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“Nourishing yourself in a way that helps you blossom in the direction you want to go is attainable, and you are worth the effort.” ~ Deborah Day
How often do you feel drained and find yourself wishing for more hours in the day? You know you need a break and promise that as soon as you finish just one more thing, you will take some time for yourself. The problem is, there is always just one more thing.
In today’s fast-paced world, everyone seems busy ALL the time. There’s barely any room in our schedules for sleep much less time to practice regular self-care. Self-care is basically the things we do to take care of ourselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It’s our first line of defense to deal with the natural ups and downs life throws our way. Self-care can be as simple as taking a walk or as extravagant as taking a trip to the spa.
The concept of self-care isn’t a new one. It’s just that it’s been overshadowed by the idea that hard work leads to success. People are too busy trying to meet deadlines, run households, and tackle endless tasks to take time out for self-care. They have convinced themselves that they don’t have the time or that they don’t deserve to be pampered and nurtured.
Some people are so committed to working hard that they feel guilty when they stop and take time for themselves. These are usually the people who never take a vacation or use a sick day. They will sacrifice self-care in a heartbeat if it interferes with their busy lives. When their lives get hectic, the first things they give up are the things that help them maintain good health and balance. For example, fitness and nutrition goals become a thing of the past because grabbing fast food and ditching the gym frees up time for them to meet their obligations.
Unfortunately, I was one of those people who needed self-care but never made it a priority. I found out the hard way that not making time for me was detrimental to my emotional well-being and my ability to cope with stressful situations.
I characterized myself as a hard worker and I completely believed that if I wanted to be successful, I had to make sacrifices. When I worked outside the home, this meant working on my days off, checking e-mails from home, and overachieving in order to gain the approval of my boss and colleagues. It also meant skipping lunch so I could find time to meet with clients and write up reports.
When I became a stay at home mom, I thought I would have more time for me, but that was not the case. I didn’t have clients and meetings anymore, but my to-do list was filled to capacity. Between chores, doctor’s appointments, extracurricular activities for the kids, and volunteering at their school, I found myself feeling frazzled and always tired.
By the end of each day I was exhausted, but gosh darn it I was able to check off all the tasks I completed on my to-do list. It wasn’t long before I found myself in a slump. I was burned out and disappointed with my life. I couldn’t think of one more meal to plan, one more way to teach math to a second grader, or one more strategy to help the kids get along. I didn’t even have the energy to do the things I loved. All I wanted to do was sleep and eat ice cream.
As fate would have it, one day a friend invited me to Montauk, NY for a mom’s weekend getaway. This turned out to be the medicine I needed to get out of my funk.
The train ride alone to my friend’s house was relaxing. I got lost in the beautiful scenery and forgot about my fears of not being a good enough wife and mother. My worry of not living up to my potential was replaced by a soothing calm that let me know that I was exactly where I needed to be, doing exactly what I needed to be doing.
While in Montauk, I allowed myself to enjoy the breathtaking view of the water, to indulge in fresh, delicious seafood, and a glass of wine here and there. We had bonfires on the beach and joked about how much motherhood changed our lives. We laughed from our bellies and connected with our younger, more carefree selves. I felt our collective stress roll out to sea in the abyss of the ocean that surrounded us.
I left Montauk feeling rejuvenated, grateful for the countless blessings in my life, more in love with my husband, and donning a brand new tattoo to signify that love. (OK the tattoo was more about freeing my inner wild side!)
When I got home, the kids seemed calmer and I saw them with new eyes. I saw them as the wonderful gift they are instead of as little tyrants hell bent on destroying our home and my sanity. I felt grounded and they sensed it.
My brain just functioned better and I could see solutions to problems that overwhelmed me prior to my Montauk getaway. For instance, when the kids started bickering I was able to talk to them like a rational adult instead of losing it and giving out unrealistic punishments because I’m at my wits end. I came home with a desire to eat better, exercise regularly, and to set realistic expectations for myself.
