Finding the time and energy to keep caring

Do you ever feel like you are giving and giving and giving and that you are not sure if you can give any more?

In the times that we have been through, parents have had it quite tough these past two years. With a pandemic that has affected work and family life like nothing we’ve seen in our lifetime, it can be overwhelming to think we need to keep stepping up for our kids, our work our friends and our family.

We know parents of kids with disabilities/different brain styles/atypical ways of perceiving the world have an extra load that they carry. It can be challenging to feel that there is room mentally, emotionally and physically to do all the things that we want to get done.

So how do you do it? What are the keys to having the energy to make change for your family, for your children and for you?

Well it’s my thoughts, that first we must recognise our own needs and put things in place to have these nurtured. There is a popular saying that in the event of a plane crash, we have to put our oxygen masks on first, before we put them on our children. (Even though our instincts might be the reverse).

We don’t need to be in an emergency situation before we have to remember that attending to our own needs is vitally important if we want to care for our children and family.

Understanding our own needs in amongst the competing demands, fighting feelings of guilt when we put ourselves first (there is great pressure to be ‘selfless’ in many parts of society) and understanding that when we fill our own emotional and physical cup we actually have capacity to do more for others. It is just a smart use of time and energy to prioritise ourselves. So for me it means a few simple things.

Firstly my sleep and energy. I know that it is important for me to get enough sleep to feel capable and calm and energised each day. If I neglect this need everything (and everyone) suffers.

The second is my physical health. For me physical health (and mental health) is attended to by yoga and recently again netball. Having time to stretch, feel like I am achieving exercise (and the cool chemical releases that come with it), helps me to sleep better (priority number 1) and have a better mood.

The third is developing and sticking to my routines. Routines, organisations and patterns of behaviour, help me to organise my time, my thinking and my actions. When I’m organised I have a sense of direction that allows me to have a big picture of where I am headed, whilst I attend to the details in the day to day events.

So these three simple things: sleep, exercise and organisation are key in allowing me to have the energy and mindset that helps me to parent in a way that is aligned, be there for my clients, action my goals and continue to improve my other actions of self care (such as having time for hobbies, friends and free time).

So I pose a question to you today.

Before we think about strategies, tools and tips for you to support your children;

how do you develop your own self care?

Are the three things I spoke about important for you?

Are there others more important that impact on you?

Or are these three in need of becoming a priority so that you can build upon them?

Whatever the answer may be, please make sure that you attend to making yourself a priority. It is not selfish, it is a wonderfully good use of your time and energy.

Kate x

Published by Kate French

Clinical Psychologist; expertise in autism and child and family psychology.

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