- Alex's Advice
As parents, we’re conditioned to put the needs of our children above our own. As parents of children with special needs, that condition becomes even more abundant and critical.
It’s in the descriptor itself -- special needs require unique attention -- and if we’re not careful, we can lose sight of our own needs when constantly addressing those of our child.
I know this all too well. As both the parent of a child with special needs and the head of a school for children with complex challenges, I can easily forget that I need to take time from caring for other people to take care of myself.
I used to start my day by looking at my phone; it was the first thing I did, even before coffee. But about two years ago, I stopped. Now, I leave the darn thing downstairs when I go to bed, and I start my day with some much-needed self-care.
When you hear the term self-care, your mind might jump to something luxurious and out-of-the-ordinary, like a day-trip to the spa. However, self-care is something that can be both simple and beneficial. So before you tell yourself that you are too busy and that life is too demanding, realize that you can take care of yourself in less than 60 seconds.
Isn’t improving your happiness worth 1 minute of your time?
Here’s how I begin and end my day with peace, love and happiness. I implore you to give this a try.
Before picking up your portable device in the morning, splash your face with cold water, and make yourself a cup of coffee or tea (or whatever suits you).
After your first enjoyable sip, rub your hands together briskly for a few moments and then cover your eyes. Take a few deep breaths. Empty out your lungs. Slowly take in the deepest breath you can until you feel your whole body fill. Then, exhale until you completely empty your lungs. Allow a fresh breath in, expanding again in all directions. Repeat, emptying completely and inhaling again five more times.
This does not have to be a long practice -- and you don’t need to know “how to meditate” to do it. It’s simple: for 30 seconds, sit quietly and observe how you feel. Envision a bright outlook for the day ahead. Positive imagery both quiets the intrusive negative thoughts and buoys our moods.
#3: Set an intention
Think about how you want to feel for the rest of the day. You can even journal about it. Let this point of focus keep you on track as you resume your normal daily flow. See if you can revisit your intention throughout your day.
#4: End with gratitude
When your day is done, reflect on three things that you are grateful for that happened during your day. Consider writing them down in the same journal you wrote your intention in the morning.
Some days, these things can be very small. I heard a bird sing out the window ... my hands smelled lovely after I peeled an orange ... the dogs sat in my lap for a while. Stretching to find what we are grateful for eventually retrains our brains to notice the good, however buried that good may seem.
Those are my daily self-care practices, and they take less time than it takes me to finish that first glorious cup of coffee in the morning. I’d love to hear about your own practices! Share them in the comments below, or join the conversation on our Facebook page.