My Montauk experience was a reset button and it showed me that I needed to invest time in taking care of me. Now that I have experienced the benefits of self-care, I want to make it a regular part of my life. As much as I wish I could get away to Montauk all the time, that’s not happening! Here are some helpful ways I have found to incorporate regular self-care into any busy schedule. Remember, before making any changes to your diet and fitness routine, please consult your physician.
- Develop healthy eating habits. Given that we are so busy these days, it’s easy to opt for fast food instead of preparing something at home. Even the thought of eating healthier can be overwhelming. However, you don’t need to overhaul your entire diet all at once. Start out small. For instance, maybe at first you can commit to eating 5 servings of fruits and veggies daily. As this becomes part of your regular diet you can add more to your nutrition goals.
- Create an exercise routine. There are many health benefits to regular exercise. For example, 30 minutes of exercise for 5 days per week has been shown to lessen symptoms of depression and sadness. You don’t have to run a marathon to reap the benefits of exercise. Start out by taking a 20 minute walk 3-4 times a week and build up from there. Just being outside and moving your body will put you in a good mood.
- Get adequate sleep. Getting sufficient sleep is essential to our overall well-being. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults between the ages of 18 and 64 get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. You can make sure you get enough sleep by going to bed at a reasonable time every night. For example, you can plan on going to sleep at 10pm every night to ensure that you get enough sleep.
- Schedule yearly physicals. Getting yearly physicals helps you keep on top of the condition of your body. They lessen the likelihood that you will miss minor health complications and have them develop into something more complicated. Sickness has a way of exacerbating stress, therefore maintaining good health needs to be a priority.
- Develop healthy emotional habits. Take the time to check in and see how you are feeling emotionally and mentally. Sometimes we get so caught up in the day to day that we lose sight of mounting stress or feelings of depression and anxiety. Be aware of your feelings, allow yourself to feel them, and address whatever situation is at the root of how you are feeling. If you choose to ignore your feelings, they will eat at you and in the long run will cause you more stress.
- Focus on the present moment. Many of us spend our time reliving the past or planning out our future which keeps us from the present moment. When we aren’t focused on the present moment, we tend to fill our minds with negative thoughts such as I wish I had done things differently or I wish they treated me better. Sometimes this leads us to feel disappointed in ourselves for not being where we want to be in life or depressed because we can’t make amends with our past. Each moment you are absent from the present moment is a missed opportunity to appreciate your life as it is and experience peace and calm in the now.
- Practice meditation and deep breathing. Meditation and deep breathing relieves stress and anxiety by bringing calm and balance to your daily life. The best part is that you don’t have to spend hours in silence in order to gain the health benefits of meditation and deep breathing. Start out meditating for five minutes and build up how long you meditate for over time. Quieting your mind for even a few minutes will help you feel rejuvenated.
- Put down all electronics and unplug. There are so many gadgets on the market to occupy our attention. If it’s not our devices that are keeping us plugged in, it’s our social media accounts that have us captivated. Sometimes you have to unplug for a few minutes or hours in order to recharge. Remember, your brain needs to rest if you want it to work efficiently. I know it can be hard to unplug, but start out by carving out 15 minutes of no screen time and build up from there.
- Spend time with friends and family. Having the support of your friends and family is a wonderful thing. Sometimes you just need people you love and trust to vent to in order to feel better. The very fact that they are there for you is comforting. This is why it’s important to nurture positive relationships with your friends and family. This includes spending time with them. If nothing else, it gets you out of the house and hopefully out of your head. Commit to meeting up with friends and family once a month for at least an hour to hang out and recharge. If you pick the right people to spend your time with, you won’t regret it!
- Do something you love. You’re probably thinking “who has time for a hobby?” Well…you should. Taking time out to do things you enjoy will not only make you feel good, but it also gives you the motivation to do the things that you are not so fond of doing. If you feel like all you do with your time is work, it’s hard to stay motivated. Give yourself permission to do something fun you have been putting off or to resume a hobby you stopped doing because life took over. You only live once…enjoy it!
I would love to hear from you how you practice self-care!