Even in my 30s, I'm still learning what self care means for me.
One thing I've always known is that I need alone time. It is hard to get with kids and stuff, so mostly (right now) I'm getting alone time after bedtime. That isn't really working well though. So I am trying to be in transition to do some things differently. Especially since there is this other baby on the way. If there are going to be 3 kids in this house, and only one mama, I'm going to definitely prioritize some self care. How, I wonder.
Self care also means knowing when you've had enough, before you've had enough. It means literally unplugging life. Like when you put your computer on 'sleep' mode, just run your operating system in the background, and shut down all unnecessary functioning. It might vary as to what means "unnecessary" to you, but for me definitely socializing is OUT. I cannot socialize, even with my own family, when I've reached meltdown mode. It becomes movie time for the kids.
And believe me, I reach meltdown mode. I might be an adult, and I might not be collapsing onto the floor, but I still have meltdowns. My brain literally just can't take any more and it starts shutting down on it's own like a nuclear reactor. I even feel myself needing to be mute. And we wonder why our ASD kids don't talk to us? We scratch our heads over selective mutism? I know why; the brain just can't handle it. The brain has reached maximum output ability, and that's it. No more.
I feel like that's what has happened to kids with autism who don't speak. Whether it is a drug, medicine, or something else, they are living in meltdown mode, and their own body is holding them to basic functions. And, kids reach meltdown mode a lot faster than adults do because they just don't have the life practice to help themselves. And if the cause is out of their control or understanding, what are they supposed to do?
And realizing how fast and easy I reach meltdown mode, I feel horrible for ever assuming my kid should be able to do or handle something, when I am realizing that he just can't. Because I'm realizing that I just can't either.
Self care means shutting off the phone, shutting off all forms of communication, verbal or nonverbal (text/online). Because you will still overwhelm yourself, even if the interaction is only in words. And you will be less able to accurately determine intent in the words, and likely will misinterpret things too.
We have to help ourselves understand that if we do not take the time to recover, we will likely end up in "debt". Remember, only basic functioning will be running, so it will be pretty tough to do anything anyway. You can either take a break, or put your eggs in the garbage and the shells in the batter. You can either realize you need to step back and remove yourself from social life, or end up borrowing from tomorrow's "spoons", to use a popular special needs theory. Then tomorrow you will be no better than you are today, and you will repeat the process until you get the self care you need to recover properly.
I'm still learning how to do this. I think in this day and age when everyone has cell phones, we feel like we might miss something critical if we don't have our phones on. While it's possible that, something bad will happen if you take a break from your phone, but if you haven't taken theat break, you would be even less able to deal with it than before you took the break.
The only thing I wish for is longer breaks. And the ability to cancel the entire day to recover. But life doesn't stop sometimes. Sometimes you have to keep on keeping on. That is the most exhausting thing ever. But there may be some things you can do to maintain until you can get more self care time.
Don't forget healthy food or a good walk in quiet peaceful nature, if you can find it.
Finally, sleep. Any catnap can help you recover. It might be really hard to get a nap with kids, but never underestimate the power of 'mom ears'. I might be "deaf" (you'd have to ask my family), but for some reason I always hear what trouble is happening when I catnap.
Anyway, I keep learning more and more about myself, and without ASD, I wouldn't really know what to do with me.