I’m seeing more and more social media content encouraging moms (including special needs moms) to take care of themselves. Sometimes this is called Self-Care, a relatively new term on the block is “community care”. And frequently when I see these articles posted, the comments are “I don’t have time to do any of that” or “I don’t have money to join a gym” or “I’m a single parent, I get zero respite”. And I get that. I REALLY do. I am 24/7 caretaker of a disabled teenager who is also home schooled. And he’s medically and behaviorally complex. And I have side gigs to bring in some extra cash. And there is never enough time in the day to get all.of.the.things done.
But that doesn’t excuse me from caring for myself and putting MY well-being up high on my to-do list. If I’m not doing well the reality is my child is not going to do well. And if I’m not modeling for my child how to take care of one’s self, how’s he ever going to learn that? Putting your own care as a priority is not selfish. It means that you are loving yourself and demonstrating to others how you deserve to be treated.
At the heart of “self-care” is having a nervous system that is balanced (or working more in balance than out of balance). Clinically, your body is in parasympathetic vs. sympathetic. Ideally, you should spend most of your day in parasympathetic also known as rest/digest and your body SHOULD respond to a stressor appropriately by moving into sympathetic also called fight/flight.
Self-care and balance does not mean that you never experience stress. It means that you appropriately respond to stress and then move back appropriately into rest/digest.
And to do this, we have to
1. Make sure our exposures to stress are limited so that our stress bucket isn’t overfilled.
2. Train our nervous system to be efficient just as we do our bodies.
3. Be aware and intentional about our mindset and actions.
In addition, we need to understand the things that will cause a stress response in our bodies. Those things are in three categories:
Self-Care is bringing nourishing things and activities into your life and removing anti-nourishing things and activities from your life, a sort of Marie Kondo exercise for your mind/body/spirit. And these nourishing things and activities do not have to be huge or expensive. In fact, 90% of the self-care activities I do within a day are things that don’t cost money nor do they require I leave the house or “escape” my life. Because self-care is about taking care of yourself WHILE YOU ARE LIVING YOUR LIFE. It is a discipline, not a singular activity.
In 2018 I gave a presentation at AutismOne on Creating a Culture of Care for You. It’s imperative that we view the concept of SELF-CARE differently. It is a practice, not a destination. It is something to be woven into our daily lives regardless of our circumstances. We owe it to ourselves and our children to love and care for ourselves.
Following is a list of the self-care things I practice in a typical day. You’ll see intentional choices around using non-toxic products (reduces exposures to chemical stressors), food (reduces chemical and physical stressors) and mindset (reduces emotional stressors). You’ll also see activities that help exercise my nervous system and support it moving to and staying in balance. What you won’t see are trips to the spa, naps, extended periods of alone time because that’s not what my life is like. I have a child with complex needs and I need to be available for him when he needs it. My needs while equally important are more dynamic in terms of timing. I might start the day thinking I’m going to get a lot of outdoor time but as the day progresses, I may have to change that plan and adapt to my son’s needs. And I can do that because I have developed a large toolbox over the years of things that nourish my body/mind/spirit that also fit with my life.
My hope is that in reading this list, you’ll come to understand and view SELF-CARE through a different lens. And then from there you start to create your own tool box.
1. Said a thank you for waking up to a new day.
2. Drank a glass of hot water before drinking my coffee.
3. Gave gratitude for my coffee.
4. Added MCT oil to my second cup of coffee.
5. Took a shower – no products used with parabens or phthalates.
6. Listened to music while taking my shower.
7. Used castor oil on my face.
8. Interrupted a negative thought pattern.
9. Hugged my kid.
10. Ate steamed broccoli for breakfast.
11. Drank my herbal tea remedy + collagen peptides.
12. Took some magnesium and B vitamins.
13. Interrupted more negative thought patterns.
14. Slow breathing – 5 reps.
15. Sat out in the sun in my rocking chair for 5 minutes.
16. Had a huckleberry shake for lunch to celebrate the beginning of summer.
17. Did some tapping after a less than relaxing drive with the child.
18. Applied some essential oils.
19. Decluttered by moving a couple of items out of the house.
20. Sat on the couch for a few minutes to zone out on junk TV.
21. Got a chiropractic adjustment.
22. Mowed the front yard with manual push mower (sun, exercise and alone time).
23. Drank water.
24. Turned off my computer for a while.
25. Unfollowed a few people and pages on social media.
26. Ate a balanced whole food meal for dinner.
27. Drank some kombucha and a swig of Flourish probiotic.
28. Cleaned kitchen with non-toxic Norwex cloths.
29. Did a quick meditation and centering when I felt at loose ends at the end of the day.
30. Drank my evening herbal tea remedy.
31. Drank some more water.
32. Stayed alcohol free.
33. Did the squat stretch for a few minutes.
34. Interrupted a negative thought loop.
35. Spent 5 minutes tending to garden boxes and flowers.
36. Removed mascara with castor oil.
37. Maintained personal boundaries throughout the day without emotion or over-thinking.
38. Reviewed several things that DID cause me some stress today and made a decision to either release that or do something about it.
39. Gratitude statements before I fall asleep. For instance “Thank you feet for carrying me through the day……Thank you skin for receiving the sunlight…” etc.
Please watch my video presentation to learn more about HOW to incorporate SIMPLE and DOABLE strategies into your day. It is possible to raise your expression of life while parenting a child with challenges. In fact, I’d say it’s imperative.