Health Self-Care Mini-Series

Click here to listen to this blog post on my podcast, Living to Become.

Hey guys!

Welcome back!

So in the last post of this mini-series on self-care, I talked all about what self-care is and why it’s so incredibly important.

I also briefly discussed that there are different ways to practice self-care in the 5 different areas of our lives.

So today I will be discussing all things health. And I’m not just talking about physical health here, but also mental health and how just little changes can reap HUGE rewards.

Now I said this in the last episode, don’t let this get overwhelming for you. If you struggle in all these areas, please don’t think that you need to go and do them all right now.

As I go through these thoughts and suggestions, see if one of them resonates with you. Chances are you’ve already been thinking about improving in that area.

Let this be your moment and let it be a catalyst for change.

It’s possible too that just the thought of changing up even one of these things sends your monkey brain or critter brain, whatever you want to call it, spiraling out of control.

Thoughts of, “well, I can’t do that” or “that sounds all well and good, but that could never work for me” could leave you feeling maybe a little paralyzed.

If this is you, don’t beat yourself up about it.

Take a step back, acknowledge that part of yourself that is resisting, and then take a deep breath.

That part of you that might be resisting is just the part of you that has kept you alive for this long and so it’s saying,

“Hey! Why change things up?! We’ve stayed alive for this long. Why mess around with it?”

By stepping back and acknowledging those feelings instead of fighting them, you put yourself in a better place for small steps toward change.

Once you’ve done that, choose one area you want to focus on and then find one little thing within that category that you can set your intentions on.

Then it will be less likely to set off that flight, fight or freeze response.

And if you don’t struggle at all with any of this then HOORAY for you and I’m amazed that you’re even still here listening, but most likely all of us, myself included, can always find a way to become a little bit better in each of these areas.

So let’s jump into a few of the ways that you can practice a little self-care in your health.

 

Let’s start with sleep.

I’m sure you’ve been told that sleep is essential to your health, but how many of you actually prioritize this critical piece of your care.

I could talk for a really long time on the importance of sleep, but that could totally be its own topic, so I will leave you with just a few highlights.

Some of the benefits of a good night’s sleep are better-regulated blood sugar levels, it keeps your immune system at its best, helps improve concentration and productivity, and can even improve your heart health by decreasing stress.

Those with poor sleep habits are also more likely to increase their risk of obesity, depression, and increased inflammation.

YIKES!!

Alrighty, so y’all know now, if you didn’t all ready, how important sleep is. But how do we improve our sleep habits for better self-care? Let me tell you…

First, stick to a schedule.

Our bodies all have a natural rhythm to them. In Ayurveda, an ancient Hindu medical system, they believe that you go through cycles throughout the day. They are called Doshas. I won’t go into that right now, but just know that you all have a time in the evening where you naturally start to feel the urge to wind down. Some of you might not recognize it, because you’ve pushed past it so many times, but it’s there. Once you do push past it, you move into another Dosha and that’s what a lot of people call “a second wind”.

If this is the self-care method you choose to focus on, your goal should be to set an alarm for when you will start to wind down for bed and stick with that time. The dishes and laundry will wait till tomorrow. So go to bed.

Second, unwind before bedtime.

I like to call this a “power-down hour”. One hour before bed, power down your phone, tablet, computer, etc. This will get your body physically and psychologically ready for sleep. This routine will also help you get to sleep at a regular time consistently, which will help you reset your circadian rhythm, which is important if you have been ignoring that natural cycle for a while. So take this hour to journal your thoughts and concerns, read, take a warm bath, meditate, or anything else that might help your mind unwind. -> Hey! That rhymed J

Third, create a relaxing atmosphere.

How does your bedroom make you feel when you go to bed at night? Is there clutter that as you’re trying to drift off, you’re left thinking “Hmm…I should really take care of that,” or is there a pile of laundry in the corner of the room that keeps whispering throughout the night “fold me. FOLD ME.”

If this is one of the steps you choose to take for improving your self-care and sleep, get rid of the clutter and create a zen-like space. Even if you can’t get to folding the laundry today, throw it in the laundry room or hallway. I know! This is SO not the Marie Kondo way, but when it comes to prioritizing your sleep, it is a must. So do it! Again, the laundry, the clutter, whatever it is, will be there tomorrow, just not in your bedroom. And because you got a good night’s sleep, you’ll be better suited to tackle it the following day. And to go a step further, try and put pictures and other items that bring you comfort and peace.

