Tag Archives: self-care

Happy Mother’s (Martyr’s?) Day!

I always wanted three!  (My 2 kids with my daughter-in-law Marina)

I always wanted three! (My 2 kids with daughter-in-law Marina)

If you are a mother, I hope you find the time to mother yourself today.  This can be very VERY difficult for many women to do without guilt.  I know, because I spent too many moments martyring myself to others’  needs when my kids were small.

When offers of help came my way, my response was always something like this:  “Oh, no, I don’t need any help.  Yes, I AM exhausted and overwhelmed, but no . . . (heavy sigh) . . . I can manage.”  I felt more uncomfortable asking for help than doing everything myself.  I wondered, wasn’t asking for help a sign of weakness, or worse – selfishness?

A turning point came when a close friend made a perfectly-phrased comment:  “That is so sad that you won’t allow others to love you.”  Hmmm . . . “won’t allow . . .”:  that was the part that hit me.  This was a choice I was making, one that might not actually be serving anyone, maybe least of all the well-intentioned people who did love me and WANTED to help.

Self-care is a primary need for any kind of quality giving to be possible.  This is a need, not an indulgence.  I have learned this well over the years since my children were babies, and now I find myself sounding a little hypocritical when I repeat the well-worn wisdom “When mama’s not happy, nobody’s happy.”  Obviously this is a lot easier for me to follow now that I am an empty-nester without even a dog to care for anymore.

I get it now, and it’s not too late, because there are still plenty of people who would like me to get involved in various investments of my time.  Many are people or causes I truly value, and sometimes I say “yes,” but not always, and certainly not automatically without thinking first.  Learning to say “no” occasionally has allowed me to give more joyfully and freely when I choose to say “yes.”

The basics of self-care include quality sleep, balanced nutrition, manageable stress, and enjoyable movement – sometimes called “exercise,” but the key is “enjoyable.”  Interestingly, they all affect one another.  It is hard to eat well when one is not sleeping well or is too stressed out to feel balanced.  Staying physically active can affect sleep quality, eating choices, and stress level.  You get the idea.

Can you imagine how much more difficult it would be for someone to eat well if they are not caring for themselves with the bare bones basics needed to feel balanced?  Does playing the martyr sound like a healthy strategy to you?

Maybe you have already figured this out, but I notice what seems to be a disproportionate number of women trying to lose weight who are not meeting their most basic self-care needs.  Sometimes the best first step to addressing eating issues is to take a good look at the status of self-care.

Are you mothering yourself well?  Make today a day to commit (or re-commit) to this very important role.  Yes, we are all responsible to some extent for others, but we are first responsible to ourselves.  No martyrs, please!  That kind of giving is not sent with the best motivation anyway.  The best kind of giving is the joyful, conscious, deliberate type.  Enjoy your day!

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Quick Start, Pause, Cool Down

Vacations are great for pausing to reset, but everyday practice is even more important.

Vacations are great for pausing to reset, but everyday practice is even more important.

These are the choices on the treadmill I use regularly:  quick start, pause, and cool down.  I can also enter a pre-programmed workout, but I always just press “quick start.”

Without an iPod this morning, and with no interest in the TV options, I found my pace and settled into my thoughts.  My eyes again glanced at the words:  “quick start, pause, cool down.”  They began to mean more to me than options on a treadmill.

“Quick start.”  I’m good at that, I thought.  Get going, just do it, take action!  I have that mastered!  I am someone who finds it uncomfortable – really! – NOT to be productive.

I started thinking about the potential down side to that.  Possible  drawbacks include anxiety, trouble sleeping, . . . all of the consequences that result from not using another choice on the treadmill:  RESET!

Everyone needs to reset hormones and brain chemistry, which in turn resets mood and restores a healthful balance.  Adequate sleep, healthy eating, enjoyable physical activity, and pleasant interactions with people all help to keep body chemistry “happy.”

It goes beyond that as well.  Balance brings more balance.  Erratic hormones and brain chemistry, left unattended, often lead to more chaotic emotions and a less balanced lifestyle.

Among the many benefits of attention to self-supportive care are better sleep, less anxiety, and all-around better self-care.  I know this sounds a bit repetitive, but my point is that good self-care leads to more good self-care.  Unfortunately lack of attention to self-care makes it all too easy to skip a workout, eat poorly or skip meals, and let unsupportive thoughts run wild.

What we do not see is how body chemistry that we create through our actions can affect how we act moving forward.  This is powerful knowledge!  Work with your body, because mere will-power is no match for body chemistry!

This is where a “pause” or “cool down” can be very helpful.  I’m right there with all of you overachievers and perfectionists!  This can be hard, but it is absolutely necessary for health.  For me, sleep is key.  I know I need to wind down and pause at the end of my workday and resist the temptation to schedule one more appointment, answer one more e-mail, or make that last phone call.   I know that ultimately this will lead to more efficient use of my time once I’m ready to “quick start” again.

I remind myself I can start again, but the most productive thing to do at that moment is to take a break and pause.  Do you notice how I managed to call a pause “productive”?  That is one way to make pausing a little easier for a productivity freak like myself.

A Whole New Outlook

Here is a great example of what happens to attitude when people approach weight loss with a long-term outlook.  (from one of my group participants)

I’ve changed.

Every summer my family (6 siblings, spouses, children) get together one weekend in summer for a Brewer game and associated frivolity.  By frivolity, I mean:  lotsa beer, food, music, sun, fun and story telling.  It starts on Saturday . . . and goes on until about noon today (Sun) after we finish a home-cooked breakfast (by my master short order chef sis-in-law).  Then they all take off . . . . Continue reading