Self-Care for Parents of Children with Special Needs

Mother kissing child

As a special needs parent, your self- care regimen is important. Caring for a child with special needs can be stressful.  In fact, the word stressful may be an understatement.  We all can attest that there are great days where our kids achieve something that we thought would not happen as soon as it did.  Your fellow special needs parents can understand the joy of a child eating a new food or acquiring a new skill or even speaking after countless doctors have told you that your child is nonverbal and will remain that way.

There is another thing I think we all can agree with when it comes to being parents of children with special needs and that is the fact that we often neglect to take care of ourselves.  As a busy mother of four children – one having an autism diagnosis – I am guilty if not taking care of myself like I should.  The following are a few ways that we can practice self-care.

Take 5-10 minutes for yourself

Depending on your situation, this suggestion may seem virtually impossible.  But you can do it.  You can spend this time mindlessly doodling.  Or you can use this time to just taking deep, cleansing breaths.  Deep breathing allows your body to relax and release any stress while giving you a boost of energy.  The life of a special needs parent can be very hectic and stressful.  Taking mental breaks can be just the thing you need to get you through your day.

Every day is not going to be a good day

We would all like to think that we can hold it together all day every day.  We hold the belief so tightly that we often think we have failed if we have a bad day.  Every day is not going to be a good day.  A bad day does not make you a bad parent. A bad day does not mean that you are not cut out to be a special needs parent or caregiver.  A bad day does not make you a failure.  Try your best to keep things in perspective.  Some days are just going to be hard but, as cliché’ as it sounds, tomorrow is a new day.

Allow yourself to feel

Life can be challenging as a special needs parent.  There is the constant worry that all of your child’s needs are not being met.  There is the isolation that your family may experience due to your child not being able to be around large crowds or loud places.  You may feel hesitant to honestly express yourself due to not wanting to sound like you are complaining.  But it is imperative that you allow yourself to feel whatever you may be feeling in the moment. Whether you journal or whether you have a good friend you can share your feelings with, allow yourself to feel. Allowing yourself to feel is a form of self-care because this can release some of your anxieties.

Be kind to yourself

Sometimes we can be our own enemy. We can often become hindered by own negative self-talk and negative thoughts. Do whatever you can to remain positive.  Remind yourself of the great job that you are doing. Find something to do that is just for you. Read a good book even if you can only read a couple of pages a day. Find a show that you like on TV and watch it even if it takes forever to get through the whole series. The point is to not lose yourself and to stay connected to what you enjoy. So write if you like to write, read if you like to read, do whatever it is that you like to do even if you can only do it every now and then. Doing what you like to do it a form of self-care.

Take care of your mental health

Special needs parents experience a wide range of issues. There is guilt, anxiety, stress, depression, the list goes on and on. It is imperative that you take care of your mental health. Surround yourself with people who encourage and uplift you.  This can be achieved through support groups or through connecting with people who have a similar circumstance to yours. Be aware of your mental health and do not hesitate to see a therapist if you feel that that is what you need.  In other words, your self-care journey includes taking care of your mental health needs the same way that you take care of the needs of those that you care for and love.

Mother and son

It is not easy being the parent or caregiver of a special needs child. You always wonder if you are doing enough and you can sometimes be your own toughest critic.  I am here to tell you that you are doing a great job. You get up every day and do it have to be done for your family. Keep doing what you are doing and remember to take care of yourself.

What other self-care ideas would you add to this list?

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5 Benefits of Positive Thinking

Woman thinking positively and smiling
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My last couple of posts have been on barriers to positivity and ways to achieve mindfulness.  This week’s post is going to focus on the benefits of positive thinking.  It can often be challenging to think positively and to always look at the bright side. Although it is challenging there are so many benefits to positive thinking. 

Woman holding firecracker and thinking positively

Positive Thinking Gives Hope

Have you ever been in a situation where the only think you had was the hope that everything was going to be all right?  Hope is often lost when you only dwell on the things that can go wrong.  By its definition, hope is the expectation and desire that something will happen.  When things are beginning to look bleak and your thoughts are beginning to shift to the negative, positive thinking can help you get focused on positive outcomes.  Positive thinking can often give you renewed hope in situations that you felt were hopeless. 

Woman looking resilient due to thinking positively

Positive Thinking Leads to Resilience

Consistent positive thinking leads to positive thinking becoming a habit.  It will become second nature to see the good in a situation and you will find that you do not always consciously talk yourself into thinking positively.  Resilience will make you better able to respond to adversity of tough circumstances with the belief that everything will work out in the long run.  Focusing on positive outcomes, and only positive outcomes, can help build the resilience that you need to make it through tough times.