I heard somewhere that for anyone with kids that you shouldn’t have any pictures of your kids in your bedroom. I can totally see what they’re getting at. Not sure I totally agree, but if that’s something that might resonate with you, it might be worth a try to move the kiddo pictures and put them somewhere else in the house.

And lastly, avoid caffeine after 2 pm and heavy foods right before bed.

Caffeine stimulates the nervous system and can prevent your body from relaxing at night. So it’s a good rule to follow, don’t consume caffeine after lunch and watch what you eat after dinner if anything at all.

Now let’s move on to my next idea for health self-care:

Exercise-

this is another one of those topics that I could spend a long time on, but I’ll try and keep it brief so that we can move on to other awesome self-care methods.

Studies have shown that consistent exercise helps us both physically and mentally. It boosts our mood, reduces feelings of stress and anxiety, increases our productivity and mental focus, not to mention helps us shed extra weight.

And again, we all know this right?! Somehow though, it’s one of the first things to go when we get busy. So what are some ways that we can overcome our barriers and put exercise at the top of our priority list?

Might I suggest adding your workout to your calendar like it’s an appointment that can’t be missed is a really good option?

You wouldn’t miss an important Dr. appointment for your health and working out is as equally important. So schedule it in.

If that doesn’t sit right with you, remember that exercise doesn’t have to be done in one big chunk of time and it doesn’t have to be structured. If you don’t see yourself doing a full-on workout routine, try doing a 10-minute bodyweight circuit in your kitchen in the morning and then in the afternoon have a dance sesh with your kiddos or take a walk around your neighborhood.

The goal here is to just get your body moving.

And when you’re lacking motivation, let me add this little thought for you to mull over. Robert McKain wrote that “action precedes motivation.” So basically, if you’re waiting for the motivation to come before the workout, most likely you’ll be waiting for forever. More often than not, exercise is a case of as Nike would say “just do it!”

Exercise, movement…whatever you want to call it… DO IT!

Next, let’s talk about eating right-O.K.

Let me be very clear here. When I say eating right, I’m not talking about dieting. I’m talking about properly fueling your body with all the good things it needs to function at its highest capacity. Our bodies need protein, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, and yes, even some carbs. And yet too often, we use saturated fats, LOTS of sugar, and processed foods and come away wondering why we feel so crappy all the time.

When choosing to focus your self-care around food might I suggest a few things to try? Feel free to try all of them, but again, if it feels overwhelming, just pick one and focus on that first.

Make your plate colorful.

At every meal try and have multiple colors present on your plate and I’m not talking about artificially colored things like fruity pebbles. I’m talking about veggies and fruits in all the colors of the rainbow.

Also, eat for your gut.

Try incorporating natural yogurt if you can do dairy, walnuts, almonds, oat bran, and pumpkin seeds.

And while I’m mentioning nuts and seeds, these little overlooked bites of awesomeness (like flax, pumpkin, and chia as well as pistachios, and cashews) are a good source of protein, fiber, and heart-healthy fats. In the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, their research discovered that eating nuts at least twice a week can cut the risk of heart disease by almost a quarter. So try sprinkling some seeds or nuts over your soup or salad.

Next, try limiting added sugars.

This is an interesting one. Sugar has been added to EVERYTHING!! So you’re going to have to do a little reading on anything that you eat that comes prepackaged. Eating sugar-heavy foods not only increases our risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, but it also sends our bodies on a blood sugar rollercoaster which can leave us feeling jittery, anxious, or even short-tempered. The American Heart Association states that the max amount of added sugars you should have is 9 teaspoons of sugar a day for men and 6 teaspoons for women. I still feel like that’s quite a bit, but it’s a good starting point to try and aim for.

And lastly, I mentioned carbs.

Try and switch fast-burning carbs for slow ones. So anything white, try wheat. Switch from milk chocolate to dark chocolate. My favorite is Lindt 85% dark chocolate, but if that’s a little too dark for you start with a lower percentage, and then over time try going a little darker. Such small little changes, without deprivation, can make all the difference.

Alrighty, let’s move on to more of a mental self-care for your health…

Shifting your mindset.

