As a family member and caregiver of a child on the autism spectrum, I’m sure you’ve heard about the importance of self-care and taking care of yourself many, many, many times. At least I hope you have! [You absolutely need to.] But where do you even start? This post shares a way for you to figure out the support you need as a high-power, boss autism carer.
Let’s jump right into our four steps to determining the support you need, right now, at this very instant.
Start with self-assessment. Find a moment where you can gather yourself and write down a few things. Maybe in the morning before everyone gets up or as the last thing you do before falling asleep.
It may not be easy, but a dose of self-awareness is key here to set things in motion from this point forward. Anytime you need to figure out supports you need, start here and monitor how you’re feeling, it’s easy to place yourself out of priority.
To Do: Get that quiet spot. Gather yourself. How’re you feeling? What are 3 of the most common feelings you’ve had the past two weeks? What is going on and contributing to those feelings? Write these on a page/bulleted list for each of the 3 feelings.
Was that comforting? Maybe enthralling? Maybe uncomfortable? All of these thoughts are okay! And are signs that we’re on the right track to figuring out the next steps. That activity also established your current mindset, mood, and readiness for action.
Side note: if you really enjoyed that activity, you may want to consider journaling at least once a week.
Now, we’re going to identify your needs and prioritize them!
To Do: Find another moment for yourself (you deserve it!). Set the timer for 2 minutes + write down all of the things you’ve done in the past 2 weeks. For 1 minute, star all the things you’ve enjoyed and circle the things you don’t enjoy. Rank the items that bring you stress.
From the previous activity, you identified tasks that you enjoy (this is a reminder of the positive things in your life!) and tasks you don’t particularly enjoy. The stressors. Then, you ranked in order of stress level.
To Do: Noooow, I want you to think about ways you can make them less stressful… what supports would be helpful? I’d recommend starting with 1 and working up to 3 if they relate to each other.
The activity will provide some guiding questions for you to think creatively as you plan out ways to make the task less stressful.
Guiding questions: In a perfect world, how would that task be less stressful? What are ways you can make it less stressful now? Who can help you? What technology can help you? What systems can you put in place to help? How can this be less stressful in a month? 6 months from now? A year from now?
IMPLEMENT + MONITOR
Hooray! You’ve made a plan! You probably have a number of supports in place to navigate this stressor. I recommend trying them out for at least two weeks and then modifying from there. Unless it’s a minor tweak or adjustment. Either way, it’s important to maintain consistency. That will be the driver of results.
Get excited about any sized milestone. Seriously! As a parent, you know smaller milestones can mean a lot. So celebrate those! And if the stress stays and supports fall through – take it easy on yourself and try again, modify as needed.
To Do: Stick with your brilliantly executed plan for at least 2 weeks – or set a timeline for yourself that works for you. Track your supports in place and level of stress at whatever interval works for you (day by day, once every other day, 1x/week, biweekly). Hooray, you did it!