Updated: May 9, 2019
What do you do every day to take care of yourself? Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually. Do you feel stressed, fatigued, or depressed? If so, your mind and body are trying to tell you something. Perhaps you need to slow down and relax. Taking a break every now and then will help to refuel you.
Self-care is not selfish. Actively and consistently taking charge of your overall health and well-being is essential. For when we take good care of ourselves, we are better able to give to others. Harmony within ourselves also creates harmony in our relationships. We find balance. I feel that I am a better mother when I get adequate sleep and do things I enjoy to help me unwind and fight my depression. Whenever I'm pregnant, my health becomes an even higher priority, as I am more conscientious about my diet--because I know that my lifestyle choices directly affect my baby.
This week has been National Self-Care Week (November 12-18th). Today would be a good day to create a daily, weekly, and monthly self-care routine. You can write it out in list form and stick it on your fridge, put it on a physical or electronic calendar, set reminders up on your phone--however.
Here are 10 ways you can nourish your mind, body, and soul on a regular basis--and create harmony in your life.
1. Sleep and meditate
Most adults need about 7-8 hrs of sleep every night. This is when our body repairs and restores itself--physically and cognitively. So sleep has a major impact on our quality of life. I used to skimp on sleep and it often takes me a long time to fall asleep. But I know that if I stay up too late, I'm going to be more irritable the next day. I'll be dragging my feet, and it will be difficult to find the motivation and energy I need to do chores and take care of my kids. So as I've gotten older, I've become more disciplined. And exhausted and ready to hit the sack. In addition to getting adequate sleep at night, taking short naps every now and then is a great way to rest and recharge. I have also found other relaxing activities to be helpful--including meditation, deep breathing techniques, prayer, and yoga.
There are some great meditation apps out there for recording mantras and self affirmations--to help change your thinking patterns. (Try Mantra, Calm, ThinkUp, and HeadSpace). With consistency, this positive self-talk can give you a great self-esteem boost and help fight depression. It has definitely helped me.
2. Eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly
What we put into our bodies is so important. Food keeps us alive....in case you didn't know. This includes drinking lots of water! I've heard the recommendation of drinking half your body weight in ounces (and increasing your intake if you live in a hot climate or are exercising). I've never been good at drinking enough water every day, but I am trying (and since I take a gazillion medications and vitamins every day, my water intake has improved). Yesterday I set an hourly alarm on my phone that reminds me to get a drink of water. So buy a nice, durable water bottle and take it wherever you go. Always have it handy where you can see it--and better yet, reach it.
A few years ago, I learned that I have a fairly common genetic mutation (heterozygous for MTHFR-C677T). Put simply, my metabolic system is a little impaired (it particularly cannot process folic acid) and my body has a difficult time eliminating toxins. Because of this, and the increased risk of various auto-immune diseases and what not, it is advised to eat whole and organic foods and to use natural household, cleaning, and beauty products.
I also recently took a food sensitivities test. Of the 29 common allergenic foods I was tested for, I had a reaction to 28 of them. Yikes. I have already been trying to limit my gluten and dairy a little bit the past couple of years, but I've become more strict in my diet after receiving these results. I love ice cream, dang it. Not cool. In addition to gluten and dairy, I'm trying to avoid corn and soy. I also reacted to a lot of different grains, but my doctor still wants me to eat them so that I don't lose weight (because I'm barely over 100 lbs). It's difficult staying disciplined--especially when you purchase and prepare the foods you can't eat for your other family members. Hello temptation. But I just discovered the meal delivery company Green Chef (get 4 free meals with your first order). I have also loved using Home Chef (get $30 off), Hello Fresh (get $40 off), and Blue Apron for the past couple of years, but Green Chef caters to more specific diets--including gluten free and Paleo, which my doctor has recommended).
So it has been overwhelming, but at the same time, a relief to find out about all of this; to finally get some answers, and get to the root of some of the symptoms I have been experiencing for the past several years.
I was diagnosed with Osteoporosis about a year and a half ago (at only 27 years old). I have Osteopenia (precursor to Osteoporosis) in my spine and severe Osteoporosis in my hips. There are several contributing factors as far as the cause, but my doctor thinks that my "leaky gut" and gluten sensitivity has probably played a role in my bone loss. This chronic inflammation and auto-immune response in my body has probably led to malabsorption of important vitamins and minerals.
In addition to the fact that I have a small, petite frame--and have Scoliosis, Kyphosis, and Lordosis (basically, a skiwampus back)....another likely contributing cause of my Osteoporosis has been the very little exercise I've done in my life. So I'm preaching to myself here. I know that exercise is super important for both our physical and mental health. It's just a matter of finding the motivation and energy to do it (which is especially difficult when you're feeling depressed; yet, that's when you need it the most!) What are some of your favorite forms of exercise? If you follow a routine that's been very beneficial for you, leave me some tips in the comments. We're in this together.
Here are some vitamin supplement companies that I like and the products I have tried:
This is a great multivitamin I give my kids. Organic, non-GMO, allergen free, no synthetic colors or artificial flavors. And it also contains omega-3 and probiotics--as well as the natural form of folic acid (L-methylfolate), which is especially important for those with the MTHFR genetic mutation.
Plexus (I sell their products, which are all great for gut health; I particularly like their multi-vitamin: X-Factor Plus and Omega supplement, and great probiotics as well)
doTERRA (I sell their products as well, and I use essential oils on a regular basis; I particularly love lavender and frankincense--and the blends, "Balance," "Passion," "Console," "InTune," "Breathe," "On Guard," and their "Deep Blue" products).