Your mindset is how you go about doing this thing we call life. It’s made up of your beliefs and your attitude. Your stories and your habits that go on in your head create your reality. So one way we can start shifting that is by first creating self-awareness. When you start to feel off-kilter emotionally or when you’re facing a situation that challenges you, just do a little check-in with your thoughts.

What stories are you holding on to about yourself, other people, or the situation you are being faced with?

Just for a minute, think about an automatic transmission car vs. a manual transmission. We want to switch our thoughts from being automatic to manual. By doing this we can have more control because now we have a choice. Is continuing to react to that story we’ve been telling ourselves helpful or would it be more constructive to switch gears and purposefully switch it for a story that is more constructive?

By making that switch we can intentionally create a better outcome. Just like making a shift to a lower gear in a car so we don’t blow the transmission, we can make the same shift in our minds by creating new stories that produce better outcomes.

Next, I would like to propose the idea that we need to accept ourselves, and the world around us.

This is a hard one… at least it is for me. I can be pretty hard myself. And if I’m being honest, I can be pretty hard on the world around me. Like, why can’t everyone just get their freaking act together? But this is not a healthy place to be in our mental space. We don’t have to necessarily approve of a situation, but we can stop wasting our time and energy thinking “I wish this hadn’t happened.” Similarly, when comes to ourselves, we don’t have to necessarily accept our bad habits.

We just need to take note of where we are right now, without judgment. Give yourself some grace and practice self-compassion. By doing this you will more easily be able to come up with an action plan you can stick with to become a little bit better.

Another option to work on in the mindset arena is to practice gratitude.

It doesn’t take a lot of time but provides MASSIVE life change. Add to your routine just a few minutes each day to write out the different things you are grateful for. Go to Target or TJ Maxx and buy yourself a cute little journal and stick it by your bed so you don’t forget. But by doing this you will be shifting your mindset to one of gratitude, which in turn enhances positive emotions, increases our self-esteem, increases our mental strength and grateful people tend to sleep better. So pair this with my sleep suggestions and you’ve just doubled your health self-care. Pretty AWESOME!

And lastly, for mindset, I’ll just mention briefly… meditation.

I know, I know! I talk about meditation ALL the time, but it really does help with mindset too. It helps with your overall health, but it also helps your brain to function better. Meditation can also help with sleep, so maybe journal your gratitude’s AND meditate and you’ve got yourself a sweet little “goodnight’s sleep” package.

Now the last thing I would like to mention for this episode on health and self–care is practicing good hygiene.

I think a lot of people when they hear self-care think of indulging in a massage, getting your hair and nails done, or taking a luxurious bubble bath. But those just aren’t always an option, are they?

How many of you mom’s out there can relate to not even taking the time for yourself to take a shower?

I know, kind of gross, but real life here people. Even brushing your teeth can take a backstage to feeding your kiddos breakfast, cleaning up the breakfast, folding the laundry, then it’s already time for lunch and you still haven’t brushed your teeth and by now you’re thinking I might as well wait till I go to bed.

Please tell me I’m not the only one.

Even now that my kids are older, I still find myself getting caught up in my work and not even running a brush through my hair or putting on a bra. But don’t underestimate the power of a shower. Something as mundane as a shower or brushing your teeth can actually help energize you. You might also notice you feel a little more human. Just sayin’! 🙂

And I know some would argue with me that showering and brushing your teeth shouldn’t be considered self-care. It should just be part of our regular living. But for some, that shower time can mean the world. The hot water and steam, quiet time to reflect and pray, at least for me, it’s my sanctuary. So if you feel like showering and teeth brushing is just a necessity thing, and not a self-care thing…then feel free to move along to a different form of self-care. But you guys, I LOVE me a nice, long hot shower.

So if this is your focus for self-care then take a shower! Brush your teeth, put on a little blush and lip-gloss, or for me Burt’s Bee’s Vanilla Lip Balm. Then take a moment to notice how different you feel. A little more like you, I hope.

So there you have it!

Five different areas focused around your health that you can do to fill your metaphorical cups. Again, don’t be overwhelmed. Just pick one thing, big or small, and practice that until it becomes a part of who you are. These are all ways that we can become a little bit more each and every day. And make sure to check out the next post in this series about self-care where I am going to talk about self-care and your money. You’re not going to want to miss it!

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