Self Care for Autism Parents
“When you are feeling tired, stressed, and overwhelmed, it’s challenging to be the parent you strive to be. Why? Overwhelm takes up a lot of your energy and can leave you utterly exhausted. From this perspective, it’s certainly not as easy to access the loving, resourceful, creative parent inside you that it takes to help your child thrive.
“Here are four Tips to Practice Self-Care because putting yourself first will enable you to care for your family
1) “Being Authentic and Reaching Out
With so much on your plate as an autism parent, you might have learned to ‘put on a brave face’ for your family. With all you take care of throughout the day, it may seem like there is no time to acknowledge how you are truly feeling inside. Some think that being honest about their feelings is a selfish thing to do. Being vulnerable is not being selfish, it’s being real. When you acknowledge how you are feeling, you can best take care of yourself because you are no longer “bottling it up”. You will then have more energy to support your loved ones, so in fact, it is the best thing you can do for your family.
“Do you find autism parenting to be isolating? Do you wish you had someone to share your experience with who would understand what you are going through? Having someone to share with (and brainstorm with) is so important for your sense of connection and community. Consider reaching out to a friend who would lovingly listen to you – maybe this could be another Son-Rise Program parent you met through the Autism Treatment Center of America social media platforms, or in one of our courses. This makes a world of difference to feel you are not alone. Authentically allowing yourself to feel what you are feeling and then sharing it with someone else is an instant pressure reliever and something immediate you can do for yourself.
2) “Doing What You Love
What feels relaxing to you? Going for a walk? Reading? Taking a bubble bath? Doing a hobby? Imagine for a moment, you could do what you wanted… what would you choose? Whatever it is… find a way to make that happen. Start in small increments, let’s say you want to take a walk, begin with walking around your yard on a sunny day for a few minutes while your child is occupied. See if you can completely immerse yourself in this activity and be present with it. This means saying yes to yourself and not worrying about other things you have to do that are “more important”. How did you feel afterward? Now see if you can create a scheduled time to do that activity each day. Yes, this is more important than the dishes, the laundry, or watching the news. This small act of giving to yourself (guilt-free) will ultimately help you be able to better care for others.
3) “Getting Help with Your Child
You may think that caring for your child with autism is all about how much you do and how many hours you put in. Trying to do more than you are humanely capable of doing can lead to burn-out – where you are not able to care for anyone. Enlisting help lightens the load and can help you get some much-needed respite. Having this respite will give you time to do the steps above.
“Ways to get help include:
– Exploring local respite resources for your child.
– Getting a babysitter.
– Have a Son-Rise Program support team member do an extra playroom session.
– Asking a family member or friend to do shopping, prepping, or cooking for special diets or protocols you might have in place for your child.
4) “Managing Stress Levels
There are many ways to manage stress, and doing all of the above will be a great start to this. Whether your stress-relief path is Yoga, meditation, or an Option Process Dialogue. Prioritizing doing these things regularly will be an amazing way to support your sense of self-care. For example: Try rolling out the yoga mat and doing a few minutes of practice while your child is eating dinner or playing by themselves. Listen to a relaxing meditation before you go to sleep or choose another Son-Rise Program parent to exchange dialogues with. If you feel you have no one to do this with, a great first step is talking to yourself as if you are a cherished friend. Checking in with how you feel each day and what you’ve been thinking is another step to awesome self-care.”
‘Put yourself at the top of your to-do list every single day, and the rest will fall into place.’ ~ Elayna Fernández
‘Be committed to the relationship you have with yourself. We get so committed to other relationships but often sort of toss ourselves away. We get around to ourselves only now and then. So, really care for who you are. Be committed to loving yourself. Take care of your heart and soul.’ ~ Louise Hay
‘Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.’ ~ Anne Lamott
Becky Damgaard, Senior Son-Rise Program Teacher