I spent years and years of my life, ignoring my needs, gaining weight, feeling terribly physically and emotionally, and not understanding where I was going so wrong.
Perhaps you're in a similar place.
- You don't feel very well, but you're not sick.
- You're not happy but there's nothing really wrong either.
- You're always tired.
- You feel overwhelmed and always behind.
Any of that sound familiar, or maybe all of it?
You can get out from under that stuff, I promise you. I did, and I am going to tell you how I did it. The road to good health is not easy, but it is pretty simple.
If you can take one step in the right direction today, maybe you can take two steps tomorrow, and three the day (or week) after that. Any baby step towards your good health is a positive one.
10 Ways to Care for Yourself and Ditch Mom Guilt
- Connect with God. Notice I did not say that you absolutely had to have a quiet time every single day. I have written before about how important that is - and it really is - but I am also realistic and understand that not everyone can manage it in every season. Over the summer, I was really good about mine, but as the days have grown dark earlier in the morning, I often sleep a little later than I intended, and all I have time for before work is my long walk and breakfast. I don't get my quiet time done, and I have only a wee bit of guilt over it.I think the important thing is not how much time you're spending reading your Bible and praying, nor when you do those things in your day, but simply that you do do them. It is important that you reach out to Him and connect and allow Him to guide your thoughts and actions throughout every day.More than just being important for God, it is important for you as He will make you more like Himself the better you get to know Him and His heart. Connecting with God through prayer and meditation is a gift you can give yourself as it will center you and connect you to the One through whom all peace, comfort, and calm flow.
- Nourish your body. If you aren't eating well, your body is not working at its best. I speak from personal experience here. When I succumbed to my sugar addiction, I stopped feeling great. I started feeling sluggish and not wanting to exercise. I got tired more often. Eating healthy foods - and avoiding unhealthy ones containing sugar and excessive fats - gives your body the fuel it needs to work best.
- Drink enough water. I've heard all sorts of opinions on the water debate, from your body gets enough water from food to you need double your weight in ounces of water every day. My doctor's office recommends a minimum of 64 ounces of water daily, so that's what I aim for.Your body is 60% water, and you lose water through your skin and urine all day long, so it only makes sense that you need to replenish it with regularity. Signs of dehydration include thirst, a dry mouth (duh, right?) and dark yellow urine, but also headaches, confusion, sleepiness, and dry skin. If you're experiencing those symptoms frequently, you may need to consistently drink more water.Oh, and by the way, any liquid without caffeine counts as part of your water intake, according to my doctor.
- Exercise. Before I started exercising regularly, I had a million excuses for why I couldn't do it, but they all boiled down to two things: I was out of shape and simply didn't want to put in the effort.It didn't have to be that way. I started walking, slowly and very short distances. As weight came off my body, I walked further and further, increasing the distance by a few steps every three walks (and walks were every 1-3 days back then). Now, I walk almost 4 miles every morning, and I miss it when I don't get to walk. I also do weight training three or four days a week, but I just started that over the summer.I have to confess that I am not walking right now, and I am not doing any weights. I broke my toe on a dumbbell last week, and I have a weight-lifting-related knee injury. I'm in physical therapy for the knee, but the broken, very painful, big toe has really cramped my exercise life. This is killing me because I feel lazy and out of shape. I don't have as much energy, and I'm not sleeping as well. Because I'm not sleeping as well, I'm having a hard time waking up in the mornings. Exercise is vital to my body's functioning - and it's vital to yours, too, whether you freely admit it or not.You don't have to exercise for an hour a day like I do. Start small with a short walk or a DVD workout like the Morning Fat Melter (an 18-minute workout from start to finish that you can do easily in your living room).Oh, and one more thing about exercise. It may be hard at first. That's okay. Don't exercise so much or so strenuously that you have pain, just enough that you feel a little tired. It's perfectly fine to quit before the workout is finished; you have done something and that is so much better than nothing. Start small and work up to more as your time and fitness level allow.
- Get lost in a good book. A recent study in England found that just six minutes of reading a day can reduce physical signs of stress by up to 68%. Listening to music, having a cup of tea, playing video games, and going for a walk also reduced stress, but nothing came close to the benefits of silent reading.Dr. David Lewis, the researcher in charge of the study, said that,
"It really doesn't matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author's imagination.
This is more than merely a distraction but an active engaging of the imagination as the words on the printed page stimulate your creativity and cause you to enter what is essentially an altered state of consciousness."
He doesn't specifically say that audiobooks serve the same purpose, but I think they would come in a close second to printed books since there is still the element of escaping into the story.
If you're looking for a good book, check out what I'm listening to on my daily walks. I've listened to some amazing stories lately, and I love talking about them. In fact, I always send the printed copies to Old Grandma so I have someone to talk about them with. She has devoured all of them so far in a day or two. If you read one I've recommended, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook!
The bottom line here is that you will see real physical benefits of reading in just 6 minutes a day. Even if you don't listen while you're exercising (and that is the perfect time in my opinion), I bet you can find 6 minutes a day to grab a physical book or an audiobook and get lost in a story.
