The word “self-care” should really be your best friend. It’s all about you and making sure you are healthy and happy.
Trouble is, it is a LOT easier said than done. Self-care takes practice!
Food allergy parents in particular need to remember to take time out for self-care each and every day. Parenting a child with food allergies is stressful.
Will he have a reaction today? Is the epinephrine auto-injector exactly where it should be? Will some awful bully shove a peanut butter sandwich under his nose today? What are we going to have for supper? We’re almost out of his favorite allergen-free cookies, but will they be on sale today? What’s this notice from the insurance company?? And seriously, will he have a reaction today?? Will I get THE call from the school? Is today going to end with a trip to the ER? Please don’t let today end in the ER …
This voice in your head was probably very loud when your child was first diagnosed with a life-threatening food allergy. Maybe, over time, you’ve gotten better at squashing the voice, but it’s still in the back of your mind, causing stress you might not even perceive.
There is more to life than food allergies, and that’s what we have to remind ourselves of with self-care.
Here are some good self-care tips for virtually anyone:
- Prioritize your “me time.” Put it on the calendar or set up a notification on your phone. Give yourself at least 15 minutes of indulgence each day. Read a book, watch a show, go for a walk, paint your nails, take a hot shower, work out … try to do something purely “selfish.” In other words, don’t read a book to your child; read a book that’s all for you!
- Learn something new. Go to community courses in the evening. Most areas offer them, and you can learn anything from tap dancing to history and everything in between. Decide what really appeals to you and just go for it. You can go online to learn something new too, but getting out of the house and meeting new people is an opportunity you should seize.
- Get plenty of sleep. Being tired heightens stress levels by a gazillion. At least, that’s been my experience! Do yourself a favor and go to bed at a decent time every night. No ifs, ands or buts. Put fresh sheets on the bed to make it extra cozy and to feel like you’re REALLY pampering yourself!
- Make mindfulness a habit. Mindfulness is simply the practice of staying engaged in the here-and-now. I like to think of it as “being like a dog.” When you go for a walk, do you have thoughts swirling around your head, stressing you out? When your dog goes for a walk, do you think he stresses about anything? No! He’s fully present in the moment, enjoying every sight, smell and sensation. Do the same wherever you go.
- Write things down. If you do regularly have thoughts swirling around in your head, write them down. Things as simple as “I need to schedule my son’s allergy appointment” can start to weigh down on you because you worry you will forget. Write it down and free up that space in your mind. The same is true for worries and nagging thoughts. To get it out of your mind, sometimes you literally have to put it somewhere else!
Other people enjoy prioritizing date nights with their significant others, prioritizing family game nights or prioritizing exercise. The goal of self-care isn’t to inundate yourself with a bunch of New Year’s resolutions. We all know those fall by the wayside after a while. The goal of self-care is to remind yourself that you are important and you are allowed to enjoy things that don’t involve your kids. As a parent, it’s easy to spend all day and every day caring for our children, to the point where we forget to care about ourselves.
When your kids are old enough, teach them the same principles of self-care. Remind them that their identity is not wholly bound to the foods they are allergic to. They are much more than that!
Got any great self-care tips to share? Leave a comment below for other food allergy parents!