Autism Mom, Simple Living

5 Simple Ways to Be Healthier (as a Special Needs Mom)

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You probably read the headline, and rolled your eyes.

But listen up, friends.

Getting healthier doesn’t have to be complicated. I know you’re constantly being bombarded by Beach Body coaches, Keto-diet advocates, and pretty much everyone else who’s in the health & wellness space.

But getting healthier doesn’t have to be that complicated.

If you’ve been around here for a while, you’ll notice that I’m not a huge fan of complicated things.

I like breaking things down into bite-sized pieces, whether that’s IEPs, home-based therapy programs, or special diets for our Ausome kiddos.

So, let’s tune out the noise shall we, and start here:

Get more sleep.

1. Get more sleep.

You don’t really need me to tell you how crucial sleep is for your well being. If your child isn’t sleeping through the night, it is imperative that you sleep as close to when they do as possible and take naps during the day. If however, your child is sleeping through the night (most nights), try to set up a regular sleep schedule for yourself and stick with it as much as possible. Some simple ways to improve your sleep:

  • turn off all screens at least two hours before your ideal bedtime. I know it’s hard to not check that one last notification on Facebook or to stop scrolling (those stories are addicting y’all), but the light from the screen suppresses your melatonin resulting in less sleep. I know it’s hard to kick the habit of checking your phone one last time before going to bed, and checking your phone first thing in the morning, but I promise you’ll get better sleep (and be more productive in the morning when it’s not the first thing you check in the morning).
  • Buy an alarm clock. I really like the Wake Up Light Alarm Clock. The sunrise feature allows you to wake up gradually, so you’re not waking up to the blaring sound of the alarm. So, set your alarm for the next day, charge your phones in another room (or on your dresser far away from your reach as possible), and see what a difference that one little step will make in the quality of your sleep. This was something I struggled with, but by taking that one step towards getting better sleep, I was able to fall into deep sleep (you know that REM sleep that doctors like to reference?). It starts here.
  • Get black out curtains. These Nicetown 100% Blackout curtains are not only stylish, but are thicker than the ones you’ll find at any Target or Walmart. They not only block light (our saving grace, especially in the summer months), but also cancel out most of the noise (we live next to train tracks– lucky us I know lol).
5 Simple Ways to Be Healthier (as a special needs mom) | Valerian Tea
A cup of Valerian root tea helps me to wind down in the evening.

No amount of sleepy time tea, essential oils, valerian root will substitute for turning off your devices. Trust me, I tried. You can incorporate some of these evening rituals into your bedtime routine, like we do. As part of my evening routine (once the kiddos are in bed), I usually like to make a cup of Valerian root tea.

I like to write out my top three items I absolutely have to get done tomorrow, so I don’t forget– or suddenly wake up in the middle of the night worried that I’ll forget to do something important  the next day. I do a bit of journaling to reflect on the day (making a note of at least three things that went well that day– celebrating our wins are so important!), rub some lavender essential oil on my wrist, read a Shauna Niequest book, meditate with the Calm app, say my prayers and get ready for bed.

If you’d like to create your own evening routines, I’ve created a FREE mini-guide to evening routines for you here.

I really enjoy the sleep meditation from The Calm App. It comes with a seven day free trial, so you can give it a try. My personal favorite is the body release technique guided meditation. My kids really enjoy the sleep stories at bedtime!

5 Simple Ways to Be Healthier (as a Special Needs Mom) | Cut Caffeine
Cut caffeine by 2pm.

2. Cut caffeine by 2pm.

I know you already know this. But common sense doesn’t always mean common practice, amiright? Caffeine can remain in your system for 5 hours (or more!), so chugging that extra cup of Joe at 2pm is going to make it hard for you to sleep, which leads to you staying up way too late, and resulting in waking up grouchy, and exhausted from staying up way the night before.

5 Simple Ways to Be Healthier (as a Special Needs Mom) | Drink More Water
Drink more water.

3. Drink more water. 

Yes, you probably hear or see posts about this all the time. But are you actually doing this? Drinking more water is not only vital for hydration, but it’ll also help you feel better throughout the day. The external benefit of drinking more water is that it’ll improve your skin. We all like to talk about biotin or the latest skin regiment or beauty products that’ll improve our skin.

But if you’re not drinking enough water, it doesn’t matter if you spend $300 at the Estee Lauder counter. Your skin won’t be hydrated even if you lather the “hydration” face cream on your face. Drink more water, friends.

Buy a smart water bottle. I love the Cactaki Water Bottle with Time Marker. It not only serves as a water bottle, but also tracks your water consumption (we can all use a reminder!). I tend to consume less water if I’m out and about, and forget to bring my water bottle with me. I usually leave an extra bottle in the car, since I tend to forget to grab one on my way out (side note: I also leave extra reusable grocery bags in the car or they’ll remain by the door collecting dust as I tend to forget those too. I’ll keep blaming it on mommy brain).

