An Autism Parent Fell Into A Hole

I haven’t written here for a while. I’ve neither had the time nor energy to. Normally when I write a piece for my blog, I know exactly where to begin. Except, this isn’t like the blogs I normally write.

I’ve hit burn out.

By ‘burn out’ I’m talking about being unable to keep up with the fast pace of life. Your legs keep going through the motions because if you stop, you’ll probably collapse. So, you go on, your life being far too busy for far too long.

The hardest thing about burn out is that the only treatment for it, is to stop, assess your current situation, take 20 steps back and start again.

Life with three boys would be challenging for anyone, but throw Autism and the end of the school year into the mix and it’s a whole different field you’re playing in. I’m not afraid of arduous work, but there becomes a point in which enough is enough.

‘You can’t pour from an empty cup’

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I love my children. I’d do anything to see them happy and healthy but like many other parents who look after children on the spectrum, we neglect our own needs for the sake of those we love. We put ourselves last on our agenda, time and time again.

I have been chronically exhausted, to the point where my eyes droop the moment I sit down and my body aches to the core.

You’ve heard the saying I’m sure, ‘something’s got to give.’ So these last few weeks I have been going back to basics, making sure I am looking after me and ensuring I am making my physical and mental health a priority. There are many ways in which you can claw back some energy and sanity while you’re feeling so run down so I’m going to share with you some of my top self-care tips.

Food

Since Joe’s health scare a few months back, I’ve had the biggest wake-up call and have been doing a lot of research. Health is wealth in my eyes and when your faced with losing a loved one you realise you’d do anything for it.

Food is fuel. You are only going to feel as good as the food you are putting in your body. I recently made the decision to transition myself into a plant based diet, eliminating all animal products and as much processed food and sugars out of my diet as possible. This follows being dairy free since Zachary was born. (He was exclusively breastfed and reacted severely to the milk in my diet.)

I recently decided to do an intolerance and nutrition deficiency test to find out what foods aren’t agreeing with me and what my body is running low on that’s contributing to the way I feel. I was amazed to find out that top of the list was ‘banana’s, beef, goose, lamb and milk.’ You can request a basic one online for around £30.

It’s important to make sure your getting all the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to feel good. Supplements are great, but try to get as many in their natural form where possible. When feeling run down, it’s really tempting to pick up convenience food with little nutritional value. You end up getting in a cycle of eating crap, then feeling crap. Then because you feel crap ,you then eat more crap.

I have found batch cooking really beneficial. Make up some energy balls to take to work with you. Make up 3 or 4 salads at a time in whichever way you like them. If you’re not into salads try batch cooking something heartier; rice, pasta and curried vegetables are my favourites. The best thing about batch cooking is that you have good home-made food already prepared so you can just grab and go if you need to.

I brought myself a couple of books with straight forward recipes for inspiration. There are some amazing recipes in ‘Deliciously Ella, Every Day.’ If you’re interested in a plant based diet, I recommend you visit my good friend ‘Hannah’s Healthy Eats’ and read her journey to better health, she’s amazing and has been a huge inspiration to me.

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Overnight oats are great if your pushed for time in the mornings.

Cutting Back On Extra Curriculars

To harness a little more energy, you need to rein in more of your time. Don’t be afraid to say no. Don’t make commitments you don’t want to make. Say no to overtime, say no to late nights, say no to volunteering. If the children have after school activities they won’t budge on, then take that time to sit back and enjoy a cuppa, read a magazine or even have a cheeky nap!

Spend More Time At Home

I am either powerwalking from A to Z (I don’t drive,) running errands, looking after the children or I’m working. My feet literally burn by the end of the day.

I get a little sad when I don’t have the time to enjoy the home that both myself and Joe work so hard to keep. Your home should be your sanctuary, somewhere you can come home and forget about the stressful day you’ve had.

By cutting back on the extra curriculars, I’ve been able to pay a little more attention to how the house and garden look as well as catching up on household chores. It feels good to get back some sense of order. They do say a cluttered home causes a cluttered mind, so have a clear out and be ruthless when doing so. You’ll feel like a weight has been lifted.

Connect With Nature

It’s a fact, being outdoors does wonders for reducing our stress levels. I go a little stir crazy when I’m stuck indoors. When we’re stressed our body produces a high amount of cortisol which can cause a lot of health issues. Even if you can’t get to wide open spaces surrounded with greenery there are other ways of connecting with nature, it just takes a little concentration and mindfulness. For example, ditch the car and take the walk to work. Take a moment to watch the clouds pass over and simply take a second to notice the way the sun or even the rain feels on your face. Breathe with the wind.

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Get Active and Feel Physically Well

This goes hand in hand with getting outdoors. Believe it or not, exercise gives you energy and obviously has many other benefits. Sometimes it’s simply about getting out for some you time. Even going for a 10-minute stroll before everyone gets up is better than nothing. Last week, I went to a late-night session of Pilates and even though I yawned the entire way through, I felt great for going!

