Here's one thing most of us are pretty bad at: Self-care. (AKA taking care of ourselves). You know how it is. The kids need you. Your spouse needs you. The house needs tidying, the litter box needs cleaning, and oh yeah, your family wants to eat. (The nerve!) So you work your way through all of the things that demand your attention and the next thing you know it's time to collapse into bed and start it all over again the next day. All of your good intentions are out the window. No workout, no planning for the next day's healthy eating, no time for yoga or meditation or reading or whatever it is that centers you and calms your soul.
But hey, at least you took care of everyone and everything else.
That was (and sometimes still is) me as much as it is you. It's most women, really. Particularly, most moms. We're conditioned to put others ahead of ourselves thinking we're doing right by our families, but in the process our own selves are getting left in the dust. You already know this. You've heard it a thousand times in self-help books or in magazines or on talk shows or wherever. But at some point you need to LET IT HIT HOME. Let yourself see, fully, how ignoring your own needs can lead to problems later on.
I'll share more later, but in short, I have lost several family members over the past two years, one of them being my beloved bestie, my mother. She was only 62. Tiny, adorable, looked like the picture of health. But underneath it all, she was a shitstorm of unhealthiness. Heart disease, diabetes, COPD, the works. But you'd never know it by looking at her. Yes, she was a smoker for most of her adult life (please don't smoke, people!!), but some of her issues were genetic and you can bet I'm shaking in my boots hoping I don't succumb to some of those same things.
With the untimely passing of my mom came the realization that, dammit, life really IS short, and if I want to achieve the BIG THINGS I want to achieve in this life, I'd better make sure I'm healthy enough to stick around for a bunch more years. So, at the end of 2015, I made the pledge to work on my own health and well being ... even if it meant I had to loosen the Mom's-Gotta-Do-Everything-For-Everyone grip I had on, well, pretty much everything.
So, I started looking after myself more. And wouldn't you know, I've seen a big change already, and we're only about 8 weeks in. Here are some ways I've been focusing on self-care, as well as some strategies for fitting these action items into your chaotically busy life.
- Adding fruits and veggies to my diet, and cutting back on dairy, refined carbs, and eating at night. Listen, y'all. I'm not going to tell you I waved a magic wand and began eating some gloriously healthy diet. That's not even true. I still love me some pasta and always will. But part of practicing self-care is providing good nutrition for your body and if you're filling it with crap, guess what's going to happen? Yep, garbage in, garbage out.
I think nearly every human can agree they need to eat more fruits and veggies. I explain how I make this easier in this post. That's just a start. Adding good stuff is important, but so is eliminating the bad. Ridding your body of the stuff that's hard for it to process helps you function more efficiently and affects your overall well-being. It takes a commitment and it takes pre-planning, but cleaning up your diet is an excellent start down the path of self-care.
Recommended reading: The Kind Diet, by Alicia Silverstone. Yes, she adheres to a very strict vegan diet (not sure I could ever do that) but there are some incredible facts in there about how food affects the body, how we're brainwashed as consumers, and how terrible we're treating our bodies when we put into it some of the things we do. It's truly eye opening.
- Exercise. Biiiiiiig shocker here, right? This is one of those things that you Just. Gotta. Do. But the key is NOT going through the motions. The key is finding something you enjoy doing because then it's far less likely you'll skip out on it. Case in point? I am obsessed with yoga. I can't get enough. And yes, I like doing it at home, but I like it even more in a class setting. I try a little harder, push myself a bit. (I may or may not be slightly competitive.) And since my gym has a sauna, I like to hit that up right before yoga class since warm muscles are more pliable and I just plain love heat. And speaking of the sauna, I view it as a treat. Get my butt to the gym, indulge in 15 minutes of sizzle. Maybe you could find an incentive for yourself that you can tie into each visit to the gym, walk around the neighborhood, or at-home workout video?
Whatever you do, MAKE THIS TIME for yourself. Yes, I had to juggle my schedule. Yes, it means I rush around a little bit in order to fit in a workout. Yes, it means that I go through part of my day as a sweaty mess. But avoiding diabetes and heart disease is pretty darn worth it, wouldn't you say? Added bonus: Working out will eventually help you manage stress and emotions, too. If you keep at it and it becomes part of your routine, you WILL reap rewards far beyond weight loss or muscle toning. Your brain and heart will be happy, too.
- Power of Positivity. Confession time: I can be a real Susie Sunshine at times. Like, to the point of annoyingness. But I can't help it. I think I'm part unicorn or something. Now, I know not everyone is like this, and I totes respect that. BUT, I think many of us could stand to shave a little negativity from our attitudes and daily lives, amiright? And yes, I'm including myself here because even I get a lil grumpy from time to time.
So ... how to get happy? Spend some time around positivity. Really. It can be that simple. Positive people, nature, inspirational quotes or memes, feel-good books -- any of these things can be great for tuning into your inner rainbow.
One of my favorite places to hang out is in a Facebook group called The Manifestation 100. You have to request to join (or give me a yell and I can add you to the group), but it's a closed group where people are undeniably focused on good things, happy thoughts, positive outcomes, and abundance. The group's administrator, Lori Hamann, is one of the purest souls I know. She really understands what it takes to live a life of abundance and she posts daily prompts and lessons (complete with short videos) to steer you in the right direction. Sometimes I pop in there to complete the daily lesson, other times I just go to see the gorgeous pictures and messages of hope that the other group members post. It's pretty much impossible to go in there with a bad mood and leave with the bad mood still in tact. Really. Check it out. I am positive you will get something good out of it.
- Focus on goals. Yes, you're busy. Yes, you have obligations. Yes, you are many things to many people. But remember, we're talking about self-care here. And that means we're talking about you.
In my opinion, a huge component of self-care is giving some (hopefully undivided) attention to your goals. Your dreams. Your Brick Wall Basher. The thing that makes your heart sing, your pulse speed up, your dreams come alive. Does it mean you may have to give up something else (ahem, I'm looking at YOU, The Walking Dead) to spend some time on your dreams? Yep. I haven't gotten hooked on a TV show in years. What I have done is given some of that time to more productive things in my life and lo and behold, some of my biggest dreams are starting to take shape. Yours can (and will), too!
In order to live your highest self, you must spend time doing things that take you to the next level. Physically, mentally, spiritually. All of it. But you MUST admit that you need to dedicate the time. Just wanting to do it won't work. You must make that step. Realize your worth and put the gift of time behind it. Because yes, you may stave off future health problems, you may reach some of your wildest dreams, and you may realize abundance like you've never known. But above all that, you'll be that much closer to living life with inner peace. And that's the greatest self-care gift of all.