- Do something to relax. You used to have hobbies before you became too busy, right? I know I did, and I also know that I feel better when I get them into my days at least a little bit. My hobby of the moment is crocheting, and I squeeze at least a few rows on my latest project into every day. I'm not vigilant about it, like I am about exercising - it's no big deal if I miss a day - but if I miss a week, I take a long look at my schedule and figure out why there are no downtimes during which I can pick up my yarn.Crocheting is very relaxing to me. Some people find watching tv relaxing, although I don't recommend that for a variety of reasons. But hey, find out what works for you and you do your thing.
- Learn something new. Your brain is designed to prefer the novel, the new, the exciting. I started to write that I'm personally in a season of vast learning right now, but that really applies to almost every season of my life so far. My dad used to say that I'm a perpetual student, but I think it's more like being a lifelong learner. Probably semantics, but lifelong learner sounds better to me. Here's what I'm doing right now:
- I just finished a certification series in my company's Medicare & Retirement division.
- I'm in the Penn State Master Gardener program where I participate in a 3-hour gardening seminar once a week for 4 months.
- I'm starting on my second Master's degree (MBA this time) at Penn State in January.
- I'm working through three e-courses on blogging topics.
- I'm working through two e-courses on health & wellness topics.
You don't have to be as into learning as I am, but you do need to learn something new frequently to keep your mind active and engaged with the world. Whether you're reading magazines, researching online, or picking the brains of smart people, you should be doing your best to soak in new information and skills.
- Identify your stresses. Figure out the things that stress you out, and find some other way to get them done.For me, housecleaning is my #1 stressor on a daily basis. It's also the #2 thing that Joe and I argue about (behind parenting). But our house is so very messy that we haven't been able to get it to a state where outsourcing the cleaning would be helpful. (Unless we hired a professional organizer to come in and do a massive purging and declutter, but that is unfortunately considerably above our budget at this time, so we limp along a little at a time, seemingly making zero progress.)Trust me when I say that I understand that some of your stresses may have no easy answers. But some others might have an easy answer, like mowing our lawn. For the past few years, Joe has mowed our lawn. He gets a rash every time he does it, and we have a push mower that is not self-propelled. (A mistake when we bought it, but he said it wasn't worth taking back at the time - a decision he later regretted.) Our yard is sloped, and I have planted dozens of trees, shrubs, and bushes over the years. It's like a slalom course for the lawn mower. Edging takes forever because I don't have mulch around most of the plants. Add in the fact that the kids often leave toys out in the grass, and it is a nightmare. Plus, because he hates mowing with a fiery passion, he wouldn't do it for weeks on end, making the job super difficult when he finally got around to it. I identified that this was a major stressor to Joe, and I did something about it. More on that below.
- Outsource. Over the summer, a businesswoman whom I like and respect posted on her personal Facebook page that her house had been cleaned and her lawn mowed that day - and that she and her husband had done something fun and enjoyable at the same time. It got me to thinking that Joe and I could afford to outsource a thing or two to free us up for the things that we have to do and want to do. I immediately found a young man to do all our outdoor chores - lawn mowing and trimming, weeding, and even clearing the messy hill on the side of our property. It freed Joe up both physically and emotionally - he was always either dreading that it needed to be done or feeling guilty that he hadn't yet done it. He's much happier not doing it, and we are helping a local young man to build a business that could potentially benefit him for years to come.I have also employed help in some capacity for my blog for years. Nowadays, I don't have a VA on retainer as I have at different times in the past, but I do reach out for help when I have a project that I don't need to do myself. Especially when something technical pops up, I don't try to solve it myself. I reach out to the team I've created, and I let them do the tasks that don't require my personal attention.One more thing I outsource. We feed our five cats a specialty cat food designed for indoor beasties. Every time the bag came close to running out, Joe and I would have a spat over who would have to find the time to get to the pet store and buy the food. It's out of the way for both of us, and the trip was inconvenient. So I started buying it online and having the UPS man deliver it. It's a little more expensive, and there are never sales, but I have it on Subscribe & Save and it rolls in automatically every other month with nary a thought from Joe or me. It's so much better than before.
- Take up a hobby. A hobby, by definition, is something you do specifically because you enjoy it. As I said above, learning is a hobby for me, but so are crocheting and crafting and writing and reading. Here are some hobbies you might enjoy:
My therapist has told me for years that, when I feel stressed, overwhelmed, or have strong emotions, I need to practice self-care more than normal. So if you're feeling lousy (physically or emotionally), and you can point to a real cause and feel tempted to make it an excuse to neglect yourself, you probably need to do more of the things on this list. It's food for thought.
If taking care of yourself feels like one more thing on an endless to-do list, that's because you need to do it more. I promise, you will feel much better when you start making yourself a priority in your day. Almost everything else will wait; your mental and physical health will not wait.
Sweet friend, you need to take care of yourself if you're going to be healthy and happy, if you're going to feel good about yourself and your family, and if you want to feel on top of your life rather than underneath it, but I don't want these things to feel like a burden to you. Maybe you can make one healthier food choice today than you did yesterday or you can take a five-minute walk. It's a baby steps, and baby steps add up to big, positive changes.