I am not a health care professional or counselor but I am a 38-year-old type A mom of three biological kids and one foster child who has struggled with an autoimmune disease. I know the impact that stress can have on my life and have learned various ways to deal with it.
Here are 10 ways to take care of yourself in order to help have an optimal state of health:
1. Eating healthy. Before you think "It's too much work and the food is boring!" I can tell you that recipes have come so far in the past 10 years. As a person who was off of refined sugar for over a year, I felt amazing. We have let it creep back in a little but we are still pretty conscious of it in our lives. If someone makes a delicious homemade baked good, I will eat it because it's worth it, but otherwise, I pass on a lot of treats–except ice cream which is amazing and always worth it. Don't you feel so much better after eating a delicious home-cooked meal rather than a fast food one? Although it takes a certain amount of effort to eat healthy, it is satisfying. Some of my favourite healthy cookbooks are The Looneyspoons Collection and Oh She Glows (this is not a sponsored post). The easiest way to cut out sugar is in your drinks–liquid sugar is hard on your body. If you are feeling tired, make sure that your iron levels are ideal. I also take vitamins and fish oil every day.
2. Stay active. For me, I try to get 10,000 steps a day. For you it might be going for a walk with a friend, heading out on your bike, or going to swim laps. I try to start my morning with a small doable workout each day–just 15 minutes on the treadmill and I feel so much better (it ends up being about 3 times a week). It is so easy to just sit and read and watch Netflix or check Facebook but keeping your body strong is important. If you are looking to involve your kids, my son does Go Noodle at school and really enjoys it.
4. Have a creative outlet. Whether it is painting, writing, crafting, sewing, or photography, find a way to express yourself in that manner. I personally love photography. When we're hiking I always have my camera with me; it's not necessarily to document the hike but to search for a way to capture the moment creatively. I often like to go for walks by myself with my camera so that I can just get "lost" in nature. If you do not have a creative outlet, I would encourage you to try some out.
5. Sleep. This might be hard for some individuals who struggle with insomnia or have kids keeping them awake at night, but if you can, try to make this a priority. If I'm not asleep by midnight, I take 5 mg of melatonin. Consider what your optimal number of hours a night would be and try to make it happen. For me, I "need" 8 hours a night and that is what I go for. Although I love my "me time" at night, I try to get everything done during the day (gift of being a SAHM) so that once the kids are in bed, I can relax.
6. Talk to someone. Whether it's a trusted friend or a trained psychologist, make sure you have someone that you can share with. My counsellor recommended that everyone should see a psychologist every 5 years or so for a "tune up" and I agree. They are trained and often have great tidbits and perspectives to impart.
7. Take care of your social needs. How often do you need to be around friends and family? Are you around them too much? For me, meeting with my coffee group once a week and one friend one-on-one is the perfect amount. Consider what would be ideal for you and make it happen. I would also encourage you to take a break from social media and connect with people in real life. I love travelling or adventuring days because I'm not online.
8. Consider your prayer life. If your life is faith-based, check in with yourself on how you're doing in that way. I'm terrible at anything beyond a one minute prayer. I know that this is an area that I need to work on as I do believe I have very little control in my life and need to cast my worries somewhere. You can also try listening to a beautiful song and allow yourself to connect with the words. Anyone else end up in tears when singing at church?
9. Take time for your hobbies. Whether it's playing on a sports team, reading a good book, or going to the movies, make it a priority. On a Saturday afternoon I will often escape to my room for an hour with a book or two. Sometimes Gary will take the kids out of the house so that I can read in complete peace and quiet. Exhale.
10. Take a hot shower or bath. After a hard day (okay, after any day really), I love having a hot shower–it is so soothing! I know some people really love their baths and there are many products to make it more enjoyable. I should add that my husband has become an expert foot massager (this happened in year 11 of our marriage in case you are still waiting for it) and he will often give me a fantastic foot rub while we watch a show together–this is my favourite time of day.
These are just some ideas for self-care and I'm not expert; I'm just a woman who has experienced her body shutting down several times because I wasn't implementing enough self-care into my life. The hardest part about it is making it a priority–set aside the time and energy to invest in yourself. I would encourage you to do something every day starting with today.
I'd love to hear what you do to take care of yourself and if you don't currently do much, please start and let me know how it goes!