Here in Australia we are well in to winter and the inevitable flu season that comes with it. I’m not particularly fond of this time of year. It’s not because I hate the cold and wind we get in my little part of the world though that’s part of it. (OK, it doesn’t get anywhere near as cold here as in other places but there are still some very chilly moments.) It’s because of the tendency for everyone to get sick. As my work caring for others increases, so my ability to practice self care decreases. It’s difficult enough trying to keep all of the balls in the air at the best of times. Winter illnesses just seem to add that extra layer of complexity.
When my child is sick, I find myself in a situation where I have to make decisions about my priorities. I have to look at him and decide if he is very sick or just a little bit sick. I then have to decide if I can stretch it out another day before I have to ask the boss for leave to look after him. I have to decide if my exercise class is important this week or if I should stay at home instead. I have to decide how much I am willing to do, over and above the usual, to keep all of the balls in the air.
At these times we can find ourselves stretched very thin trying to keep up with all of our responsibilities. I believe that it is a natural reaction for mothers in particular to put the needs and wellbeing of others first. There comes a time however, when we have to make a concerted effort to make our own self care a priority.
I remember a mother at mother’s group some years ago telling us about how sick her children had been. She was saying that she hated seeing them like that and would much rather be sick herself. At the time my children were preschoolers and I was filled with a complete sense of horror at her comment. I couldn’t imagine thinking the same way. How on Earth would I cope if I fell ill?
I am not saying that I wanted my children to be sick. I honestly did not know how I would manage if I was sick myself. It’s difficult enough looking after a couple of pre schoolers at the best of times. Children don’t stop needing to be fed, bathed, cared for and entertained because we are feeling under the weather. Part of me was probably just trying to be optimistic. I hoped that we would get through the flu season without anyone catching it. Another part felt extremely selfish and terribly guilty over my reaction.
Over the years however I have learned that at times it is necessary to put my needs ahead of those around me. I have come to learn that in order to be the best parent I can possibly be, I need to look after myself.
There are at least three areas of self care I must prioritise.
I can’t run around and play with my children easily if I am unfit. This means that I must ensure I make time each day to get some form of physical exercise. This may be taking the dog for a walk, playing with the kids at the beach or an exercise class. Whatever it is, it must be something that gets my body moving and my heart racing. There is nothing to say it has to be overly strenuous. My belief though is that it needs to be as enjoyable as I can make it. I want to make sure I create the time to do something every day.
I can’t join in with the fun family activities if I have no energy because I have been eating an unhealthy diet. This means that I must ensure I have a good breakfast to start my day off well, limit the sugary food and drink I consume and control my portion sizes. For me it’s eating too much after dinner that is my downfall. I have to put strategies in place to ensure that I don’t get too far off track at that time of the day.
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3) Mental health
I am unable to find that extra bit of patience to deal with whatever life throws my way if I am stressed or my thoughts are elsewhere. This means that I need to take care not to bring my work home from the office. I have to put strategies in place to keep on top of all of the household chores. I also need to create some ‘me time’ each day to wind down and relax.
It is also important for me to make time for a hobby that is mine alone. This means that I am the one participating, not the spectator. I put myself first for that short period of time. For me this hobby is my dancing and I religiously go every week. It’s my time to forget about work, children and any other stresses. I switch off and have fun with a lovely bunch of ladies who enjoy each other’s company.
My challenge for you today is to make time to prioritise your self care. I want you to be fit, healthy and full of energy so you can take the best care of your family.
If you are taking time to care for your fitness, nutrition and mental health, you are more likely to stay fit and healthy for longer regardless of the season.
If you are struggling to find the time to prioritise your health, check out my Timewrangling Technique Workbook to help you make time for self care this week.