How do I look after myself? This week is Mental Health Awareness week, and it’s probably a question we should all be asking.
Life is busy for all parents but for those of us with children who have additional needs, we’re a different kind of busy – endless meetings, hospital appointments and school appointments on top of the day-to-day crazy – and it’s all often done on next to no sleep. Not just while the kids are little. When you have a child with additional needs who doesn’t sleep, the torture can go on for years and years.
Parenting two children with additional needs, working three days a week, keeping on top of a blog, and looking after the health, finances and household of a disabled parent can get a bit overwhelming at times. I frequently forget things and drop the ball.
Carers are often so wrapped up in the support they give to the person, or people, they care for and that can sometimes lead to carers needing support themselves. I’m conscious of making time for myself and make sure I book regular time for me into the diary, whether that’s having my hair done, meeting a friends for a drink or going for a walk.
Last year I did a parenting course that should have probably been named parent therapy. It opened my eyes to the importance of taking care of myself. Prior to that – probably every few weeks or months – I hit exhaustion to the point I could barely move. It would last a few days, maybe up to a week. Lack of sleep is a killer. It could be coincidence but it’s not happened since I tweaked a few things after becoming aware of it.
Some people find holidays a bit too tricky with children on the autistic spectrum. It can all seem a bit daunting. I get that.
For me, holidays are a good way to press the reset button. Yes, they’re not relaxing but even a short break can be a way to get out of the repetitive nature of home life and, open up The Bears’ horizons beyond Paw Patrol.
Everyone needs a holiday from time to time and I believe families of children with autism and other additional needs in particular can benefit from a change of scenery. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. Some of our best memories with The Bears are from camping or in a caravan as well as the bigger trips.
Research shows that holidays provide a number of benefits to our wellbeing. Here are 5 ways travel can boost your mental health:
1. It broadens your horizon
Holidays can help us become more adventurous and try activities and food we would have never imagined ever considering.
2. It increases happiness
Anticipating an upcoming trip can boost our mood. We might be anxious about going away for the first time, particularly if we’re travelling abroad, but with the right preparation we can feel more in control. A study by the University of Surrey found that people are at their happiest when they have a holiday planned.
3. Family bonding
At home, we’re often preoccupied with daily chores and rushing around. On holiday there are more opportunities to spend quality time together as a family, something that shouldn’t be underestimated.
4. It provides stress relief
Holidays can reset our minds, and in some cases, behaviours. When we went to Cornwall at the start of Big Bear’s lanyard and whistle obsession, for some reason he didn’t take one with him. I think he forgot and didn’t even mention it until we arrived home again a week later. It’s the nearest we got to a relaxing holiday. Holidays offer us a chance to clear our head and forget about some of the stress-related daily tasks that usually occupy our minds at home.
5. It enhances creativity
- Do you enjoy go on holiday or do you prefer to stay at home? Let me know in the comments below.
- If you’re planning a family holiday or looking for days out in the UK, don’t forget to sign up to my email list to receive exclusive news and top tips to help you prepare. You’ll also receive a FREE 10-page holiday activity book to help keep the kids occupied on journeys as a welcome gift.
- Why not read: Autism Family Travel: Fun or Flippin’ Hard Work?