Monday, October 19, 2009

Taking Care of Yourself

One of our family's favorite things to watch on television is nature programs. I recall watching an episode of a show (I think it was one of the Most Extreme shows where they explain the habits of ten amazing animals) that talked about animal mothers who basically give up their lives so that their young can live. I remember being horrified at the process and wondering what broken strand of fallen nature had brought this about. Then about a year ago, a short time after learning our daughter's diagnosis with ASD, and while still nursing twins almost exclusively (no milk or formula) I commented to my own mother that I was starting to relate to those animal mothers. I felt like each week I was giving up a year or so of my lifespan, and I wondered how much longer I could keep up that pace. Things have improved since then, but I still find myself putting my own needs at the bottom of the list of things to take care of. Two months ago I started actively putting an end to this practice. I wanted to share several of the lessons I've learned along this journey.

  • Do something significant just for you at least twice a month. I started attending my writing group again each month, and I also developed a list of deferred self-care items that needed to be addressed. I've prioritized them and intend to deal with one item on that list each month until I'm back in the habit of taking care of myself.

  • Find windows in each day that you can slow down and regroup. Today I ran to the grocery store to pick up a few things and dropped off the dry cleaning. My husband was able to keep an eye on the kids while I was gone. This always makes the errands go a little faster, but at the end of the grocery run I realized I had been going full tilt all day long and I really needed to take an extra minute or two to prepare mentally for the rest of our evening. I popped a new CD into the car stereo and nibbled on a small treat I had succumbed to in the check out lane. It wasn't much, but those few minutes of just letting myself slow down rather than racing home to jump into dinner preparations, laundry, and dishes was key to handling all of those tasks with more grace and humor.

  • Set boundaries on activities that are draining. The last few days have been very hectic for our family - school events, church events, swimming lessons, meetings, etc. which has been leading to short nights, and long, busy days. When I mentioned that tonight was a blog post night my husband suggested that I should take a sanity fitting for my theme! This blog, however, is a commitment and I don't want to get off my three day schedule, so I decided instead to take up Steady Mom's 30 minute blog challenge. I usually write rather quickly but then spend time tweaking and fine tuning until everything is just so...who knows how much time I usually devote to a post, but Jamie suggested setting a timer to 30 minutes to put a definite end point on "screen time" and increase "face time" with those we love. In my case I think the increase will be in pillow time!

  • Take care of your physical self. When was the last time you had an eye exam, a dental check-up, an annual physical? Are there aches and pains you are ignoring until (fill in the blank) happens? I spent 5 hours in the dental chair last week because of that kind of procrastination. Lesson learned.

  • Take care of your spiritual self. When was the last time you had a steady quiet time with God, a fixed appointment with Him to read the Bible, pray, listen to the Holy Spirit? I've pretty much always struggled to keep faithful in this, but am finding it an essential component of my day now that I've re-started the habit.

Must timer is about to beep and I have to at least get the idea. You will only give excellent care to your special needs child if you are taking sufficient care of yourself, too. It's important. Make it happen!


david in norcal said...

I've told friends who seemed to be overdoing it that taking care of oneself might seem selfish, but it is designed to keep you around helping for a long time. Overdoing it and burning out will put you on the other side of giving in no time. A lot of Christians are sort of codependent when it comes to helping, not understanding that we are not any greater or lesser a failure by knowing there are limits to what we can and should take on.

For me (I'm not a parent) I am good at committee work, but it is one of the most unpleasant things for me to do (I pick up on vibes way too easily and there's always something in the room). So a while back, I said when asked, "no more committees or boards for me...I'm limiting myself to the ones I'm currently on".

So, for the long haul, know thyself and take care of thyself. Imagine you are a car set for a long journey, will you floor it for the first 100 miles knowing you have 1000 to go? Not wise if you want to get there.

Rana said...

I'm visiting from the Steadymom blog. This is a great post. I'm going to put these points on my to do board. This may be just what I need to get myself back on track. Thanks!

Rieshy said...

Great post. I too have a child with medical issues. It really can be difficult to keep up with your needs and your marriage needs. Setting boundaries on draining activities is great advice!

steadymom said...

Such great lessons - thanks for sharing them and taking part in the challenge!


Megan@SortaCrunchy said...

So, so true. There is a saying amongst those who do search and rescue work that "rescuer safety is paramount." No matter the circumstance, the rescuer must ensure first and foremost that he is healthy, safe, and secure in going in to do a rescue or he is worthless to those he is going after.

I think the same thing is true in parenting. We must make time to be safe and secure (rooted in Christ's love and strength) to do the daily work of parenting.

Fantastic insights and I agree with what you have shared wholeheartedly!

Leah said...

This is a great post. I have 2 special needs kids, 7 (Noonan Syndrome) and 4 (PDD NOS) and it's hard. A regular mom gets lost but a special needs mom - it almost seems impossible. But as I take time for me and really concentrate on my holistic development spiritually, physically and emotionally I realize the natural by product is that I am a better wife and mom. Ha! Imagine that. I enjoyed your post.

Emily said...

Thank you for these reminders. I am going to schedule an eye exam right now. These afternoon headaches are bad for me but probably worse for my children :-) Time to get it taken care of.


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