By Alison MacNeil, guest blogger and co-author, Thinking Moms Revolution: Autism Beyond the Spectrum
That got your attention, didn’t it? We all want to find the keys to the happiness kingdom. The daily slog is freaking hard, our lives are being held together by dental floss, and we parents with children on the autism spectrum, whether they’ve just been diagnosed or are transitioning into adulthood, are doing our best just to survive.
It’s hard not to despair.
It’s hard not to feel exhausted.
All. The. Time.
We’re so busy taking our beautiful kids to assisted ice skating classes and OT—to say nothing of making a living—that it feels like there’s no time leftover to do anything for ourselves.
Stop the presses. We’ve got 13 ideas of simple, easy, tried and true (yet unexpected) things we can all do to feel better, have more energy, and enjoy life more.
1) Drink warm turmeric milk in the mornings. Turme-what? Turmeric is a root (like ginger) that is known for its healing and immune boosting properties. You can find it in the spice section of most grocery stores. But who cares that this non-dairy turmeric milk is healthy and will make you feel spunky in the morning? It’s also totally delicious.
2) Meditate. Just five minutes a day has health benefits. Try it in the car while you’re driving to work. This mom learned to meditate after her daughter’s diagnosis. Her daughter would scream for hours every day for over two years. Meditating got her through it.
3) Use essential oils. Essential oils are liquids extracted from plants that have been used in medicine for thousands of years. Lavender oil helps reduce stress and is wonderful for sleep. Peppermint oil can improve memory and concentration. Read why this mom loves essential oils.
4) Go to bed earlier. Getting enough sleep is one of the best things you can do to improve your mood, your energy levels, and your feeling of well being. Easier said than done, I know, but I challenge you to try it anyway. You’ll wake up feeling like someone washed the windows.
5) Park a half a mile away from work. And walk the rest of the way. That way you are guaranteed twenty minutes of exercise a day, you save money on gas, and you get much needed outdoor time.
6) Eat lunch outside. Many Americans are dangerously deficient in vitamin D. We need more sun on our skin, especially in the winter.
7) Stand up. Many of us sit all day at work, which wreaks havoc on our bodies. You can make a standing desk for pennies, or splurge on a treadmill desk, like this mom did. Even if you don’t get a walking or standing desk, make it a habit to STAND when you’re in a long meeting or at a concert.
8) Read or watch something funny. Laughter always helps but grown-ups don’t laugh as much as they should. Laugh with your spouse. Some of what we go through as autism families is so ridiculous, you couldn’t make this stuff up. Watch funny stuff: Modern Family, Portlandia, Garfunkel & Oates; and read funny books.
9) Spend quality time together … and alone. You may already be spending every waking moment doing things FOR your family, cooking for a special diet, finding activities for your child, fretting over her future. But make sure that some of this “togetherness” is also about enjoying each other’s company, not just crossing another thing off your endless to do list. If you can pull off a few date nights, it will pay dividends down the road. And grab time to yourself any chance you can get. It will sustain you.
10) Cry. You’re doing it anyway, so you’ll be happy to know that crying is healthy! It relieves stress, washes the eyes, and eliminates toxins from the body.
11) Play. Even grown-ups need to be goofy and creative and have fun. If the kids have the markers out, color along with them. If you love Candy Crush, moms’ poker night or Sudoku, keep playing. Like laughter (see #8), playing games you love make you feel better about life.
12) Do something kind for someone else. We are often so busy seeking support and trying to survive that we forget how valuable it is to help others. Studies show that our happiness increases when we help other people.
13) Eat (dark) chocolate. I’m not (just) justifying my choco-addiction: High quality dark chocolate contains antioxidants and flavonoids that are thought to contribute both to positive mood and heart health. Green & Black’s, anyone?
Nothing is less appealing to me than a mom who looks like she has it all together. I immediately start looking for the cracks in the porcelain. Full disclosure: As I type this I’m sitting next to a laundry pile higher than Mount Vesuvius and I’m snacking on the leftovers from my kids’ lunchboxes from school today. Let’s be honest, the biggest challenge we are all facing—healing and taking care of our sick kids—won’t budge with a quick fix. But we can make the day-to-day slog easier by how we take care of ourselves. And that’s a win for the whole family.
Alison MacNeil, LICSW, is the married mom of two kids, Nick and Neely. She lives in Cambridge, MA where she runs a small psychotherapy practice. Since her son Nick’s diagnosis of autism following vaccine injury in 2006, Alison has worked tirelessly to bring awareness of vaccine injury and autism into mainstream conversation, first with the PBS Autism Now Series and then as a co-founder of the Thinking Moms’ Revolution. Join the TMRs on Facebook.