5 Simple Ways to Be Healthier (as a Special Needs Mom) | Eat Real Food
Eat real food.

4. Eat real food.

I’m not referring to whole30. Here’s the thing. No amount of shortcuts will help you feel better when the majority of the food you’re putting into your body is junk. I’m by no means a nutritionist or anything else that ends with an “ist,” but understanding that our gut health is related to our brain health and overall being, helps us to make better choices most of the time.

Intellectually, we understand this. We know that the food we choose to eat either fuel our bodies or makes it feel worse. But when it comes down to crunch time, or we’re “hangry,” we reach for whatever is easiest and most convenient—which is rarely what’s best for us.

So, this year, I’m focusing on eating food that energizes my body.

Real food makes your body feel good. It’s not until we get really sick or have fallen ill that we realize just how important our bodies are. Think about it. We tend to take our bodies for granted—focusing on appearing healthier on the outside, with very disregard for what is going on in the inside.

Start small. Maybe switch out your regular snacks, and instead opt for hard boiled eggs, cheese, almonds, and a high quality beef jerky. Once you’re comfortable with incorporating healthy snacks into your diet, maybe start opting for healthier alternatives for breakfast.

5 Simple Ways to Be Healthier (as a special needs mom) | Brain Smoothie
Morning brain smoothie.

I start each morning off with a high-quality Vega protein smoothie, adding avocados and blueberries to the mix. Not only do blueberries taste great, but it also has the highest antioxidant levels of all common fruits and vegetables. Blueberries also boost brain function amongst other benefits, so I also add blueberries & a spread on avocado on top of my toast in the morning. Avocados are very nutritious and contain a wide variety of nutrients, including 20 different vitamins and minerals!

Less “filler” food, more “make me feel good” food.

Food that falls into the category of “filler” is anything that is intended to simply give you the illusion of fullness when you’re “hangry” or simply to fill our bellies without any regard for whether or not it’s good for our bodies. Of course, we all eat filler food some time, I know I do! But make it a point to feed yourself real food most of the time.

5 Simple Ways to Be Healthier (as a Special Needs Mom) | Exercise
Move your body.

5. Move your body.

I didn’t exercise for a long time. I also wasn’t eating well—ate out more than I cared to admit.

I allowed myself to function this way for a little over a year—since starting a new job and running a blog.

Hustle until you die, and at the rate, I was going, I was doing a good job of living out that mantra. I nearly fainted while shopping at Target and my husband had to escort me out. I was getting sick—really sick… the kind where your body aches to move, running feverishly on and off and your husband has to help carry you to the bathroom sick.

All in the name of hustle.

Then over Christmas break, I got sick AGAIN, but this time my son along with me.

So, I took a break from #allthethings. No social media, no website, no blog posts, no content planning, and focused on getting better again.

I started moving my body.

We have a YMCA membership, but let’s be real. In between work, running an on-line business, and taking care of my herd of not so tiny humans, I couldn’t leave the house to go to the gym…. But I also was determined to start moving my body.

So, I did what anyone else does when looking for a way to workout from home… I researched the workout equipment for home and settled on a pretty yoga mat. I love buying items that are not only functional (non-slip & extra cushy), but looks great so I went with the Gaiam Yoga Mat in Marrakesh design. Sidenote: we have my husband’s old yoga mat in the garage, but the idea of using an old yoga mat that was seldom cleaned (think: manly sweat) makes me cringe.

Shortly after my yoga mat arrived (Amazon for the win!) I googled how to work out from home as a busy mom and stumbled across Fit2B Studio. An on-line gym with a library full of workout videos made by REAL LIFE Moms in their own homes. It’s super family-friendly, and they talk in layman’s terms, no unexplainable terminology.

If you’d like to check it out, feel free to use my coupon code at checkout for $10 off your purchase: REFD2W59JCYUZ

I was hooked. The exercises were short enough, and I was able to easily able to incorporate it to my early morning routine.

Just find something that works for you. It doesn’t have to be pilates, it can be Yoga or anything in between. Do what feels good for you, and that you can easily fit into your schedule.

If you can squeeze in even 10-15 minutes of moving your body, it makes a world of a difference. I started off small and slowly built up to 30 minutes a day five days a week. When I first started, I only worked out for 10 minutes a day five days a week.

It’s okay to start slow, and work your way up. Some days I miss a workout, but instead of berating myself, and making myself feel even worse for not being disciplined enough to stick with it… and I just jumped back in again.

We tend to exert a lot of energy towards making ourselves feel bad about simple mistakes here, and there… when instead, you can practice giving yourself grace.

It’s okay.

That’s it friends. Just pick ONE thing you can do. Work on it until it becomes a habit and then move onto the next thing. Remember, being healthy doesn’t have to be difficult. It can be simplified, easily fits into your schedule, and you can adjust it to fit your circumstances.

Related: Morning Routines for the Autism Mom to help you start your day off with more energy, intentionality, and vibrancy.

Evening Routines for the Autism Mom

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