I make sure I’m well hydrated. I make sure I wear my glasses at work. I keep up with my regular chiropractic adjustments and even booked myself in for a deep tissue massage to relieve my knotty neck and shoulders.

Do What You Love

I went and had my hair cut for the first time in (I’m ashamed to say) over 9 months. I had reached the point where my ends were in such bad condition I was snipping at them with scissors. It was great to spend an hour in the hairdressers being pampered and I went one step further and booked to have my hair coloured professionally, something I’d always bodged myself.

For yourself, you might schedule yourself in time to read a book you’ve had sat on the shelf, listen to a feel-good playlist, paint your nails or indulge in a hobby you’ve been missing.

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You’ll Get There

Self-care is all about working from the inside out, filling up your own cup before pouring others. It’s about starting healthier habits and doing things that make you happy.

It’s not a quick fix. It’s a process.

Time’s a healer and in time, you’ll bounce back.

It might not be a ‘bounce’ to begin with, you might find you’ve mustered enough energy to clamber upright and dust yourself down.

It’s all positive steps in the right direction.

I’d love for you to share your self-care secrets…

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Spectrum Sunday

Sensory Friendly Directory

The go-to place to find a sensory friendly venue, hotel, service - and more.....

The remarkable journey of The Sensory Projects so far. By Jo Grace - guest blogger

A lifetime ago I was a teacher at a school for children with severe and profound special needs, and when people tilted their heads sympathetically at me and said in cutesy tones “How rewarding” I needed something to say back. So that I did not tell them the truth about the role, or utter something unseemly! So I developed an interesting rant.

The rant was about how I thought there should be affordable sensory stories. I would tell my victim about how amazing sensory stories were at including a wide range of differently abled children. These concise narratives told equally through words and experiences we fabulous and always got people’s imaginations going. I’d talk about how I wanted a rich range of experiences in the stories and how they should be about topics that would invite a diverse range of people into the story telling space.

It took 11 years until someone called me on the rant. My then partner said “You should do that,” and pointed me to Kickstarter. Where 129 wonderful people backed my idea and made it possible. Those people backed me before anyone knew what I would do. Some were friends and family, but others were strangers who put their faith in me based on what I said. I am eternally grateful to these people.

The Kickstarter gave me six months to create the stories I’d said should exist. Although I knew what I wanted these stories to be when it came to the crunch I did not want them to be based solely on my own bright ideas, as no matter how much experience I’d had (both inside the classroom and in my private life in my own family and as a foster carer to children with special needs) I was only one person. So I used those six months to read every piece of research I could lay my hands on to do with the sensory world. Quite possibly I am the only person who has ever had the luxury of the time to do this!

That first part of the story is simple, since then it has escalated like a wonderful sensory snowball rolling downhill and picking up speed.

The sensory story project has grown from those first 5 stories to well over 20, and to the book Sensory Stories for Children and Teens.

The sensory story project gave birth to the art project which saw us enabling individuals with profound disabilities to independently create their own works of art, and reap all the mental health benefits of being creative. Their art work toured the UK as the exhibition Uninhibited.

The art project birthed the Sensory-being project that looked at how we share mindful experiences with people whose primary experience of the world and meaning within it is sensory. The book Sensory-being for Sensory Beings is due for publication by Routledge in September.

2018 should see the publication of Sensory Stories and Conversations for people with Dementia (Jessica Kingsley Publishers) and a collection of four children’s books (Flindle Education) each a sensory story built from a palette of experiences to suit different groups of readers.

When I look back I am utterly staggered to see how things have grown. I spend my life on trains, still reading research papers, with a box of odd bits and pieces – things that smell interesting, or feel a certain way or can be used to create an enchanting visual experience. I teach people how to use these inexpensive items to include people in a sensory way. I talk about stories, and mental well being, and how we go about making those precious connections with people who can initially seem unreachable. And the people generous enough to spend their time listening to me take the seeds of knowledge and ideas that I give out and go back to their settings to plant them in their practice and do amazing things. Often I’m privileged enough to follow their journeys on social media afterwards.

The Sensory Projects are united by a common aim: to contribute to a future where people are understood in spite of their differences, and to do this by sharing the knowledge and creativity needed to make inexpensive sensory items into effective tools for inclusion. I’m always happy to make new friends, come and connect with me on social media,


Twitter @Jo3grace      Facebook         Linkedin
 or get in touch via sensorystory@gmail.com

Posted 18 weeks ago

Sensory Friendly Places and events

This directory of sensory friendly places and events aims to encompass all parts of the world.   

If you know of any that should be included please let me know.  

Alternatively if you have had an enjoyable and stress free experience somewhere please consider leaving a review about the place. 

Also looking for guest bloggers.  

Posted 20 weeks ago



More links to Jo's work