Self-Care Is Not Selfish

By Brigitte Shipman | Dec 27, 2020. | Autism Moms, Self-Care, Life Lessons

As I reflect on my journey as a mom of an autistic child, I have a better understanding of what the lack of self-care has done to my mind, body, and spirit. When I first found out that my son was autistic, I lived in the space of grief, denial on and off, but mostly I lived in fight or flight.

Living this way is living in painful grief and fear 24/7. What I didn’t understand was that I was not taking care of myself. All of my energy went to searching for answers for my son and the rest of me went to my marriage, adult responsibilities of paying bills, household, and the rest of my relationships. Like most moms of an autistic child that meant that there was little left for me. I ended up with a chronic illness in my 39th year of life. I was diagnosed as a Type 1 Diabetic. 

Interestingly enough I thought I was doing a great job managing my life. I had a true love for fitness and living a healthy lifestyle. I believed I was taking care of myself and my family by feeding them nutritious food, and getting in my daily workouts. There is no doubt that this did help keep me stay fit and healthier than what I would have been otherwise, but stress was slowly winning.

Self-care is a term that is used a lot today, but it is losing its meaning. I understand that getting nails and hair done is a way to feel better. I am all for it as long as that’s not the only way to care for self. Self-care that I refer to is all about caring for your “whole self.”

The definition self-care is: the practice of taking action to preserve or improve one’s own health. I can see that this can mean many things to many people. For me, when I work with moms of an autistic child, I want to go deeper and the definition that I use is: the daily practice of living in joyful gratitude to preserve the mind, body, and spirit. 

To live this way requires having self-compassion for and taking care of yourself first, while living for the wellbeing of others—our children, family, friends, and community. This may feel selfish as if you are putting yourself before others but it is the opposite. It is in fact unselfish because you can show up for others as the best version of yourself. 

The first step to self-care is to give yourself permission to care for yourself. You may feel instant resistance to doing so or you might be ready to jump all in this second. Either way incorporating self-care takes conscious practice. 

If you are feeling resistance to changing the way you are caring or not caring for yourself then I recommend sitting with these questions:

  • Why do I resist self-care for myself?
  • How do I want to show up for others? Scattered and stressed or patient and caring?

If you want to show up in this world with more kindness and patience, then begin with the small steps of self-care that are listed below.

  • Before you put your feet on the floor to meet the day, list in your mind 3 things that you are grateful for at that moment. 
  • Live your daily gratitude into your day. For example, if your child is on your grateful list then take moments to see the beauty in your child. I mean, really see them. 
  • Do 3 small acts of kindness for yourself. Kind moments go a long way for yourself. 
  • Move your body at least once a day. Short 5 minutes walks, dances in the kitchen, or playing with your child totally counts as a daily moment.
  • Make one small change in the way you feed your body. Drink a few more ounces of water a day or eat one more serving of veggies or fruit.
  • Reflect briefly at the end of the day. Did you live in gratitude? Where did you show up with love and kindness? 
  • Now thank yourself. Feel gratitude for yourself. 

I hope these simply daily self-care tips show up in your daily practice. I also hope you have given yourself permission to feel lighter and be filled with self-love.

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