The Importance of Self-Care: Practical Tips for Making Time for Yourself
Posted on 01/29/19 in Parent and Caregiver by Salina Miller
I recently posed this question to the moms in the support group I facilitate: "Do you practice self-care?"
The blank stares on their faces told me all that I needed to know. Questions began to come up. "What is that?" "Who has time for that?" "Are you kidding me?"
I was all too familiar with their responses because for a long time, I had no real clue about self-care either. It wasn't until after I developed anxiety disorder and started to see my therapist that I knew changes had to be made in my life.
Being a mom to a 14-year-old who is legally blind in one eye, has autism, epilepsy and other health diagnoses can get extremely hectic, from the many doctor appointments, hospitalizations, IEP meetings, advocating for the services and programs he needs... on top of that, I work a full-time job. I recently married and inherited seven grandchildren and assist my aunt with the care of my mother who has paranoid schizophrenia. Not getting adequate rest or time to reboot brought on anxiety and depression. My overall health became negatively affected.
My journey for the discovery of self-care began four years ago when I started to feel totally drained emotionally, spiritually and physically. I was walking around like a zombie, irritable, moody and was not the most pleasant person to be around. Being a very spiritual person, I knew that my life was out of balance and that I was operating my life with my own strength rather than depending fully on God. So I made the decision that in order for me to be the best mom, wife, grandparent and advocate, it was imperative that I start taking care of myself which would involve relying on my faith once again.
Since making this decision, I have found various strategies that have helped me make self-care a priority again. These may end up looking different based upon your day-to-day life, but I wanted to simply share what is working for me.
-Do 5-10 minute meditations using free apps on your phone, iPad or tablet: When I first started this journey, I would be able to sneak five more minutes if I could go into my room, bathroom or car with my headphones. I focused on conscious breathing which helps by reducing the stress hormone cortisol and produces oxytocin which is a feel-good hormone. I started yoga which I love; it gives me the opportunity to clear my head, stretch and to be in tune with my body. If getting out to a local yoga class does not fit into your lifestyle, you can practice from the comfort of your home via YouTube.
-Utilize professional services: I see a therapist 1-2 times a month. I also host a support group with moms and caregivers to individuals with special needs. There, I am able to talk with people who are on the same journey as me. I also attend life support groups (small group classes) at my church when I can.
-Paint: I have never considered myself to be creative. However, after hosting a paint party for families of individuals with special needs, I fell in love. I find it so calming and refreshing; it gives your mind a chance to slow down and to reboot. Afterwards, I am able to go back to certain situations with a clearer perspective.
-Carve out some "me time" right after work: When coming home from working a full-time job, I would get bombarded by my family telling me about their day, asking me questions, etc. I noticed that I would be short in my responses and not really attentive. This is when I realized I needed a reboot period after work. I sat my family down to talk with them about the importance of mommy having 10-20 minutes after work to refresh, so that I could give them my full attention. That reboot changed our lives!
-Explore your respite care options: If your situation at home does not allow time away, consider contacting an agency for respite care or take some personal time if your job provides it!
-Journal: I began journaling in 2009 and it has been a blessing. After putting the kids to bed, the house is completely quiet and I can take a few minutes to write. Write about how your day went, about your frustrations or your excitement.
Self-care is so important, especially with the lives we live. We must first understand and discover exactly what we need to be emotionally, spiritually and physically healthy. In discovering this, then you can be the best advocate, parent and spouse you can be, but it first starts with taking care of ourselves.
For more information about Mother 2 Mother, please contact Salina at firstname.lastname@example.org or 216.584.5564. Looking for general support group opportunities in your area? Call the Milestones free autism Helpdesk at 216.464.7600 ext. 200.
Salina Miller is the mother of two sons, one of which is 14-years-old with autism and multiple other diagnoses. Mental health is well-known to her, as her mother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when she was 12 years old. Her love for family as well as serving and advocating for others parents and individuals with special needs inspired her to found Mother 2 Mother, and start a crusade to bring awareness while providing support to families in her community. Mother 2 Mother is a non-profit organization created to help strengthen mothers and caregivers, assisting them to be the best advocates to their loved one. Mother 2 Mother offers parent support, resources, education and empowerment.
Salina also serves on the State Support Team 3 as a parent representative and parent liaison for Warrensville Middle School, as a member of University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital Patient and Family Partnership Council, and as a part of the Milestones Autism Resources Diversity Taskforce. Salina is a recipient of the Unsung Heroes Award presented by the National Nurses Coalition.