How I Learned to Take Better Care of Myself


How I Learned to Take Better Care of Myself

Breathe.

I don't know about you, but I often forget to do this, or to do it properly in the course of a day juggling my son, transportation, school, work, shopping, cooking, cleaning, etc.

As a mom, I put my child first, and I often forget to take care of myself — or I run out of time. My son will always be my first priority. But, I recently realized, I am also his role model for self-care, and if I don't take care of my own health, how can I expect him to develop this value?

My Story

I'm the mom of a very active three-year-old boy, and while my partner does at least fifty percent of all the things that need to be done (maybe more), I am still always pressed for time. I work full-time, with an hour commute each way, and I have a job with responsibilities that require that I be "on call" even when I'm not technically there. But I recently came to the same kind of realization as Cheryl, above, and here's what I did.

I made a list of the things that would make me feel better that I would be able to realistically achieve, and in short order. First up: instead of scrolling down my Facebook page on my BART/bus commute, I now read a book. Secondly, I plan my cooking every Sunday night for the week by doing one big shopping trip so that I have all the ingredients I need to make healthy and quick dinners with my family. Lastly, I pack my lunch every day so that I can take my lunch hour at work to exercise. I'm not interested in training for a marathon; I just want to get my heart rate up for 30-45 minutes. 

Within a week of instituting these few easy rules, I was feeling tremendously better, both mentally and physically. And I made all the changes within the time I already have, time I was using for other things I decided were not priorities.

So, here's my tried and true advise to you: Choose one thing to let go. If your child can do an independent activity, or hang out with your partner or other family member, during a time you'd normally spend with her, then give up that time slot and replace it with something on your self-care list. And make it a routine; don't just do it once, or it won't seem real or sustainable. Or perhaps you can offload a time-consuming chore, such as laundry, to someone else in your household, freeing up time for you to have an hour to yourself. Look at your typical schedule to figure out what is not essential, or where you might be able to use time more wisely.

 

What's Tops on Your List?

Many Circle of Moms communities talk about not feeling healthy — not eating right, not exercising enough, not having the time to take care of themselves properly. Cheryl C., for one, had an epiphany that somehow, in some way, her life needed to change, or she was in danger of sinking into what she feared was an inconsolable depression. She feels overwhelmed by all of the things about her life that need changing, yet she doesn't have quality time to address them.

It isn't realistic to transform your life overnight, and it isn't even realistic, in most situations, to take on multiple categories of wellness and self-care simultaneously (sleep, diet, exercise, time for yourself). But Nita N. took an approach that seems doable; she identiied what was bugging her most — being alone with her baby all day — and found a way to address it. She joined a mom-baby walking group and a special movie screening at which babies are welcome. She says that these activities will give her a sense of relaxation, if not a complete break from one-on-one childcare.

Another Circle of Moms member, Tamara P. decided that tops on her list was to give up her obsession with housekeeping. She can't afford to pay a house-cleaner but realized that cleaning was taking up too much of her time — both quality time for herself, and time with her daughter. Now she does the bare minimum and deep-cleans once a month rather than once a week. The result: The whole family is happier! Angel K. sums up this view, which she shares, as "giving up perfection."

What's on your list? Is it not having enough time to read the newspaper, or a chapter of a book? Is it that you enjoy cooking, but don't have time to fully appreciate the experience? Or perhaps it's that you love to exercise, but can't seem to work it into your busy schedule?

As Katherine C. points out, your top priority on your self-care list likely falls into one of two categories: physical health or mental health, i.e., sanity. These are certainly related and influence each other deeply, but they are not the same thing.

Starting Small, at The Top

One way to figure out what's most important to you right now is to ask yourself what makes you feel better — meditating quietly before the kids wake up, daydreaming, visualizing — or perhaps walking around the park at lunch or taking a long bath and stretching your body? These are the things you should focus on. It's really that simple. Identify something you can let go of, and replace that space in your calendar with a priority from your self-care list. You might be surprised how much you take on that is actually more voluntary than essential. And what you end up doing, over time, whether it's for your mental or physical health, will improve the other as well.

Image Source: Courtesy of Will Ockenden via Flickr/Creative Commons

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, POPSUGAR.

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