Question: I am a worn out, tired mother of three who also works outside of the home. I feel like I am constantly pouring into those around me and end up running on empty. I can’t change the responsibilities I have of being a mom, wife, and employee, so what can I do to feel better?
Answer: There is a lot in life that is beyond our control. So we need to look for the things that are within our control and put our energy into those things. Today’s woman is a busy one, often trying to juggle the responsibilities of work, marriage, and mommyhood. The problem is that we tend to completely neglect taking care of ourselves and end up burned out and spent. The result is that we not only feel horrible, we also are rendered much less effective to those around us that we are trying to help take care of.
In working a lot with women in my counseling office, I have noticed a theme of women feeling that it is selfish or self-centered to take care of themselves. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Self-care is not only important, it is vital to our health and well-being. This goes for every facet of our life: physical, spiritual, emotional, relational, and intellectual. Neglecting taking care of one or more of these vital compartments will definitely be felt in a negative way. Let’s look at some healthy self-care ideas for each facet.
Physical: Yes, it is true….exercise is one of the best forms of self-care we can do, on many levels. You feel better, have more energy, improve your cardiovascular health, sleep better, and typically feel more confident about your appearance. Getting enough sleep is also very important to our daily functioning. I think most of us get a low score in this department! Sleep deprivation leads to irritability, fatigue, lack of focus, and a general lack of sharpness. Preparing a restful sleep routine nightly is important, such as focusing on soothing, less stimulating activities before bed, such as reading. Eating well is another way to stay physically healthy. How many of us skip meals because we are “too busy” and then are plagued with headaches, shakiness, and overeating at the next meal? Make time to eat! Prepare nutritious food ahead of time to ease with hurried schedules. Eat through out the day to keep your metabolism stoked to prevent drops in blood sugar.
Relational: See last month’s article on the importance of girlfriends! Make time to have coffee, go for a run, or get a pedi with a girlfriend, even if it is only for one hour. Time with friends rejuvenates us and is good for the soul. Here is a suggestion that works well for me; plan your next time with a friend at the end of each time together. That way it is set on the calendar and much more likely to happen!
It is important to still date your spouse, even after you are married. Having kids, working, and keeping up a home are all necessary but distract us from quality time with our spouse. Make it a priority to get a sitter and go out on dates consistently, such as every other week. Also set aside at least 10 minutes a day to sit face to face and talk…with the TV, computer, and phones all turned to “off” during that time.
Another way to get connected is to join groups or activities that you enjoy that put you around other people. This could be a neighborhood Bunko group, a book club, or a Zumba class at the gym.
Intellectual: Keep your mind stimulated! We should never stop learning, even when we are out of school. Reading is a great way to keep your mind active. Choose something you are interested in learning about and research it. Take a class you have always wanted to take. You can even form your own discussion groups to discuss and debate a variety of topics. Doing crossword puzzles, Soduko, and puzzles keep the mind active as well.
Emotional: Emotional health is vital to overall health. Rather than suppressing feelings we need to find a healthy outlet for them, such as talking, journaling, painting, or music. Talking to a therapist when necessary can be very beneficial. Sometimes just having a good cry can release some tension! Ask for a hug when you need it. Write a letter to a trusted friend that lives in a different state and share how you are really doing. Ask for help when you need it.
Spiritual: Spirituality is different for everyone, but for many women it is an important part of life. Going to church can be a good way to stay connected with others that share similar beliefs. Many churches offer small groups that are designed to be more intimate and supportive in structure. These groups typically meet consistently for accountability, sharing, growth and fun. Prayer is a great way to stay connected with God and not feel so alone in this world. Reading the Bible and faith-based books or devotionals can help us grow and stay on track with our faith. Keeping the spiritual piece healthy can give us comfort and help us figure out what our ultimate purpose is in life.
Energy should be put into each area if we want to be healthy, thriving women instead of just surviving women. It is never going to be a perfect balance, but it typically can look better than it has.