May is Women's Health Month and a great time to take stock of our check-ups and health goals. That however, doesn't mean stretching ourselves thinner than we already are. We should rather look at self-care as investing in ourselves and our future.
Many times women are the primary caregivers for children, disabled relatives, and aging parents. Between work and caring for our family, our own well-being is all too often put on hold. That however, is in contradiction to what we need.
The American Psychological Association shares that "The percentage of family or informal caregivers who are women range from 53 to 68 percent, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance." They go on to say how "Family caregiver well-being is important to care recipient health." As many mothers tell new moms, you have to take care of yourself. If you don't, you'll have nothing to give.
In Ayurveda, India's oldest form of healing, there are 3 vital energies. One of them, Ojas, can easily be depleted by consistently caring for others while not caring for ourselves. In a training I participated in a couple of years ago, we learned a tell-tale sign of a depleted Ojas. Listen for the person who says, "I don't know if I have anything left to give." This immediately signaled someone who needed some T.L.C. and down-time.
Whether you are feeling physically and emotionally drained, or simply need a reminder that you deserve time for yourself, here are 5 tips to engaging in self-care and good health this month.
Make a date with yourself. No matter what is going on and who needs what, schedule and enforce at minimum 1 hour for yourself each week. Read a book, nap on a hammock, get a massage. Make time to recharge your batteries.
Annual check-up. If you have not been to your regular family physician or gynecologist in the past year, schedule an appointment. Taking the time to meet with your physician can help you feel better about your health, address any concerns you have, or get you on track.
Take a walk. Or hit the gym, take a yoga class, or exercise to a YouTube video. We've all heard it a million times - the importance of exercise. Did you know that aside from investing in our long-term health, that in the short term exercise releases endorphines? Endorphines, a chemical released by the pituitary gland, provide a positive feeling and decrease stress. Seratonin, a mood enhancer, is also released.
Clean eating. If you find that you are always eating on the go, eat mostly pre-made and/or processed meals, create a plan on how to add more fresh whole foods into your diet. Our food is our fuel and this extends beyond carbs and protein. Raw fruits and veggies are jam-packed with vitamins and minerals which support the entire body from the gut to the adrenal system (which in turn supports sleep, energy, weight, mood, and immune system).
Lead through example. Taking time for ourselves not only empowers other caregivers to do the same, but it also teaches our children that investing in themselves should be a priority. Children mimick what their parents do. By setting a good example of healthy habits and time for self, we are teaching our children how to care for themselves in adulthood. Plus, all those other exhausted caregivers out there just might take a page out of your playbook and thank you for it!