When you have a child with autism, you adapt your life to fit around their needs. There are so many things to focus on in any given day for your child that your own needs are put to the side. As parents, putting our children before ourselves is natural, but we cannot forget to practice self-care. As much as you love your child, coping with autism is not easy. On a daily basis, you may experience such difficult emotions as anxiety, stress, fear, anger, confusion, frustration, embarrassment, and shame. It is important to process and be aware of these emotions, because bottling them up is not helpful to your health or your child’s well-being. In order for you to provide the care your child needs, you need to have energy and presence of mind, and that is impossible if you are not taking care of yourself.
Many caregivers have gotten to a point where they are not even aware of their own emotions and needs after putting their child’s before their own for so long. Take time throughout the day to pause and check in with yourself and how you are feeling. You may notice the physical signs of emotion before the mental ones, such as muscle tension or headaches. Try to observe your emotions neutrally and explore the source, and consider what actions you can take to cope. Write a list of things you can do to take care of yourself when you are feeling difficult emotions, such as go for a walk, take a bath, or hire a sitter for a night out with your spouse.
Be sure to take care of your physical health as well as your mental health. Regular exercise will help you cope with stress, and eating well and at regular times will ensure that you are able to better regulate your emotions. Regularly see a doctor for preventative care.
Taking time for yourself can feel selfish, but it is actually better for the good of your whole family when you put your health first. If you need help coping with autism, you can find autism support resources at Normal Life Inc.