For over ten years following my son’s diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder, my mantra was, “I’ll be OK once he is OK.”
And the fact was: I was not OK.
While I was highly functioning on the outside, working full-time as an attorney while single-parenting my son, I was crumbling on the inside.
My emotions were dependent on how my son was doing on any given day.
This went on for years until it was no longer sustainable. As my son entered his teenage years, I wanted to change how I was showing up for my parenting experience, but I did not know how.
The solution, which I discovered through coaching, was the one thing I had not considered, much less tried, in all my efforts to help my son:
Turn my focus inward and take care of myself.
While it felt counterintuitive, it made sense. I could no longer advocate for my son at the highest levels while completely disregarding my own well-being.
So, I gave it a try. I stopped telling myself, “I’ll be OK once he is OK,” and started taking small daily steps to replenish myself.
And now, I do this with other Autism moms in my 1:1 coaching program, where I teach them:
You are your child’s greatest resource. No doctor, therapist, medication, or program is more important to your child’s long-term prognosis than you are. As a result, taking care of yourself is not something you do in spite of your child; it is something you do for them.
If this is you, please know that you are not alone. There are simple steps you can take every day, whether you have 20 seconds or 20 minutes. Here are some suggestions, along with a few of my favorite things to do in the Farmington Valley.
- Breathe. Deep breathing (in through the nose and slowly out through your mouth) is the fastest way to signal safety to your nervous system. Two techniques that I recommend are box breathing (four counts of breathing in, four counts of holding your breath, four counts of exhaling, and four counts of holding your breath again after your exhale) and the 4–7–8 method (inhale through the nose for four counts, hold your breath for seven counts, and exhale through your mouth for eight counts).
- Sip water. Stress and dehydration are a vicious cycle: Stress can cause dehydration, and dehydration can cause stress. The key to interrupting this vicious cycle is hydration.
- Stay in the NOW. One of the skills of being a special needs parent is the ability to think ten steps ahead. While this can serve us in many ways, it is also a skill we use against ourselves in the form of catastrophic thinking. The antidote to this is staying in the present moment with statements like, “Right now, it is like this.”
- Move your body. This is an excellent way of releasing stress from your body, whether walking around the block, jumping jacks, or literally shaking your arms and hands.
- Get outside. Being outside in nature is another way of regulating ourselves and releasing stress from our bodies. Here are my three favorite places for replenishing myself in the Farmington Valley:
- Rails to Trails: A walk along the trail combines the benefits of movement and being in nature.
- Chi Healing Center – Canton: Whether you’re looking for a nervous system reset like me, or you have a specific ailment, individual or group acupuncture sessions with the skilled practitioners at Chi are life-changing.
- Bikram Yoga – Simsbury: I have been to Bikram studios in several states, and this is by far my favorite. When you walk in the door, you are always greeted by owners Richard and Laurie and the little sign that says, “If you do not make time for your wellness, you will be forced to make time for your illness.”
The Autism Mom Coach is a 1:1 coaching program founded by Lisa Candera, a certified life coach, podcaster, lawyer, and full-time single mother to a teenager with autism. Lisa also hosts a podcast, The Autism Mom Coach, where she shares practical, actionable tips to support parents raising a child with autism. Lisa is currently accepting applications for 1:1 clients.
To learn more about my 1:1 coaching program, visit my website and schedule a free consultation: theautismmomcoach.com