Five tips to help you take care of YOU!
November 19, 2020
Caring for a child or adult with autism can be both rewarding and challenging. While at times it may feel like the best thing for your child and family is to spend every minute caring for the people around you, it’s just as important to allow yourself time to relax, laugh, cry or simply think.
In the Autism Speaks 100 Day Kit, we stress an important message: If you want to take the best possible care of your child, you must first take the best possible care of yourself. It may seem like there is never a convenient time, but it is essential to build self care into your everyday life – even if it is just five or 10 minutes!
This year, COVID-19 has added an incredible amount of stress to our already stressful lives. Whether it is the transition to virtual classrooms and telehealth appointments, the lack of contact with family and friends, or the sickness or tragic loss of a loved one, the year has been filled with many challenges. And now the holidays are here, which bring great joy, but can add stress as well. It is now more important than ever to make sure that you are taking care of yourself.
Below are some tips to help you make sure you are meeting your own needs, while being the best caregiver you can be as the holidays approach.
Give yourself a break.
If you can, allow yourself to take some time away, even if it is only a few minutes. This year, traditional breaks like a movie, shopping trip or visit to a friend may not be possible, but that is no reason to not allow yourself to step away. Go for a walk, shut your door and pick up a new TV show, or try a Zoom reunion with family or friends. If you feel guilty about taking a break, try to remind yourself that this break will help you feel renewed for the things you need to do when you get back. You, your child and your family will be better for it!
The lack of in-person interaction over the past eight months has been very isolating. During this time, it is critical to stay connected to your family and friends in any way possible. Your support network may look different right now, but it is more important than ever. Keep up the phone calls, emails, FaceTimes and texts with the people in your life. If you have been part of a support group or know other caregivers in similar situations, set up a virtual coffee break or social hour. And don’t forget to ask for help!
Let expectations go.
The holidays are going to look different this year for everyone. In a typical year, you may feel pressure to keep up the same holiday traditions you grew up with or that your neighbors practice, even if they aren’t enjoyable for your child or family. This year, you can rest assured almost everyone’s traditions are being thrown out the window, or at least significantly modified. Try your best not to feel like anything has to be or go a certain way. Does your child hate turkey but you spend days preparing yours? Not in 2020. Pizza for Thanksgiving dinner sounds pretty good!
Try to have fun.
It can be easy to get lost in the stresses of the pandemic, as well as the time of year. There may not be parties to attend or traditional holiday activities to enjoy with your family. Do your best see new opportunities for fun and enjoyment.
Think of ways to incorporate your child’s strengths and interests into fun family activities. A love of trains? You may not be able to ride one, but you can drive to the nearest station and watch the trains go by while listening to holiday music and eating a favorite treat. Turn off the news and have each family member pick a favorite movie or even YouTube video to watch each night. It may take some creativity, but you can find ways to make this crazy time enjoyable for you and your family!
Give yourself a pat on the back.
The most interesting year in living memory is almost over and you have made it! You probably lose sleep thinking about some of the difficulties this year has brought. But think about all you have accomplished during 2020. You may have learned to homeschool or taken over as your child’s behavioral aide. You may have successfully helped a child get comfortable wearing a mask for the first time. You may have mastered online grocery shopping or setting up group Zoom chats. Whatever it may be, pat yourself on the back for all of your hard work during this stressful time.
Now go and take that break you deserve!