5 Self Care Essentials To Benefit A Childs Recovery
March 24, 2016
What am I talking about today?
It’s not a secret that parents tend to put themselves last—moms in particular. We even take it as a badge of honour when we haven’t found the time to eat more than our child’s leftovers, when we regularly don’t get enough sleep, or even when we’ve barely had a chance to pee all day! I speak from experience. I am guilty of wearing this badge myself for, dare I say, many years. Don't forget about you and these 5-Self-Care-Essentials-To-Benefit-Your-Childs-Recovery!
I’ve been at the mom thing officially for 12 years. (It’s my daughter’s birthday this week.) As time flies and I get older, I have realized that the badge of honour I’ve been wearing proudly is not something to brag about after all. If you are anything like me, your own badge has left you at times exhausted and wondering if what you are doing makes sense. Neglecting yourself isn’t helping your child, your family or yourself. When you forgo your own self-care, you are not the only one who suffers. By taking care of yourself first, you will be more prepared to help bring about your child’s recovery.
5 Self Care Essentials To Benefit A Childs Recovery
I am fairly certain that you are as sleep deprived as I am on a regular basis. In my younger years, pre-kids, I wore the sleep-deprivation badge of honour when I worked as many hours as I could. Everyone at the firm compared how many chargeable hours they had and how little free time or sleep they got. We were actually proud of it. Flash forward to parenthood and the conversation isn’t much different at the mommy and me groups I attended. We’d discuss who got the least amount of sleep and how, even when we had a chance to go to sleep early, we stayed up late to “get more done” and finally have some quiet time to ourselves. Sound familiar?
And yet, sleep is the single most important thing we can do for our health and sanity. Sleep is necessary for the body to rest and repair. Sleep deprivation is in fact a form of chronic stress—the same chronic stress that we are trying to rid from our children’s lives to make them healthier. Do you sense the irony? Chronic stress (in any form) leads directly to the development of chronic disease (such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, obesity and mental health issues, to list just a few).
Aside from the chronic health issues, lack of sleep impairs day-to-day mental function and energy levels. When you are striving to do the best you can for your child, you’ll want to be sharp and full of energy so that you can learn more about what is causing your child’s health issues and how to help.
How is it that we will read, research, review and prepare the best balanced meals for our children and then eat scraps ourselves? I don’t have to tell you how backwards that thinking is. It’s time to dump the double standard. We have a duty to fuel ourselves properly to ensure we have the energy to keep up with our children and their needs throughout the days and years to come. You and I can’t afford to be sick.
Eating the correct balance of foods on a timely basis will support your family by keeping you healthy. You deserve to feel well and energized. It can change your perspective on the challenges you will face throughout your day and will give you a completely different outlook—and stamina—when you come up against an obstacle.
This is a biggie. For years and years I complained that I didn’t have time to exercise. I would squeeze in a run or a workout once in a while, but consistency eluded me. Let’s be honest, after I stayed up too late “trying to get things done and have some time to myself,” I was too tired to get up before the kids and needed every second of sleep I could get. It was a vicious circle.
Exercise, when done correctly, helps relieve the chronic stress state and can actually lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone). This is important for everyone, but especially for us parents of a special needs child, trying to do it all. You don’t need to become a workout fanatic, you just need to move. See the “5 self-care essentials” Section below for specific recommendations.
I confess that I lack expertise and practice in mindfulness. I know the benefits, and I am working towards incorporating it in my day, but I have not yet succeeded. That said, the reasons why I will continue to try are many. According to a study quoted in an article from Northern Arizona University, the five key benefits of mindfulness training are:
- It strengthens immune system and physiological responses to stress and negative emotions.
- It improves social relationships with family and strangers.
- It reduces stress, depression, and anxiety and increased well-being and happiness.
- It increases openness to experience, conscientiousness, and agreeableness and reduced negative associations with neuroticism.
- It leads to greater psychological mindfulness, which includes an awareness that is clear, nonconceptual, and flexible; a practical stance toward reality; and present attention to the individual’s consciousness and awareness.
Basically, mindfulness can make you a happier, healthier person more able to adapt to the challenges put in front of you each day. Sounds pretty good to me. It also doesn’t require a major time commitment (something we have too little of). Even 12 minutes a day has been found to have beneficial effects.
Your Health Care
Keeping a thorough medical history for your child on hand is a crucial part of staying on top of your child’s recovery. This history includes a deep dive into your own medical history. For biological children, our medical history is quite relevant to their health and potential outcomes. Looking at your medical history will help unlock keys to the root causes of your child’s disorder, but beyond that, it will help you identify the issues you need to address yourself in order to ensure you are healthy in the future. For example, you may learn that you need to reestablish a healthy gut microbiome after the many rounds of antibiotics you had over the years destroyed the balance in your gut and, in turn, in your child’s gut.
5 Self-Care Essentials
- Get more sleep! I know—easy for me to say, right? My advice is for you and me alike. Make sleep your number one priority. It will benefit everyone in your family. Go to bed as soon as you can after your kids do, and get up early if you need to. Aim for no less than seven hours of sleep each night. The laundry will still be there in the morning. It literally took me 11 years to learn this lesson, but I’m now very deliberate about getting my sleep. I realize how much better I feel and function by making this one change alone. I hope you will benefit from my mistake and learn the lesson sooner.
- Feed yourself with the same care and attention you do your children. Eat breakfast with them. If you pack them a lunch, make yours at the same time (it really won’t take you any longer). And picking at the food while you make dinner doesn’t count—sit down to eat with your family. You need to digest your food properly too.
- Exercise. You don’t have to sign up for a marathon or a tough mudder. Those of us who have been under chronic stress from lack of sleep, poor nutrition and many other stresses need to be careful about our exercise choices. Balance is key. Too much exercise at a high intensity level will actually do more harm than good. One exercise that is easy and accessible—and that you can never do too much of—is walking. Try to walk as much as you can every day. Park your car as far away from the stores and your office as possible. Walk your kids to school. Get a treadmill desk. Whatever it takes, just walk. If you want a more structured workout, you could try yoga or, if you are looking to push yourself more, try high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which is done for a maximum of 30 minutes a few times a week.
- Mindfulness. Start with 10 minutes a day. Find a comfortable seat, close your eyes, and try to keep your attention on your breath. (Your mind will wander—that’s okay. It’s part of the practice.) You might try it first thing in the morning or last thing before you go to bed, or you might work it in when you can. If you would like technology’s assistance, try out Muse or Headspace.
- Do a complete review of your medical history to identify the root causes of your child’s health challenges in addition to opportunities to work on your own health.
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