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Self care is so important for special needs parents. Over the last two years, I have very much evolved in how I have accomplished self care in my life. Below are my top must-haves for my personal self care.
I say no to everything unnecessary, and I constantly evaluate and re-evaluate the definition of “necessary.”
I really began this path two or three years ago now. First, I took scissors to my VERY busy schedule. In 2014, I devoted the entire year to pursuing whitespace – rest and personal self-care. Once I had our second baby, I went over everything once again with a fine-tooth comb, searching for other things I could say no to. This included cloth diapering, breastfeeding – even houseplants! Most recently, we cut back on Ezra’s occupational therapy and found a provider that was closer to our home. I have cut, cut, cut, and then cut some more. And can I say – WHAT a difference it has made! I did not realize just how stressed out I was until I let go of these very unnecessary things.
I utilize screen time quite liberally – for all of us.
Screen time, in our house, is considered to be a therapeutic blessing. Yes, we MUST be wise in how we use screen time – both for our kids and for ourselves. Our family has a lot of strong personalities, and sometimes the extenuating needs of both my husband and my son can be volatile, depending on the day. There is so much great programming available on Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube that we can – at any time of overwhelm – get some separation from each other and zone out for a bit. This afternoon, both of the boys were incredibly fussy, so I declared that tonight’s dinner was going to be in front of our TV streaming Thomas the Tank Engine, because I just didn’t have energy for the dinner time battle.
Another thing I do – for MYSELF – is to always have a show that I am watching just for me. I take time while Ezra is at school and the baby is napping to watch TV. This is MY time to recharge. Sometimes I fold clothes, but other times I set all the housework aside to just rest. This is a non-negotiable for me.
I use our YMCA membership.
If the YMCA had an affiliate program, I would say “sign me up!” We really LOVE our YMCA membership! I know something like this may seen financially unfeasible for some of my readers, but if you haven’t, please check with your local YMCA to see if they have financial assistance. Our YMCA has evaluated our income and our membership for our family of four is about $46 for the month. This gives us access to several different YMCA branches across our greater metro area. This includes a swimming pool, “free” (with membership) childcare nearly every day of the week (with a 2-hour maximum), and Parents Morning Out and Parents Night Out programs (which are an additional cost, but totally worth it for when I have doctors’ appointments!). On top of getting exercise via the facilities or free group classes, I can go there any time I need a break from my kids. I can sit, drink free coffee, and use the free WIFI to do blogging, talk to my friends, work on school work, or just surf the internet mindlessly if that’s what I need. Our YMCA membership is literally some of the BEST money we spend every month.
I almost always shower twice a day.
I don’t know that I will ever understand the mom-cliche of going days without showering. I find hot showers to be sanity for me. I have showered at all hours of the day or night, but I am most likely to shower after getting home from the Y or right after that blissful moment when both of the boys are FINALLY in bed. There is nothing like it! And water-bill be darned, if twice-a-day showers are my worst vice, I think I’m doing okay!
(Showers and baths are very calming – as well as entertaining – for my boys! So whenever I run out of ideas, or they are fussy, or hot, or cold, or sniffly, or sad, or bored, or just annoying me to death…chances are their butts are getting thrown in the tub or shower too!)
I try to exercise a few times a week – even if it’s just taking a walk.
I’ll be honest, I was VERY slow in coming to the exercise party (read: unlikely gym convert). But now, I find exercise to be a must-have in managing my fatigue, my anger and frustration, my anxiety and depression, and my pain. If I’m not getting exercise, depression creeps up on me so quickly and threatens to overwhelm.
It is very rare that I really FEEL like exercising, but I have learned (the hard way) that I must force myself to do it. Once I’m into it, I ALWAYS feel better on every level.
I maintain creative and emotional outlets.
Having my blog, my social media accounts, my friends I can talk to on Voxer are highly important. Sometimes I need to step back and I will go weeks without writing or talking to friends – and I very much give myself permission for that. But I desperately need my outlets. I also have been able to play the piano more often for church. Getting back into that has been so good for my heart and soul – and ultimately my self care – even though I have to do some logistical gymnastics to make it happen with what we deal with as a family.