Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Taking Care of Me

Apparently it takes me multiple experiences to learn the same lesson: I need to take care of myself first.  I've been inching my way in the right direction for a while now but it's time to get even more focused. We all know that self-care is important but sometimes we trick ourselves into what that looks like or that we'll get to it "soon".  Maybe I'm conceited and prideful thinking I can do it all–I need a good dose of humble pie, over and over.

Being part of various communities from fostering to special needs to faith to work, there is a lot of pressure to do all you can to help those you love. You feel like you are doing a lot and then see that someone else is fostering three kids and you just have one. Someone else has more difficult struggles in parenting.  Someone else is helping out at Sunday School every week AND organizes a meal train AND leads a Bible Study. Someone else is working full time and their kids are still in activities. What? How can I keep up? Where is the line between being there for others and being the best that YOU can be? I know that comparison is the thief of joy but I do truly wonder how others do what they do. I know I need to reevaluate what works for our family frequently as our needs are constantly changing. I need to stop comparing what I can or cannot do.

The first time I struggled with the balance between doing and being was when I was diagnosed with Graves' Disease in 2009. I realized my body could not handle stress the way it once did. In 2016 we closed our photography business. I felt a lot of guilt over it as people would say "You have a gift, you should use it!" But, it wasn't fun any more and it was taking away from prime family time. With that, I have felt bad about not utilizing my photography services in a volunteer capacity either – again I heard, "use your gifts" which is something I hear so often in Christian circles. Sometimes you just need a break; I want to be a cheerful giver, not a resentful one.

Over the past few years we have experienced more stress in our home in parenting (our biological and foster children) and this has resulted in my body shutting down in the fall. I know I need a good night's sleep. I know I need ample exercise. I know I need healthy meals. I know I need child-free time.  However, when you're in a type of survival mode those things that you need to be your best self seem unattainable. You get some food and drink into your body and an inadequate amount of sleep each night, and just function. I now feel that I have a one-inch layer of insulation all over my body and it allows me to still do what I need to do but it does not feel like my body.

Over the winter I have spent time and energy reflecting and focusing. I went to counselling. I started running five days a week on my treadmill. When our Little One left our home last month, we decided to take a break as the next few months would be extra busy for us with the kids' sports and classes for Gary and I. Just because I could do something doesn't mean I should. Maybe that sounds selfish but it's what I need to be the best version of myself: strong, patient and loving. Irritable Louise is not pleasant.

Our family has always valued health and has been pretty good about eating homemade meals, getting enough sleep, and spending time in the great outdoors. I know that this can be improved upon and will be taking small steps to make it a greater priority. I want to wake up each morning and think "I feel great!" not "Well, time to make it through another day."

I'm starting a 12-week challenge next week; it involves an exercise and nutritional program. My goal is not to lose weight, it is to make my body leaner and stronger which I have done before. I want it to be a life-long change and not just a three month one. I love how strong my body is and what it can do. The older I get the harder it is for my body to bounce back from stress, poor eating and lack of sleep. I want to be able to hike the West Coast Trail with my kids in five years. I want to have patience for my family. I want to have the energy required to do life well. I have written about self-care before here and know that now I just need to take it up just a notch.

{Above is from 2015 when I was feeling so good!}

{This is my "before" photo of my arms from today. Lean and strong–here I come! I had to take photos in a bathing suit today for my "before" and if I'm feeling brave in 12 weeks, I'll share the before and after.}

Is this lesson, the importance of taking care of yourself, something that you have had to learn multiple times over your life as well? What do you do to be the best that you can be?


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