As an Autistic person or a parent of a child on the autism spectrum, it can be challenging to prioritise self-care. Often, the demands of daily life can leave little time or energy for attending to personal needs. However, self-care is essential for promoting overall health and well-being, reducing stress levels, and improving the ability to cope with life's challenges. In this article, we explore the importance of self-care for Autistic people and their parents/carers and provide tips on how to nurture their self-care needs.
The importance of self-care for Autistic people and their parents or carers
For Autistic people, self-care is particularly important due to the sensory sensitivities and differences that are common among individuals on the autism spectrum. Autistic individuals may need to take extra care of their sensory needs, such as by avoiding overwhelming environments or incorporating sensory tools and techniques into their daily routines. Additionally, managing the demands of daily life can be particularly challenging for Autistic people due to the higher levels of energy and focus required for social interaction and communication.
For parents of Autistic children, the demands of parenting can be particularly taxing, requiring a high level of energy and patience. Parents may need to advocate for their child's needs in various settings, attend therapy appointments, and navigate challenging behaviors. These demands can be particularly challenging to manage, leading to increased stress levels and potential burnout.
For Autistic individuals, self-care strategies may involve finding ways to manage sensory sensitivities, such as by using noise-cancelling headphones or weighted blankets. Engaging in activities that promote positive emotions, such as engaging in special interests or sensory play, can also be helpful in promoting overall well-being. Autistic people may also benefit from finding a supportive community of peers who share similar experiences.
For parents of Autistic children, self-care strategies may involve finding ways to manage stress levels and prioritise personal needs. This may include finding ways to delegate responsibilities or setting boundaries with others. Engaging in self-care activities, such as exercise, meditation, or engaging in hobbies, can also be helpful in promoting overall well-being.
Ten Tips for Self-care
- Nourish yourself by eating well - Choose a range of colourful fruit and vegetables with your meals. By fuelling your body with nutritious food will help you to restore your health and feel better on the inside.
- Create a cosy space - Create a space in your home that you can retreat to for some rest and relaxation. A corner in the sunlight or even in your bedroom. You can decorate this space with some cushions or a plant. By building a space that feels warm and inviting, you establish an inviting retreat where you can unwind.
- Move - Getting active increases feelings of happiness through endorphins. Find a form of physical activity that works for you. Go a morning walk, try a new yoga class online, or go on a bike ride.
- Build a self-care kit - Fill a box with some of the things that make you feel special. It could be a photograph, nail polish, magazine or a new pair of socks. Keep your treasure box handy for when you need to self soothe.
- Call a friend - Call that friend who always makes you smile and tell them how much they mean to you. Connecting with someone who knows you can give you that sense of being heard and understood.
- Listen to music - Put your headphones on and play your favourite song from when you were younger. Browse some new tracks and you pick your new favourite!
- Go outside - Take a technology break and go outside in the sunshine (being sun smart). Being around nature with some greenery around you can have mental health benefits.
- Declutter - Pick one room and look at three items to recycle or donate. For example, pick three items from your wardrobe that you no longer wear, or three toys your child has outgrown.
- Create a compliments file - Write down the nice things that people say about you. Revisit these compliments when you are feeling stressed or overwhelmed.
- Ask for help - No matter how big or small, ask for support when you need it. Call a friend, your GP, or a support helpline (Lifeline Australia 13 11 14)
"Self-care is about daily activities that help to look after your mental health and promote a sense of wellbeing within yourself. Taking the time to check in with your mind and body isn’t a bad thing. In fact, the pursuit of health and happiness is far from selfish – it is about surviving and being resilient in times of stress.”
Overcoming barriers to self-care
One of the most significant barriers to self-care for Autistic people and their parents is time and energy constraints. It can be challenging to prioritise self-care when there are demands on time and energy from various sources. Additionally, stigma and lack of understanding about autism may prevent individuals from seeking support or engaging in self-care activities.
To overcome these barriers, it can be helpful to seek out support from others who understand the unique challenges of autism. This may involve seeking out a supportive community, attending support groups, or seeking professional support from therapists or counselors who are trained in working with Autistic individuals and their families.
Incorporating self-care into daily routines
Incorporating self-care into daily routines is essential for promoting overall health and well-being. For Autistic people, this may involve finding ways to incorporate sensory tools and techniques into daily routines or setting aside time for engaging in special interests. For parents or carers of Autistic children, this may involve setting aside time for self-care activities or finding ways to incorporate self-care into daily routines, such as exercising with their child or finding ways to engage in hobbies together.
Self-care is crucial for promoting overall health and well-being for Autistic people and their parents. While it can be challenging to prioritise self-care in the face of daily demands, it is essential to recognize that taking care of oneself is not selfish, but necessary for promoting overall well-being.