Self-Care Tips for Special Olympics Families*
Self-care is important for everyone but as a loved one of a person with special needs, it is extra important to put self-care on your schedule. We all have a different story but our capacity to love and put the needs of our loved one above our own is something we have in common. You can’t pour from an empty cup so it is important that you take care of yourself, too. There are a few self-care tips that can be helpful.
The first tip is to be mindful. Do this by asking yourself how you’re feeling. Check in with your body – does it need water? Does it need food? Does it need rest? You can use the “Five Things Game” to check in with yourself. This game can be played anywhere; you just take a minute to think of five things you can feel, hear, see, smell, and taste. This helps me when I am feeling a little bit more anxious than usual.
Another way you can put yourself first is to express yourself creatively in some way. Singing and dancing work best for me but some people enjoy painting, drawing, writing, and other creative outlets to release negativity and feel in tune with themselves. Another tip that ties in with this one is to entertain yourself by finding lightness and humor in each day. Especially now with the current stressors in the country adding onto our personal daily stressors, it is important to find something fun to enjoy. Whether that is a show on Netflix (Schitt’s Creek, The Good Place, and New Girl are personal favorites especially when I’m feeling low) or a book or comic (Webtoon is an app with a bunch of fun comics) that you enjoy reading, anything that helps get you out of your head and laughing or feeling a little bit of joy is a good thing. Also, being active is so important for self-care. It not only helps expel stagnant energy from the body, but it helps keep us healthy, which is one less stressor for us.
Meditation and relaxation are something that you should definitely incorporate into your daily self-care routine. I like to start my day with a guided meditation from YouTube because when I try meditating by myself, it can be hard for me to quiet my mind. Muscle relaxation is a great way to relax; you start at your feet and work your way up by tensing and releasing the muscles in your body. This gives you something else to focus on for a few minutes. Deep breathing is a great way to relax but also manage your stress and your emotions. I like to do deep breathing for 3-5 minutes while I am lying in bed – it helps me get to sleep. It helps me manage my emotions because when I am in a high-stress situation, it is easy for me to start deep breathing so that I can think clearly and make decisions based on logic.
Setting boundaries is a principal part of self-care. If you don’t do anything else on this list, do this one. You can set physical boundaries by finding or creating a spot that is only for you. Whether it’s in your car, in a closet or outside in a forest, try to go there when you need a break or schedule going there into your day and have a moment to yourself. You can set social boundaries by editing your social media accounts. Mute or unfollow that old coworker on Instagram that makes you feel bad about yourself. Delete the apps for a month and take a break. Use social media in the ways that make you feel positive. You can set boundaries with the news by finding your preferred trusted outlet and checking in when you feel like it. For some people, it can be challenging to constantly watch the news. When COVID first started, I feel like I was constantly watching the news and I had to beg my family if we could watch something else because it was overwhelming to constantly see bad news. Lastly, you can set boundaries by respecting others in your household. Allow everyone to take the space they need when they need it. No one lives their lives on your time and you do not have to live yours on theirs. Just like you can allow yourself to set boundaries, set the example by allowing them to set their boundaries too.
Being kind to yourself is a cardinal rule of self-care. If your friend told you that she didn’t finish something today or that she didn’t do something as well as she could have, would you offer words of encouragement or come down on her? If you’re like me, you would offer words of encouragement – it’s not as easy to do that for ourselves as we are often our own worst critic. Try to think of yourself as a friend; give your friend the words of encouragement she needs when she is feeling down, give your friend grace when you fail at something. Take care of your friend by finding something that will make you happy each day. You can treat yourself to something special, like a beverage from a local coffee shop, an ice cream, or a new item of clothing. You can do some window shopping, or window online shopping or go see a movie by yourself. You can also do any of the activities listed above to keep yourself active or enjoy yourself for a little while. Making others feel special is easier than making ourselves feel special but it can be my favorite part of self-care.
You can also take care of yourself by connecting with others. I often feel tired from too much social interaction but having phone calls, family Zoom calls, and facetime calls allows me to connect and maintain my boundaries. Some people are not enjoying the influx in virtually meeting so if you are able to meet up with a friend or family member for a coffee, meal, or activity that is a good way to connect too.
No matter what, making your self-care a priority in some way will help you be a better care-taker so I hope you can take something from this list and incorporate it into your daily life.
*This blog post was written to further detail the Self-Care Tips For Special Olympics Families resource developed by Special Olympics, Inc. The original resource can be found here.
Written by: Miriam Correia
My name is Miriam Correia and I was born and raised in the New Haven area. When I was 5, my cousin experienced complications at birth and developed Cerebral Palsy. She suffered many seizures while she was a baby so she ended up losing a lot of her brain functions. Watching my aunt take care of her and advocate for her led to my interest in persons with disabilities and later, the Special Olympics. Most of my employment background has been in working with persons with disabilities and highlighting their abilities. Although I have transitioned to the healthcare sector, disability rights and highlighting abilities is still where my passion lies and I hope to have a lifelong relationship with the Special Olympics and advocating for my friends with special abilities.