focusing on our breathing and heart rate, or it can involve going outside for a few moments and absorbing sunshine, listening to the birds sing, or meditating on something peaceful.
We can include our children in our moments of disconnection. Imagine teaching your child the joy of relaxation for a few moments several times a day. You can give the nurturing gift of downtime to the entire family.
Check your calendar.
Do you keep a calendar?
In our busy lives, we often feel overwhelmed, and keeping a calendar is helpful to ensure we meet our expectations. A calendar also helps us to see when we have overloaded the schedule (created more stress) for both ourselves and our children.
Do not pack your calendar so full that there is no space left to simply breathe and spontaneously enjoy life.
Add 5 minutes to your self-care routine.
We can get so wrapped up in our daily routines and responsibilities that we feel immense stress while we are partaking in our self-care.
When we add 5 minutes to our self-care time, and we deliberately focus on the solitude, or the joy of grooming, for example, we add a level of emotional resilience to our day…and this breath of fresh air is catching for all our family members. 5 additional minutes a day amounts to an extra 35 minutes a week or 1,825 minutes a year for your self-care!
Acknowledge your accomplishments.
As parents, we are excellent at telling our children when they do good things, but we fail to do this for ourselves.
When we make it a practice to recognize our achievements and to pat ourselves on the back with a ‘good job done,’ it can change the trajectory of our overall mindset. Life begins to feel richer and we gain a sense of purpose.
Reduce the distractions.
Technology has ushered interruptive noise and demands into our world.
We often glance at our phones to take a short break from our day, but what we do not recognize is that we add stress to our lives by doing so. We look at others on social media, and we compare our lives, ‘Wow, I wonder how it would feel to be able to do that/say that/wear that/look like that?’ Or we look at the news headlines and we feel new waves of stress.
The reality is that our world is much more manageable when we do not introduce negative and unhealthy interruptions into it. That little computer (cell phone) that we hold in our hands holds interruptive power!
To reduce distractions, take a break from technology. This means putting the phone down, and if possible, turning it off for a while.
Exercise encourages both mental and physical health. Exercise becomes even more healthy when it feels more like fun than work.
Imagine creating a spontaneous time-out with your family to dance. Turn on your child’s (or your) favorite music and dance together. Do not forget to laugh! This will automatically raise the feel-good levels for everyone involved.
Journaling is a therapeutic self-care tactic. It is a form of self-talk that has a positive outcome that can help us work through our struggles. It is a release.
Journaling can be done anywhere and practically at any time. Make journaling a tool that is always available to you!
Many parents struggle with finding someone to care for their kids, and we understand, yet we all need that important break to strengthen our abilities as a parent.
If you live with a partner, consider swapping some sleeping hours. As one parent sleeps or engages in self-care, the other provides complete respite.
Ask others in your community how they obtain respite care.
It is becoming more common for parents of autistic children to swap respite care. It involves rotational respite between families. For example, the Smith and Jones family swap respite care every other Wednesday for a set number of hours. So, this provides respite, at no charge, for each parent at least twice a month.
Connect with supportive people.
The feelings of burnout and isolation are common in parents of autistic children as we all share similar circumstances, frustrations, and stresses. When we share our lives with others, it helps each of us feel less alone with our struggles.
The popularity of online support groups has grown because it gives parents the chance to interact with others without having to find a caregiver.
Are you in need of support, but your reality is that you cannot get away to meet in person? Check out our RDI® Online Community.
RDI®’s Approach to Self Care
Parenting is hard. Parenting an autistic child can be incredibly hard.
We recognize that entire families are affected when children have autism. Our goals include helping families put a plan into place that normalizes family life.
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We place emphasis on you, the parent, as the most important and influential person in your child’s life, but we do not place the heavy role of therapist upon you. You are the guide.
Your success as a parent guide thrives with our ‘less is more’ approach. RDI® is a significant departure from traditional autism interventions. This equates to less stress for you, your child, and an improved qualify of life for your entire family.
Looking for more help? Join the online learning community!