self-care? i never valued the importance of self-care at the beginning of motherhood. i began my role as a mom at the young age of 23. i loved being a young mom. my first 2 children are 10 months apart. they are the same age for 6 weeks. i know, i know. what was i thinking, right? to be honest, i wouldn’t do it any other way. however, i think being so young left the odds ever in my favor. their early years (newborn-toddler were a breeze!) i swear, the morning i turned 30, everything changed. i felt the weight of all the responsibility and worry suffocating me. the end of my 20s and beginning of my 30s brought anxiety, depression, OCD, and feeling empty. it was time to give up the mom guilt and take care of myself again.
i turned 32 last friday. yay, happy birthday to me. i feel the aging process creeping in. i cannot keep my eyes open past 10:30 anymore. perhaps it is a lot to do with chasing around my 20 month old all day. she is nonstop. she is full of energy. she is for sure my last child. we hoped for 4 kids, but anna’s personality is enough. i finally accepted the finality of having my last baby. there are still some days of grieving. however, i have made self-care a number 1 priority. it keeps me going. i stay motivated, healthy, and happy with these 5 things:
- made exercise as part of my regular routine
- started a new fitness class outside of my comfort zone
- this summer, start gardening (right now it’s just 2 potted hydrangea)
- never skip my night time skin care routine
- turn off social media, crack open a book
we as women spend most of our adult lives nurturing and caring for others. we often focus on the needs of others around us and forget about our own happiness and well-being. we become stressed, overwhelmed, depressed, and agitated. is it any wonder that women are about twice as likely to suffer from clinical depression than men? (1) approximately 12 million women in the United States experience clinical depression every year according to the National Institute of Mental Health. many factors in women may contribute to depression, such as developmental, reproductive, hormonal, genetic and other biological differences (e.g. premenstrual syndrome, childbirth, infertility and menopause). (2) even worse, according to a Mental Health American survey from the National Mental Health Association, more than 1/2 of the women who answered accept depression as the “normal” part of aging. women would rather accept the flawed idea of “depression as normal” than go seek treatment.
why do we put so much pressure on women to do it all?
why is there so much pressure to be thin, beautiful, ageless, perfect, flawless, crunchy mamas that only feed their kids organic food and hand-make crafts and treats for school holiday parties? i apologize for the run-on sentence. i could list more of the impossible expectations our american culture puts on us moms. when we neglect our well-being and own happiness, aren’t we failing the ones who need us?
i think what permeates in our culture is femaleness as nurturing, caring, and loving. we as moms need to care, love, and nurture ourselves, too. a happy healthy mom is what is best for everyone.
exercise to stay sane
my therapist wanted me to exercise regularly. my doctor said so, too. when i was battling my anxiety, ocd, and PPD, exercise was the last thing on my mind. i felt like i was gasping for air all the time. i would panic 24|7. who wants to workout when they feel they can’t breathe?
i talked about my struggles before. i am finally on medicine and seeing my doctor|therapist regularly. the medicine has *knock on wood* taken away my panic attacks and obsessive thoughts. it feels amazing to feel like me again. with my panic attacks at bay, i am finally feeling good to workout. my gym regimen began as simple walking to build my cardio endurance up. if that is all you can do starting out, do it! the American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate exercise to keep heart healthy. that’s only 5, 30 min walks a week or 3, 50 min walks a week. i take anna out for lots of walks on our rail trail when the weather is nice. it’s good to get outside for fresh air.
my weight training started simple. i had to start as a beginner again. i bounced back quickly, though, because i was in amazing shape before i got pregnant. i’m now 20 months postpartum, and began training for my first figure competition. i refuse to feel selfish when i go to the gym. it is only 1-1.5 hours out of my day. it never cuts into my time with my kids. i’m setting a positive example for my kids. and that is a great thing.
get out of your comfort zone
i wanted to challenge myself with something different. i am great at lifting. i needed something to challenge me and make me focus. i found http://purebarre.com/ i did my first real class in raleigh with my cousin. i loved it. unfortunately, there was not a studio close to me until recently. i did videos online, but it wasn’t the same as being in the studio. i found an amazing studio in murrysville. i love that it focuses on core strength, hips, thighs, seat, and arms. it is low-impact. it is an amazing 55 minute total-body workout. i can go to class and think about NOTHING other than my workout.
i swear i leave Pure Barre like a leave church-an overwhelming sense of calm and renewal. i have energy when i’m done. it is an amazing community of women. it is an encouraging, positive environment. if you can lift tuck burn near you, i highly recommend it.
find a hobby
you are never too old to stop learning. i don’t have a green thumb. at all. it’s embarrassing. last year i kept ferns alive on my porch. i was so proud. this year, we are starting fresh in our backyard. i started researching how to landscape. gardening is a stress reliever. you are outside getting fresh air, listening to nature sounds, catching some vitamin d, and working in a creative space. all these examples are proven to keep worry and stress away.
did you floss?
i swear, i ask my kids all the time, “did you brush your teeth? floss, too?” i am so concerned with their hygiene and self appearance, why shouldn’t i be the same? in my 20s, i did the bare minimum with skin care. i didn’t need anti-wrinkle cream. i never had breakouts. as a matter of fact, i didn’t even look like i had pores. hello 30 year old hormones! i woke up one day and could see the wear and tear on my skin. i have developed my skin routine and i NEVER skip it. it may take me an extra 10-12 minutes before i go to bed, but i do it. i even started taking collagen 2 times a day. i’m going to be posting updates on how that is going soon.
reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. sir richard steele
too much screen time is wearing me down. i catch myself in bed with mindless scrolling through my facebook feed. i decided to shut off the phone and pick up a book. i find reading relaxing. my goal this summer is to read 3 books beginning to end. 1 history, 1 entertaining read, and 1 educational. my first book i chose is, On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety, by Andrea Peterson. her journey with anxiety seems very similar to mine. i’m still searching a good entertaining read and history book. i prefer american history but open to any suggestions.
self care does not = selfishness
i’m learning to ignore the chatter around me. i aim to focus on my well-being and health from now on. too often we become concerned with others and what they think/say about us. i no longer worry about that. my self-care is just that, about me. and that does not make me a selfish person. now i encourage you to come up with 5 of your own (or you can use mine) steps to better self-care. accept that it is ok to make yourself happy and healthy.
1.National Institute of Mental Health: “Depression: Treat it. Defeat it.” Accessed June 1999. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/depression/genpop/gen_fact.htm.
2.National Institute of Mental Health, D/ART Campaign: “Depression: What Every Woman Should Know,” (1995). Pub No. 95-3871.