So, we have all seen the lists of things that include suggestions like, get a massage, get a mani pedi, take a yoga class. Not that there is anything wrong with these, but if you are anything like me, I have gift certificates sitting in my wallet for things like this and never get around to claiming them! As a special needs parent, part time working, mom with anxiety, finding the time and the planning for these things just rarely works out. I spend most of my time managing insurance phone calls, therapy visits and scheduling, drop offs, pick ups, and trying to be a present and somewhat pleasant wife. So, I have found that if I lower my expectations a little bit, there can be some very simple things that do actually fit into my schedule here and there. Small things, done consistently, can have a big effect on feeling like I have been able to pay attention to things that make me feel good, in the midst of this normally chaotic period of life.
1. I paint my nails.
Forget about the salon. I don’t frankly have the time or money for that. But, I do love to get creative with my nails every now and then. I like to try a funky different color, unique hand crafted design nail art like stripes or half and half color,or even just a classic color like red. Pretty nails go a long way in feeling good. When my nails are painted nicely, I find that throughout the next few days, looking down at my hands, in the middle of the stormy situation I may be in, makes me feel a level of satisfaction in that moment.
Side note: on the contrary side of things. If you have done your nails weeks ago, and it is to the point now where it’s chipping off and looking horrible, self care might be the exact opposite. Get some nail polish remover and take off the old stuff! Just cleaning up the mess, so to speak, feels really good. Something about restoring the neatness of natural nails after sporting a chipped mess for days can also feel really accomplishing.
2. I take a shower with a nice smelling soap or shower gel.
I know, some self care lists say things like grab a book and pamper yourself with a bubble bath filled with rose petals. I do not have time for that! Instead? I take advantage of whatever time I do have to get a shower in during the week. Exotic fruity fragrances are super revitalizing, especially ones that includes citric scents. Floral scents can be soothing and romantic feeling. These don’t have to be expensive. Your local store’s generic brands will do just fine to invigorate your mood, and the cheaper your buy, the more scents you can experiment with until you find one you love. Trust me, after a minute or two breathing in a lovely scent while at the same time getting a shower in, is a double bonus for your mood!
And, I’m gonna go out on a limb here. Got enough time to shave? That’s an extra self care perk! Feels really good for that first day to have clean shaven smooth legs again. Whatever floats your boat. Whatever you have time to squeeze in and makes you feel good.
Side note: Some days just taking a shower at all is self care for me. Some days, just brushing my teeth is self care for the day.
3. I use my scented oils and diffuse them at bed time.
This one can be a little pricey, but there are memberships to get discounts, or you can find them individually on Amazon or at a healthcare supply website. I joined an essential oil company to get the 25% off my purchases for the year. Since I use essential oils with my kids and myself, it was worth it. But, I digress. This is about SELF care, not child care. I have enjoyed diffusing lavender, On Guard (which helps kill germs), and wild orange. (The last one came as a free bonus with my first order. SCORE)! I also use lavender blend called Serenity, and an essential oil muscle relaxer roller, to ease the tension in my neck and shoulders, before I hit the pillow. God knows how parenting can cause all sorts of tension, especially special needs parenting.
Bonus? If you forget to do it one night, or don’t have the energy, the pillow winds up slightly scented and will still give you the relaxing effect the next night!
4. I do something nice or creative with my hair, clothes, or makeup.
Nowhere fancy to go? No problem. Go try on that sexy dress you haven’t worn in ages. Put on the sexy shoes you haven’t worn since before kids. Watch a you tube tutorial on curling, styling, or straightening your hair in a new way, or a step by step ‘how-to’ of make up application tips. So what if you are the only one who winds up appreciating it. Be forewarned though. It sometimes takes several tries to really master the look you are youtubing. Trust me, don’t despair if you look more like a clown than a cover girl your first couple of tries! Bonus? It gives you practice so you can do it faster when you are actually gonna go somewhere nice. Your skills will improve, and if done well, it makes you feel good. Plus, it makes for a great selfie. If not? Something fun to try again a another night.
Side note: Sometimes self care is the exact opposite. On these days, it might look like just wearing the coziest sweatpants you own, after taking off yesterday’s makeup and the cute jeans that are just a little too tight now. Cuddle with yourself on the couch with that warm fuzzy couch blanket you haven’t washed in ages. Enjoy it, guilt free. These things are comforting, and self care, all the same.
Laughter is the best medicine they say. And it is so easy to find these days! Google funny memes. Laugh away. Listen to a comedy station on a subscription music channel like SeriusXM or Pandora. Search through Netflix/Hulu/Amazon stand up comedy shows, or just find ideas in their comedy genre lists. Some ideas? Jim Gaffigan, Jerry Seinfeld, Bill Cosby.
I learned early in my journey with anxiety, that laughing does something to uplift the soul. Throughout my life, I have even kept written lists of things that I have found the funniest. It is hard to stay intensely sad, anxious, or mad, when you are in the middle of several good belly laughs. Sometimes, if your emotions are high, laughing turns to tears, of laughter, mixed with pain, mixed with more laughter. It is all ok. Laughter is still a feel good activity overall, which has been correlated with reducing stress and releasing endorphins.
So simple. Find a radio station or music channel that plays your favorite kind of music, and belt it out, unafraid. Jump, dance, or scream, and sing, to songs that remind you of who you are and what makes you happy, or whatever helps you process emotions. This can happen while you drive, and/or pretty much anytime around your home. Try pulling up the lyrics, so you can really do it well. Feels really good to sing to a favorite song with all the right words.
Don’t know the lyrics? No problem! Sing the words all wrong. Still feels great!
The moral of the story.
Remember, the key is having realistic expectations here! I am a special needs mama after all, and I do not have the time to do many of the classic self care recommendations. However, I have found that the things on this list are easy enough to fit in. I do not expect them to happen every day, or to work out great all the time. But, fitting these things in is sure better than allowing months of stress to build up without paying attention to myself in a positive way. Self love and self appreciation are so important for everyone, and are especially needed for caregivers of others, including and especially, (special needs) mamas.