Attract Other Positive People

Having a positive outlook on life will make it more likely that you will want that for other people.  Your positivity will lead you to encourage others and to want nothing but positive outcomes for them.  Consistent positive people will either attract people to you or drive people away from you.  Those with a not so positive outlook will either adapt or slowly distance themselves.  In the end, your circle will consist of those individuals whose positive thinking matches yours.  This will lead you to having a more positive set of friends and acquaintances who will consistently reciprocate your positivity.

Gratitude

Positive thinking helps you to see the positive side of things – even the things we often take for granted. When you consistently think negatively, you can miss the good things that are happening around you.  Negative thinking can sometimes have you thinking that nothing is going right and that there is nothing to be grateful.  Positive thinking will open your eyes to see the many things that you should be thankful for.  This gratitude can help you enjoy life more as you remain grateful for all that you have. This gratefulness can go a long way while working towards the things that you desire.

Better Mental Health

When you focus your energy on thinking positively, you may feel that a lot of the worries and heaviness that you carry around is alleviated.  Having a more positive outcome can help to ease anxiety which can lead to less stress.  As many of us know, stress is one of those things that can take a life of its own.  Positive thinking has been shown to lessen bouts of anxiety and depression and leading to a more consistent positive outlook on life.  Positive thinking can also help you gain a more positive view of yourself which can lead to more positive self-talk which increase your sense of self-worth.

Woman celebrating improved mental health because she started thinking positively

As you can see there are quite a few benefits to thinking positively.  Over time and with practice, hopefully you will begin to experience these benefits.

What would you add to this list?

3 Ways to Achieve Mindfulness

Woman in orange shirt achieving mindfulness
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A lot of us have heard the term ‘mindfulness’ when conversations about positivity and positive thinking comes up.  But do you know what it really means to achieve mindfulness?  And do you know how mindfulness is related to positive thinking?  This post will be about the benefits of achieving mindfulness and how it relates to positive thinking.  My previous post talked about barriers to positivity.  Read it here so you can be aware of the things that can prevent positive thinking and mindfulness.

Mindfulness is being totally aware of how you are feeling in this current moment.  It is being aware.  Being conscious of your emotions, how you are physically feeling, and just being aware of your mind is.  Mindfulness is something used in the context of being happy, joyful, and positive but you can achieve mindfulness and come to the conclusion that the thoughts you have are mainly negative thoughts.  Or you can come to the conclusion that you are emotionally off.  Mindfulness if awareness – an honest awareness – of how you are feeling in a specific moment.

But, of course, what we strive for is positive mindfulness.  So let’s look at a few ways to achieve positive mindfulness.

man sitting near waterfalls achieving mindfulness

Slowing Down to Achieve Mindfulness

In order to achieve mindfulness you must slow down.  We run through life so fast that we do not often slow down to really take inventory of what we feel.  Are you taking deep regular breaths or are you taking quick shallow breaths?  Are your thought coming slow and steady or are they racing? Slowing down and becoming aware of your thought patterns can help you see what areas you need to focus on.  You may realize that you have a tendency to take things more personally than you should.  Or you may realize that you need to become more assertive.  You may even come to realize that your energy is low and that you may need to enhance your diet.   Slowing down to really analyze all aspects of your being is crucial to being able to maximize your mindfulness. 

Jump to Positive Conclusions

It is our natural inclination to sometimes jump to negative conclusions but we sometimes have to force ourselves to jump to positive conclusions and expect them to happen.  I am notorious for always thinking something will end badly and I defend this way of thinking but saying that I am just planning for the worst case scenario.  While that may be true, if I am not careful, I may also be setting an expectation that something will go wrong.  Imagine what would happen if I put as much energy planning for a positive outcome as I do planning for a negative outcome.  Being intentional about having the expectation that things will go as planned and have a positive outcome go a long way.  Training ourselves to jump to positive conclusions will eventually lead us to achieving mindfulness which leads us to having a more positive outlook on life in general.

Feed Yourself Positivity

We have all heard the phrase, “you are what you eat.”  The assumption being that if you healthily then you will overall be considered healthy.    But if you do not eat a healthy diet you will likely feel run down and sluggish due to you not obtaining the nutrients needed to keep your strength up.  The same is true with positivity.  Be conscious of the company you keep – make sure that you are surrounding yourself with people who speak positively and negatively.  You must be careful of what you allow yourself to read and hear.  Be intentional with what books you read, what music you listen to, and the conversations you have with people. It is a lot easier to be positive when positivity is continually being fed into your spirit.

man standing on mountain top
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These are just a few of the things that you can do to try and achieve mindfulness.  It takes discipline but it is worth the benefits that can come from it.  Here are just a few of the benefits that has been shown that can come from achieving a level of mindfulness.

  • Better relationships
  • Become happier
  • Less stressed
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Better sleep
  • Becoming more creative

What else has helped you achieve a state of mindfulness?

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