We seem to be in a new age of consciousness when it comes to raising our kids. We read books on parenting. We obsess over what they’re eating. We schedule activities. We put aside money in RESPs. We endlessly discuss choices, ideas, and ways to improve the lives of our children. And then, after all that work, we keep ourselves up at night wondering if we’re doing a good enough job.
When you think about it, our children are really lucky! This might be the best time in the history of humankind to be a child. But let’s not forget, that as parents, and people, we need that same care. And no one else can do it for us.
Self-care is a gift that you have to give to yourself over and over, in order to be the best possible version of that incomparable you.
In my experience, these 4 things have made the most positive and lasting contribution to my happiness. They take time and consistent effort, but without them, I become irritable, exhausted, and impatient. With them, I am a source of energy, compassion, and creativity. Even though I often have to talk myself into making these things a priority, I am always, always, so glad I did!
1) MEDITATION: Did you know the average person has approximately 40,000 thoughts per day? Our minds are constantly racing; attempting to arrange the pieces of this never-ending puzzle of life. We need relief from this deluge.
Meditation can be as simple as reading a book intently, weeding your garden, or repeating a Sanskrit phrase for 3 minutes. Whatever form you choose, allow yourself a small space each day where you are more than just a series of thoughts in your brain.
If you’re unsure where to start, I found The Chopra Center’s 21 Day Meditation challenge to be a great introduction to meditation. After a few days, I began to crave that time where I could be free from my meandering, repetitive thoughts, and feel profoundly grounded.
2) SLEEP: You know that terrible saying, “You can sleep when you’re dead?” Well, ahem, you can’t. But if you don’t get adequate sleep now, you are shortening your life span!(1) A chronic lack of sufficient sleep has been associated with: high blood pressure, diabetes, decrease in sex drive, decrease in long-term memory, increase in obesity, increase in depression and anxiety, and much, much more. (2)
We may not be able to get our perfect 8 hours a night every night, because let’s face it, our children sometimes need us during those hours. But, we can avoid staying up late trying to catch up on things we think we should do. Laundry. Dishes. Your latest netflix binge. It’s okay to do those things once in a while, but not night after night at the expense of your health.
3) PERSONAL CARE: I rarely wear makeup or dress up, but I very much admire a well-put together woman. I read once that you should wash your hair the day before you really need to, and that has seriously (and sadly) stuck with me. I always feel kind of amazing after I put in the effort to wash and style my hair. But, the prospect of doing so always makes me put it off for another day when I have more time.
But time, my friends, is very elusive. So, I urge you to seize the day and take that extra time to do whatever it is that makes you feel kind of amazing. Isn’t it so much nicer to look in the mirror and say “Wow!” instead of “Whoa!” Think about it.
4) EXERCISE:This one is a win-win. When you exercise, you, a) feel more energetic and b) are healthier, and therefore, c) look and feel better!
I know the list of reasons why you don’t have time to work out is long,but the benefits are so extraordinary that you’ve got to dismiss the list. The list will be there literally every day of your life, so put yourself on the list too.
A recent study has proposed that exercising for as little as 15 minutes a day can increase your life expectancy by three years! (3) Exercising can improve your mood, sex drive, and sleep, as well as prevent and manage a vast range of health problems.(4)
As parents, we need our energy levels to be at maximum, and the ONLY way to do that is to be active (and of course, sleep remember?). My cousin once said, “the hardest part of working out is putting on your shoes.” And it’s true. Once you get those shoes on and commit to your workout, it’s all downhill! The energy you receive is its own reward.
You may have to experiment a little to find out what kind of a schedule and practice work for you. But just start with something that feels good. Maybe you like to sweat it out on the treadmill or shake your butt in Zumba. Whatever works for you is what works! I know I often get too caught up in what the RIGHT form of exercise is when really any type of movement will do just fine. It has to fit into your regular life or you won’t do it. And you must do it!
If you read all of this and still feel like you don’t have time, either you’re not being honest with yourself or you’re expectations are way too high. Meditation can be as simple as 3 slow breaths before you get out of bed. Exercise can be a 15 minute walk around your neighbourhood. If it’s a priority for you, you will find the time. It’s a lot easier to give to your family when you have a reserve to draw from. So make sure your inner well is always full. Your children will thank you for it!