Setting Boundaries for Better Self-Care

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Setting boundaries for better self-care helps protect and prioritize your well-being.

Special needs parents have a lot on their plates. As we discussed in Reducing Barriers to Self-Care for Special Needs Parents, there is a lot standing in the way to better self-care. 

One fantastic strategy to reduce barriers and improve your self-care is through setting boundaries.

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What Do We Mean By Setting Boundaries?

Setting boundaries is the practice of putting limits on what you accept in your life.

We set boundaries by saying “no” to the things that our not in our best interest.

We also set boundaries by saying “yes” to the activities that fill us with excitement, allow us to rest, and that are in line with our values.

Why is Setting Boundaries Important for Self-Care?

With so many people and activities vying for our attention, we must be intentional with our focus, time and energy.

We only have so much time and energy. Prioritizing the things that are most important to us will allow for a better and more enjoyable life.

Limiting or removing some areas will allow space and time for you to do more of what you enjoy.

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Getting Started with Setting Boundaries for Better Self-Care

Before we set a boundary, it is important to take stock of our current circumstances.

What are you currently saying yes to? This is all the activities, people, and thoughts that are currently taking place in your life – whether you like them or not.

Once you identify what is currently within your boundary, you can analyze if you want it to stay or not.

Not all items can be immediately removed by placing a boundary and saying no. Others are necessary and cannot be removed.

But, you may reduce them a bit.

As you analyze your current boundaries, you might find some of the strategies in this post helpful. Finding Time for Self-Care as a Special Needs Parent.

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What Are Some Areas Special Needs Parents Can Set Boundaries

Time

Time is limited. Be aware of what you are spending it on.

Action Step: I find sticking with a firm bedtime for my children allows for an hour or two of time for myself each evening. It allows me to spend some time recharging and keep a reasonable sleep schedule for myself. Plus, if they are in bed (or the older ones in their rooms doing quiet activities) then they are getting enough sleep for a better day ahead.

Action Step: Batch chores when possible. I run errands on the way home from work so I have fewer trips and can fully settle in once I return home. You may find it helpful to do an earlier therapy session so that you have time between coming home and dinner so you are less rushed.

Action Step: Have a firm cut-off time. This may be for work emails – no checking from home is best if possible! I have had several in-home therapies over the years. Making sure all non-family members were gone by a set time allowed for us all to relax a bit before bedtime.

Action Step: Appointments can consume a lot of our time as special needs parents. For strategies to maximum appointment time, read our article Appointment Management and Self-Care as a Special Needs Parent.

Activities

Action Step: There is great pressure to do it all and try all the activities. There can be pressure and judgment from other parents even in the special needs community to do all the possible therapies under the sun. This can lead to guilt. Set a boundary here. Remind yourself you know your child and family best. Focusing on one or two therapies and not wearing everyone thin with multiple therapies a day may be the boundary you need to help everyone’s well-being.

People

Action Step: There have been many caregivers in my children’s lives. At school, I have found asking for one person to be the point of contact is helpful. When my oldest was in middle school I was contacted by about five people in one day – that is too many! I asked the school to contact me through one email (not work and personal) and just through the case manager (not each individual teacher with an issue) unless there was an emergency (which should be through the nurse or assistant principal). That strategy has served me well.

Action Step: Not all therapists or caregivers will be the right fit for your child or your family. In some instances – go with your gut feeling. Especially if it is a caregiver. While you may have limited control over your child’s teacher, this can be an area you focus on trying to improve. We went through about ten therapists before we found the right fit for my son. Some quit, others took other jobs, many he refused to work with or speak with. I have learned that if help is not helpful, it is better to keep looking for a better fit.

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Some Thought Patterns to Set Boundaries Around

Do not let guilt, perfectionism, worry, and feelings of not being “worthy” or “enough” take up valuable residence in your mind.

I know, this is easier said than done.

Set boundaries and be vigilant in these areas.

Action Step: Set a time to worry. Use a timer. Put a stop to that thinking when the timer beeps.

Action Step: Set another timer to focus on the positives. Using a gratitude journal is helpful with this task.

Action Step: Try affirmations to replace negative thought patterns. For some ideas to get started check out Affirmations for Special Needs Parents.

Action Step: Dig deeper into your thoughts with the help of Mental Wellness – Five Things to Remove to Improve Quality of Life.

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Making the Best Use of Your Newfound Space

Now that you have created boundaries in your time and mental space, what will you choose to fill it with?

Just like with decluttering a home, if we do not maintain our boundaries, then new clutter can creep in. 

Be intentional with what you let take up your new space and time.

You may want to explores some hobbies. For some great, special needs parent-friendly ideas, read our article Hobbies to Boost Self-Care for Special Needs Parents.

Replace the negative thoughts with those positive affirmations.

Use the time previously spent driving to a cut out or rescheduled activity to try an activity you have secretly kept on the back burner.

Or simply rest and allow yourself to go to bed early or read a book now that you firmed up a bedtime boundary.

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Setting Boundaries for Better Self-Care: Summary

All of our boundaries will be unique to our own needs, values, and desires. They will also change over time.

Setting boundaries is an ongoing practice. Reevaluate and make changes that best fit your situation.

You may also enjoy our post on Advocating for Yourself as a Special Needs Parent.

Keeping a journal to track your time and habits is a helpful tool in setting and maintaining boundaries.

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Cover image to Time Journal: 90 Day Time Management Tool to Discover Where Most of Your Time Goes.
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Help other caregivers by sharing with us in the comments a boundary-setting strategy you have found useful.

Keep boosting your overall self-care with ideas in our article Getting Started with Mindfulness for Special Needs Parents.

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(This post may contain affiliate links. I may receive a commission, if you purchase an item through a link, at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. Genuine recommendations only.)