written by Susanna Peace Lovell
Self-care has been at the forefront of my journey as a special needs parent but it has taken many years of practice and training for me to get to the place where self-care is actually a non-negotiable part of my life.
Studying for years under my spiritual coach, Suzi Lula (www.suzilula.com) I learned how to redefine self-care. It’s not necessarily just about eating well and exercising. It’s about listening to and honoring what is currently going to serve my highest good in moving forward and staying connected to honoring the needs of my truest self.
Deepak Chopra gives a guided meditation around “Making self-care a priority” and shares this definition: “Self-care means directing our thoughts and feelings toward actions that support ever present awareness.”
Self-care is a dynamic practice and can take different form each day. I wake up in the mornings asking myself, “What does self-care look like for me today?”
I love the deeper work around redefining self-care. Most humans on earth agree that health and wellness are paramount to living longer and fulfilling lives. Yet, when it comes to us as a parent taking focus away from our child (in any capacity), the guilt creeps in. We live in a culture where sacrifice and suffering is revered. We praise new parents who don’t have any help. It’s a stamp of good parenting, in fact. I’m not saying that everyone who proudly states they are “doing it themselves” is not authentically and joyfully engaged in parenting bliss. All I’m pointing out is that it is much more likely to hear accolades for those who don’t have help than for those who do. This is where the judgment comes in and where the guilt finds us for leaning into help when we need it. Obviously, this narrative needs to shift.
A few years ago, I was inspired to put together a handbook on everything I’ve learned about self-care and “7 TOP TIPS for Self-Care as a Special Needs Parent” was born. I shared these teachings during a session at WABT’s first annual virtual retreat in September and now I am happy to share them in our blog!
I will share each tip and some insight behind each. Let’s take a breath together and dive in!
Tip #1: Speak Your Truth
What does this mean: to Speak Your Truth? For me, it means to know who I am, what works and what doesn’t work for me, what feels in alignment with who I am and what my purpose is. It also means that as a parent to know what may or may not work best for my child. Do I know exactly who I am at every crevice of my being? No, I am still in the process and it changes along the way. We do not need to know 100% of ourselves though in order to speak our truth, we just need to tap into who we are in this moment and how we can stay in our integrity.
What I do not mean by speaking your truth is to feel like you have to share all of your innermost secrets and private feelings. No. What I mean by speaking your truth is to speak up as advocates for ourselves and to be comfortable and give ourselves permission that whatever our truth is in this moment is OKAY. It also means to shine bright, not dim our light and not apologize if our truth is different than what someone else wants it to be.
Tip #2 – Just Say No
Just Say No is like Speak Your Truth’s cousin and involves a very similar process of being aware of your needs and speaking up. I am sure as parents we can all relate to being asked to do things, pay attention to things, help with things, participate in things, organize things, engage in things .. the list is endless!
In my experience my “go to” response when a YES or NO request is posed to me is to say YES. I rarely think before I respond and often find myself in situations where I said YES to committing to something that I would much rather say NO to. Sometimes I don’t even realize I would say NO, but if I dig deeper, I know me saying YES is out of guilt or wanting to feel loved, wanted, appreciated and / or needed. Shifting this habit encourages my energy to create the space in my life for higher vibrational activities to enter in. Saying NO to the things that do not serve my intrinsic purpose will create space for more things that are in alignment with my being and purpose.
Tip #3 – Release The Guilt
What parent isn’t familiar with the feeling of guilt? I feel like the majority of my life has been a response to guilt whether it’s working hard in school, following the rules, using good manners and behaving well. I feel like if I don’t act expected ways in every scenario, then bad things will result.
I also have a crushing personality trait in which I feel like everyone else’s needs are greater than mine. Motherhood exacerbated this already deeply ingrained character flaw. I learned that being a mother meant to be in constant sacrifice. I also know now that releasing the guilt is going to open amazing pathways to abundance and joy. It’s not an easy process but practice will build up this muscle and it will become easier. We will experience freedom and liberation when we do this.
Tip #4 – Receive Help
Tip #4 is Receive Help. This is a big challenge for me. I admire everyone who allows themselves to receive help. Receiving help from others has been one of the biggest lessons for me as a mother. I never want to be seen as a taker or as someone who can’t figure out life on their own. Learning to receive help and acknowledging that I am not being selfish or greedy when doing so is a daily practice for me.
Tip #5 – Let Go of Expectations
To Let Go of Expectations is to lean into situations where you have to release your ideas for how you want things to live and be. It’s an important spiritual practice of leaning into the flow of life and letting the universe take over. It really has nothing to do with us; things are going to happen as they do. It is up to us to decide how we are going to respond.
Tip #6 – Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable
The next tip is to Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable. This is one of the biggest challenges I’ve had to face as a parent to a different kind of child– being uncomfortable and learning to stay in this discomfort. We do everything we can to avoid discomfort. I know when it comes to raising my child, my experience has largely been one where I am intervening, avoiding situations, apologizing profusely to strangers and overcompensating for lack. Leaning into the discomfort will help us evolve and grow.
Tip #7 – Find Your Joy
There isn’t an order to practicing these seven tips, but Find Your Joy is certainly my favorite one. I almost didn’t include it because I thought it was a given as a spiritual practice. But just as self-care is considered indulgent, finding joy might not be seen as necessary or important. We bow down to sacrifice and hard work and suffering and sleepless nights. Finding your joy can be viewed by others as a hobby, when in fact, it is integral to balancing out life so that you can be more productive and creative and flowing in your life calling. I am grateful that I have found a life calling that brings me so much joy.
At the end of the day, we are seeking joyful lives, and the quickest and easiest way to tap into this portal of unlimited JOY is to be ourselves: speaking up, saying no, releasing guilt, receiving help, being comfortable with uncomfortable things and more. We are going to create space for more goodness in our lives (more than what we could have ever imagined) by just BEING OURSELVES. It is a simple concept and sounds easy but requires consistent practice. We have been wired to respond and behave differently by society and family generations before us – to be and do what is socially accepted and revered. This is sometimes but often times not always, compatible with who we really are and more importantly, how we really want to be. Our purpose needs to include the full expression of our true selves. I’m honored to be by your side in this practice!
Self-care is a life-long practice for me. I am grateful to share the tips that have helped me on this journey. For specific steps in practicing each tip, please download a PDF of my handbook (for free!), here: https://www.susannapeacelovell.com/. Or feel free to email me directly for access: firstname.lastname@example.org. Honored to be on this journey with you all, my dearest community!