Feel free to send me a private message for more specific info!
3. Take care of personal hygiene and hit the spa
When you're feeling depressed, it's also easy to want to stay in your pjs all day. To not shower or do your makeup. Especially when you're a stay-at-home mom, on those days when you don't need to go anywhere. Been there, done that. And while lounging around the house in your sweatpants every now and then can be relaxing--not getting ready for the day can set you up for failure. And you'll just compound your depression.
My husband was deployed overseas with
the Army last year and was gone for
almost a whole year. I told myself that I
would still shower and do my makeup
every day. I would not "let myself go." Feeling pretty and good about myself,
even when my husband wasn't there, helped me to be less depressed. So I have been striving to be better about getting up and showing up. Make the bed, shower, and get ready for the day. And not later in the day or eventually--but first thing. Start your day out right.
Besides this basic self-care, scheduling a massage, hair, or nail appointment,
or taking a warm bubble bath--every now and then, are also great stress-relievers. You
4. Listen to or read self-help podcasts and books
Filling my mind with positive thoughts through these different resources has helped me immensely. There is so much to learn! The past few months I have been listening to a few awesome self-help podcasts. Totally recommend them. "Better Than Happy" with Jody Moore (she teaches with LDS values); "The Life Coach School" with master coach Brooke Castillo (who was Jody's mentor); and "Rise" with Rachel Hollis. You can subscribe to their weekly podcasts for free on iTunes. They both cover a wide variety of topics--basically how to overcome different trials in life. It's kind of like seeing a therapist for free. I like listening in the morning while I'm getting ready for the day, or while I'm doing dishes.
Read inspirational quotes or Bible verses. Religion can add so much meaning to your life. My faith has really enriched mine. It has helped me to find purpose, healing, and joy. So whatever you can find that is uplifting for you--learn about it. Knowledge is power.
5. Watch or participate in the arts
Take it from me--the arts can be very therapeutic. I'm passionate about every art form. There's a fire that burns inside me to create and to inspire. For me, the arts seem to have some sort of electric power; it fuels my soul and lights me up with such emotional intensity. It makes me feel whole.
So if you'd like to have more harmony in your life--to strengthen your relationships, to find inner peace and learn to love yourself--like I'm striving to do....listen to some harmony that is, listen to some beautiful and uplifting music. Dance. Paint. Watch a play or be in one yourself. Write a poem. And you can find healing.
Check out these other blog posts I wrote:
6. Spend time outside
"Green time" is a great way to take care of yourself. You get Vitamin D from the sun, which helps with depression. Fresh air.
You can just sit there and bask in the beauty of nature; jog with a friend outside; participate in an enjoyable activity with your family, etc. (which, the exercise and social life is like double the dopamine hit!). I know when you're feeling depressed, it can be hard to get out of the house sometimes- but it really can give your mood a boost.
7. Get social
Surround yourself around supportive family and friends who love you. Stay away from negativity and toxic relationships. And even if you have social anxiety, like I do, you have to face your fears. As human beings, we need each other--and we thrive on love and connection.
Our relationships with others are an integral part of our existence, and make life meaningful. So find little ways to strengthen your marriage. Schedule a date night every week, or a couple times a month. Spend quality time with your family and go on vacations. And when we take care of and learn to love ourselves, we are better able to love and serve others--which in turn, makes us happy (as well as them).
8. Do something you enjoy
What are you passionate about or love doing? Have some "me time" by taking a break every day from all the things you "have" to do. Even if it's for only 10 minutes. Find a hobby. Learn something new. Or just simply take a breather and relax for a moment. Get involved in your community or church. Take a class. Play a board game or watch a movie. Laugh. Self care can also mean that you don't say "yes" to everything. So don't overbook yourself; you'll just end up being stressed and burnt out. Embrace a little "nothingness."
9. Have an "attitude of gratitude"
Keep a gratitude journal or say aloud five things you're thankful for when you wake up or go to bed. Sometimes when my husband and I climb into bed and say prayer together, we'll also ask each other, "what was the highlight of your day?"
Check out these iPhone apps to guide you:
I read a study a while back that said that just the simple act of thinking about what you're grateful for--the actual process of your brain searching for something positive, before you've even chosen what that is--can help you to feel happier. It takes time to rewire your brain, which can naturally scan for negative things. I've heard it said, "what you search for, you will find;" for instance, if you look for the bad in a person, you will find it. But practicing gratitude can make you feel more satisfied with your life as a whole. It will help you to focus on the positive.
10. Unplug, detox, and avoid fake "self-care"
Take a break from social media and screen time (check out my recent blog post, "The Social Media and Music Fast Challenge"). Detox physically and emotionally. Don't turn to what you think is "self-care"--that is, escapes from pain (such as alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling, or promiscuous sex).
You may think these things make you happy, and they might in the short-term--but it damages your body and spirit in the long-term. It destroys marriages and relationships. These things only put a "band-aid" on the wound. Relief is temporary. Not addressing your emotions or getting to the root of the problem will just make it worse. You get stuck in addiction and misery. So self-care isn't just about doing the "good," but avoiding the "bad" too.
So take care of yourself. You can make time for it. Have a plan. Set some goals. And stick to it. Start with one thing at a time, if you have to, so that you don't get too overwhelmed. Having an accountability partner or friend to do these things with can help you to be consistent. In fact, I can be that person for you...because you'll find me struggling and striving to do my best right along with you. We got this!