There is this powerful little acronym used in Alcoholics Anonymous that is beautifully simple, yet crazy brilliant.
H. A. L. T.
The initials stand for: hungry, angry, lonely and tired.
It's a self-care tool that can change the lives of every single person in any stressful situation. For those of us parenting any child, but particularly special needs kids, it will rock your world. How do you stay patient? How do you not yell? How do you redirect and correct and let them choose their consequences without spinning your head around and spewing devil spawn vomit?
Again - simple yet brilliant.
Never let yourself get too hungry.
You have to eat. It's more about just not dying by starvation. It is your energy. It is your fuel. If you do not stop and take care of your intake, you will begin to shut down on every single level. If you let yourself get too hungry, then you will do the grab-and-stuff. I know all about it. I INVENTED the grab-and-stuff. Bag of cookies. Pint of ice cream. Four million pretzels ("But they're just pretzels!"). Changing your lifestyle and not keeping junk food in the house and finding yourself licking the top of the honey jar. Mmm hmmm.
Keep a stash of healthy and quick items just for you. Do it. DO IT!
Never let yourself get too angry.
You can't not feel angry. It just happens. It is triggered by something deeper. You can't help how you feel in the moment. BUT ... what you do with that anger is the clincher. Are you actively looking inward to figure out the source of your anger? Are you talking yourself through it? Are you peeling back the layers to find freedom from it? Or ...
Are you wallowing in it? Rolling around in its squishiness? Letting your mind go crazy with revenge and defensiveness?
You cannot be in that state and be patient, or loving ... or logical. Pulling yourself out of a situation and taking a mental and emotional break is key. I have a list of several "safe places" where I can put a child (or myself) so that the ranting or - whatever - can continue, but I can regroup. I cannot stay in the battle. The battle enrages me. The battle wants me. It beckons to me. The battle wants to be your friend with benefits, but has nothing long-term to offer you or anyone else.
Feel it, and then dig through it instead of feeding it. WAY easier said than done. Takes tons of practice. If you ever get good at it, don't tell me.
Never let yourself get too lonely.
Fight for community. If the most strength you find is through online connections, great! You need sounding boards. You need support. You need encouragement. It's not a luxury. It's a necessity. Is your spouse/partner pulling away? Fight for counseling and reconnection. Friends causing more harm than good? Find new friends! You cannot give what is required of you when you feel like a lone wolf. You cannot keep it together at home AND tiptoe around everyone else in your life. It will squash you. Heck - email ME! Seriously, I have made some of my dearest connections online as we've all been muddling through this together. Some days I feel painfully alone. That's when I whip out the cell or shoot out some emails. I need my other therapeutic parenting freak heads. If I get too lonely, I will disintegrate.
Don't let yourself get too tired.
Seriously. Go to bed and sleep. Leave stuff. Leave dishes. Leave laundry. Leave paperwork.
If your life is keeping you from getting a proper amount of sleep, rearrange your life. If extra activities are killing your evenings, cut those activities. If you have not learned the fine are of saying, "No," or "Due to some circumstances at home, I'm going to need to step down from that responsibility," then let me walk you through it. Everyone in your home needs sleep. Sleep is medicine for the brain. The brain has amazing abilities, whether healthy or not.
Things are for a season. You may not always have to simplify to such a huge degree. You may not always have to cut out so much. But I guarantee you, if you keep a maddening pace, you will keep falling on your face while watching your family dynamics explode.
You deserve your sleep. Get it. Enjoy it. Don't ever, ever, EVER feel guilty over it. In fact, you should find great pride in taking care of yourself.
That is really what this all comes down to. We martyr ourselves as parents a lot. We have to take care of ourselves. We have to put that oxygen mask over our own faces first, before we can help those around us. Think about these four areas and make them your red flags to avoid. Avoid like the plague. Instead of setting yourself up for failure, set your self up to kick some massive butt-oh-lah.