Every time you get on an airplane they tell you in case of emergency put on your own oxygen mask first. If you're a parent of a child with special needs you need to be selfish. Take time out of your day, every day, to do something for you. Practically speaking, this is something that we all should do, but if you're a parent carrying a little extra in life it becomes critical!
So what does that look like? For me I do better when I move my body. I like early morning walks and listening to an audio book or podcast. There are other activities that help me get moving that I enjoy such as bike riding, hiking, yoga, and time at the gym. But I find that no matter what I can always squeeze in a few minutes walking. Find something, anything that helps move your body.
Breathing is so important, yet we do it without thinking. Most of us take mostly shallow breathes. Spend a few minutes a day breathing deep. Use your diaphragm and fill your lungs and then fully exhale. I do this in a cold shower many mornings. You don't have to participate in the cold shower, however take time to breath deeply. When I'm stressed I like to take a time out and take in 20 deep breathes. I try and focus my mind just on my breath to calm my mind. I guess you can call it meditation. I refer to it as slowing down the hamster wheel running in my head. I also use slow methodical breathing if I'm having a difficult time falling asleep.
Food is fuel. It's something I have to remind myself of regularly. I'm not here to give nutritional advice, rather I'm here to say that we all know too much bad fuel doesn't energize us. I know the foods that make me feel groggy and deplete my energy. I still indulge in them on occasion, probably too often. For me refined carbs/sugar has a dramatic negative impact on my mood and energy levels. I also know a variety of fresh vegetables and clean sources of protein have a positive impact. Find which foods trigger negative mood and energy. Seek to minimize them.
The body is made up of 60% water. I find when I drink 1/2 of my body weight in water daily that I feel better. For me I avoid those sugary drinks including soft drinks and fruit juices. I will occasionally have a soft drink with pizza. My occasionally is once or twice a year. Even if my diet has gone completely off the rails I keep my water intake up.
Put something good in your mind every day. Read a poem, read a scripture, read a non-fiction book, listen to a podcast, listen to an audio book, just try and put in something positive every day. You don't have to dedicate yourself to 1/2 hour of readying or even to a set number of pages. In 30 seconds you can read a scripture and give it a chance to sink in. There's so much negative in our world and we need to put some good into our minds.
Lastly, do something fun regularly. Something that makes you laugh, something that makes you want to sing and dance, anything will do. I love my bike rides and hikes in nature, but I can't always do those. I love to cook for my family and especially for friends. We have friends over for dinner regularly because it provides me such joy. Find your fun and schedule it into your life regularly.
I am far from perfect in these categories. I too get wrapped up in work, home, and family losing sight of my own needs. In fact I'm writing this today because I have allowed myself to lose myself in work and life. I write this as a reminder to take care of myself. I also hope that you, especially parents with special needs children, will allow yourself guilt-free time for selfcare.