The Importance of Self-Care for Special Needs Parents: Lessons Learned from My Beach Trip
Updated: May 9
I talk about it a lot. Self-care is so important. I think one of the reasons I bring it up so much is that I am not always as good at practicing self-care as I would like to be.
Between COVID and the year I've had so far though I've doubled down on the self-care and I have to say, I'm proud of my efforts. In fact, recently I took a long weekend at the beach
BY. MY. SELF.
I'm not going to lie. It was really wonderful.
I stayed in a small resort in the Outer Banks of NC. I had a lovely room overlooking the sound. The beach is right on the other side of the resort. I had amazing food, a pedicure, a massage, and great drinks. I had a private balcony.
I got to shop where ever I wanted. I bought whatever I wanted. I slept. I slept a lot. I read I read a lot. I journaled. I sang and listened to music. AMAZING.
I mean look at this -
It was early in the spring for this trip so the beach wasn't busy. The sun was still warm and it was quiet. Fantastic.
Amazing as the trip was I was ready to come home within a day or two.
By day three I was bored.
I know - that may be unique to me but I was. But it reminded me of some important things about self-care that I want to share. Sometimes we think that trips like this are the only way to really give ourselves self-care. While luxury is wonderful, and if you can then please do, it isn't the only or even the best way to give yourself the gift of care.
COVID taught me more about self-care than I ever thought. There were two practices from COVID that have become absolutely nonnegotiable for me now.
Daily time alone and a weekly bath.
I get up early to give this to myself but I have to have it. I indulge here because I don't mind getting up early. But if all you got is 15 minutes, hell 5 minutes, give yourself the time. Enjoy that first cup of coffee or tea in the morning in blessed silence. The only rule for this time is you cannot think about your day. You MUST be mindful. Taste the coffee. Feel the surface of whatever you are sitting on. Listen to the birds. That mindfulness is what makes this time, be it 5 minutes or an hour, helpful.
Like my time alone in the morning, this weekly bath is sacred time for me. I light candles, bring myself something to drink, use Epsom salts, have light music play, and just sit. Sometimes I drink wine, sometimes I drink sparkling water - depends on my week. Just like the daily time I give myself, I try to be super mindful when I'm in the bath. I'm in the bath, not thinking about my day, not thinking about tomorrow. I'm feeling the water, tasting my drink, listening to my music.
It took some time but everyone in my home respects my bathtime now. And that leads me to a critical part of self-care that I have been really exploring this last year - boundaries.
That image really helped me when I started to practice personal boundaries with my family.
For whatever reason, boundaries FEEL unkind to me. I know logically they aren't but they feel that way. This quote really helped me adjust that mindset. And my bathtime showcases how it can happen.
The first month or so I would get delays getting into the bath. Or questions while I was in the bath. My response was gentle, I will help you when I'm done.
That was it. That was all I said. And I said it consistently for several weeks and then one day...I didn't need to anymore. Everyone in the house, even my son, just knew I was taking a bath and I would be a little bit.
Once I saw how this could happen it gave me more confidence to explore how I could put a few more boundaries in place. I have found, and if you do any reading on it, that boundaries help in two areas.
protecting your time
protecting your energy
And when these two things are protected stress and anxiety decrease and relationship satisfaction increases. My two favorite books on boundaries are:
The book of Boundaries: set the limits that will set you free by Melissa Urban
Set boundaries find peace by Nedra Glover Tawwab
As I've been exploring boundaries myself I've also found that some of the most important boundaries I can set are with myself. For example - maintain my boundary. If Sunday night at 8 is when I take a bath. Then at 7:55 pm when I'm asked for help with something it was ME that needed to have a boundary with ME to say, I have 5 minutes before my bath.
I have found that those self-boundaries are where I struggle the most because that is how I maintain my boundaries with other things. So I've needed to set some rules with myself to make sure I can actually keep my own damn boundaries. What are some of those rules?
I'm so glad you asked!
take things off my calendar if my stress level gets above a 7 or 8.
find time for 5 deep breathes if my stress level gets about a 9 or hits 10
Both of those self-boundaries help with protecting my time and especially my energy.
A few other self-boundaries. Working out regularly. Limiting how much liquor I drink each week. Eating to take care of myself. Getting enough sleep at night. Keeping a gratitude and meditation practice.
I could go on and on with this topic but it would become a tangent so let's recap some important points. Remember the goal is to help you make sure you are giving yourself some love too.
Self-care is CRITICAL and the first step for a parent of a child with special needs. It's really true that when you take time to fill your cup it's easier to fill up others.
Self-care does NOT mean luxury. Even though massages and bubble baths are amazing self-care can be meditation. Listening to great music. Sitting in the sun for a few minutes.
Dude - BREATHE intentionally. All self-care.
Boundaries are part of self-care and boundaries with yourself can be the hardest to set. For me, right now, boundaries are the most important part of my self-care. Learning what to say yes to and what to say no to. And doing it in a way that still sounds loving and kind. That is the key for me.
So while my beach trip was incredible and I look forward to having another weekend trip alone, the fact that I was ready to come home by day three reinforces that real self-care happens every day. In small ways. Self-care is consistent and part of the routine you build for yourself. And when you model that behavior your children and others in your life begin to do the same.
Which is great. Good job you!
Do you have a special way of giving yourself some love? Please share! I want to know how sharing ideas can help others.
And if you are struggling with this in your own life be sure to reach out. Set an appointment for a discovery call. It's amazing what you can do when someone else is holding you accountable. LOL
You got this.
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