By Heather Kew, Registered Massage Therapist
“Self Care is giving the world the best of you, instead of what’s left of you” – Katie Reed
Kids can’t wait for June to be over. They dream of the days when school will be done and they can play outside, with no rules and no schedule. For them, June is too long as they lose focus and impatiently wait for the last day of school. For Mom’s, June goes by way to fast and seems to drain every ounce of energy you have left. The stress is real: the kids aren’t sleeping (it’s now light at bed time and the smoke from the wildfires isn’t helping), they are wild and crazy and there is way too much going on. For most of us, there are sports tournaments, child care and camps to register for the summer, one last push to get them through to the end of the school year on top of the normal stresses of any household. But to be the best, we need to take care of ourselves: to fill our cup so it can overflow instead of running on fumes. Here are 10 ways to practice self-care:
- Plan & Delegate.
Planning seems like just an extra chore to do and takes a lot of time, but when done correctly it can actually save you time and takes a lot of stress out of your life. Many women often share their frustration that they carry the mental load of running their household and that no one else will do anything unless they scream it four times while hopping on one foot. The reality may be that no one is sure what to do without getting in your way. By planning what needs to be done and delegating some of the work load to others, the stress can be shared. Delegating and asking for help seem hard but it doesn’t have to be: sometimes just communicating our expectation is enough. In our household, if we don’t plan, we end up eating whatever is quick to eat, the house quickly turns into a disaster and we all feel like we are running around with no where to run to. When we take the time to plan, whoever gets home from work first starts supper, we take 45 minutes per day to tidy up the house (and it stays clean) and we know where we’re going. Bonus: I’m not the only one doing everything because everyone has a job!
- Eat well.
This sounds so simple, and seems so obvious, but I hear this over and over again and I’m guilty of it too: skipping meals. Planning meals and doing food prep at the beginning of the week can help eliminate some of the issue but making yourself a priority is also key. Switching from a mindset that everything else needs to get done before you sit down to eat, and having your meals scheduled like anything else in your day is important. When you eat well and give your body the fuel it needs to run, you will have more energy and more mental focus to get through the day. Packing snacks that are ready to go and can be grabbed as you go can also take the stress out of trying to eat healthy.
Exercise is not just about keeping your body healthy, it’s also about keeping you mentally healthy too. Exercise is proven to have numerous health benefits including stress reduction, release of endorphins, dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin (happy hormones), improved memory and better sleep. The most important consideration when choosing one type of exercise over another is how much you enjoy it. The most important thing is that your moving, after that, its what makes you happy and will keep you motivated. For me, I schedule my exercise with a buddy to keep me accountable and keep me off the couch! I also need variety, so I try different activities with different people: from classes like yoga and Pilates, walking my dogs and running and swimming: variety is the spice of life. I love the mindbody app to find different classes and new places that I have never tried.
- Prevent and Treat Pain.
When I was in massage school, we were told than when a person is in pain, they burn up to 50% more energy just feeling that pain. I’m not sure if this is true, but I know when I’m in pain, I don’t have the energy to do the things I want or should do. By taking the time for a wellness plan, you help prevent pain in your body from zapping your energy. By booking monthly massage, acupuncture and/or chiropractic treatments, you can keep muscle and joint pain at a minimum. When you are in pain, don’t put it off. Take the time to take care of yourself when it starts instead of waiting until you can’t stand the pain any longer. It often takes less time and appointments to deal with any issue when it starts rather than waiting until it’s a major issue.
Essential oils are derived from plants and have many different uses and benefits. By incorporating the use of essential oils into your daily life, you can take care of you and your family naturally. Diffusing citrus oils, such as orange or lemon, can be energizing and uplifting, while diffusing floral oils, such as lavender, can be calming and help with sleep. Essential oils offer a wide variety of uses and can be tailored to your needs. One of my favorite was to use my oils is to create a blend that is tailored just for me in a roller ball and I carry it in my purse. When I feel like I am getting frazzled, I pull it out and rub it on my wrists and the back of my neck for a mini pick me up!
- Epsom salts Baths
I don’t think I know of anyone who doesn’t love the thought of a long, hot bath with epsom salts. They help soothe away stress in the mind, tension in the body and just bring a deep sense of relaxation. But there is more to it than just that, Epsom salts contain magnesium, and magnesium can be absorbed through the skin from the water. Magnesium can relieve insomnia, protects the heart, combats asthma, reduces high blood pressure improves digestion, protects against diabetes, supports bone health, and reduces muscle aches and spasm. I like to add essential oils to my bath to gain even more health and emotional benefits.
Taking time to do what you love is important. For me, I love baking and my love for baking has grown to include baking with my kids. Something about mixing raw ingredients and coming up with something yummy that brings joy to others has always brought warmth to my heart. Watching my kids enjoy it as much as I do (and make an even bigger mess than I do, which I did not think was possible!!) makes the goodies just that much sweeter. Baking is such a neat experience because it can be shared with everyone! My grandmother loved knitting and would always smile as she made slippers for everyone at Christmas or knitted a baby blanket for a expected new grandchild. Whatever your hobby is, take time to do it and to share it. Something about sharing or teaching others what we love spreads joy!
- GET OFF YOUR ELECTRONICS
Electronics has become a big part of our world. They are part of our work, our home and how we connect with the world. But they have a price. Overuse of electronics leads to things like “text neck” (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look at the posture of someone on their smart phone while their using it and see how far forward their neck is compared to their shoulders – ouch!) and issues with hormones. The light from electronics has been studied and showed that it can delay the hormonal signals to sleep for 90 minutes! While social media has made us more connected, it also has made us more isolated. Spending time away from the screen is crucial to our mental health and happiness.
Its reported that 40% of adults fall asleep during the day without meaning to, at least once a month. That is how sleep deprived we are. Getting enough quality sleep each night is vital to our health and well-being. Not getting enough sleep puts you at risk of many physical health dangers, but it can also affect your mental health. Depression, anger and memory loss can all be a result of sleep deprivation. Getting to sleep and waking up at the same time each day, getting at least 7 hours of sleep and taking short naps (no more than 20-30 minutes) are all key. If sleep still is an issue for you, make it a priority and consider speaking with a health professional, such as a naturopath, to help make sure you are getting enough rest/how to get more of it.
Spending time with friends can be incredibly rewarding. Going for coffee, going on a date night or trying a new activity with your tribe are ways to keep your cup full. Making plans to spend time either with your family or friends or just with your friends away from your family are important ways to make sure that you feel like a worthy person and not just the help at home. Even just meeting another mom at the park while the kids play and you catch up can brighten everyone’s day.
Being mindful of self-care is not just about you, its about keeping your family healthy too. The only way to be your best self is to take care of yourself. Many of us would be horrified if we didn’t feed our kids properly and didn’t get them exercise and didn’t get them to bed on time, but we accept these things as normal and acceptable for ourselves. We need to realize that if it’s not ok for our children, it’s not okay for us. Practicing self care for our own wellness is important for so many reasons!