Monday, September 22, 2014

Making It Better Monday: Put Yourself First

Taking Care of Yourself

As women and mothers, it is in our nature (for most of us anyway) to always put others first. This often leaves us feeling drained and unfulfilled. Mothers who put their needs in front of their children's needs or their spouse's needs, are often labelled selfish and unfit. However, I firmly believe you are doing everyone a disservice when you let your own needs slide. There is nothing selfish about ensuring you are physically well and emotionally fulfilled. In fact, how can you give your best to your family, if you are not at your best?

Before I go any further, let me be clear, that I am not talking about immediate and real needs of a child. If you are eating dinner and your child starts choking, by all means, please set your need of food aside for the moment and address your child's need for oxygen. Likewise, if you have to choose between spending a few dollars on a gallon of milk for your empty fridge or a new bottle of nail polish that you have been wanting, please provide the food your family needs before fulfilling the emotional need to feel beautiful. So what am I talking about then? You know how on an airplane, they tell you that if the need for oxygen masks arise, you should put on your own before helping others?  That is to ensure that you do not pass out before helping those who depend on you.  Even if you manage to get their masks on them before you pass out, who will help them with the next steps, such as evacuating the plane.  The same concept applies to our lives.  Here are 10 simple ways to take care of yourself.

1) Take 15 minutes by yourself to do something you enjoy
This might be reading a book quietly or taking a short soak in the tub or even just a few moments to lie down and rest.  Just take some time to yourself to gather your thoughts and reset.

2) Develop or work on a hobby
Rediscover something you used to love to do or discover something new that you enjoy.  Maybe you used to play an instrument or paint or you collected unicorns, whatever it was, if it brings you joy, spend some time each week doing it.  

3) Make yourself feel pretty
Spend a few minutes each day on your appearance, so that you feel good about how you look.  This is a personal thing and differs for every person.  For me, it means being dressed in something I would be comfortable wearing in public (i.e. not pajamas or sweats), brushing through my hair and sometimes putting on a touch of make up.  For others, it might mean more or less.

4) Indulge in a special treat
The next time you go grocery shopping, buy yourself a treat just for yourself.  It might be a pint of your favorite ice cream or a high end chocolate bar or a normal chocolate bar.  It just needs to be something you do not normally get for yourself and something you enjoy.

5) Feed yourself first
So often, we spend so much time dishing up and serving our family at meal time, that we don't get to eat until our food is cold.  If you are not all eating a family meal, dish yourself up first and eat it BEFORE even calling the others to eat.  If it is a family meal, dish everyone up and serve it, anticipating any possible needs (drinks, condiments, etc) and then call everyone over.  Serve yourself and then sit down and eat your hot meal.  If anyone needs something else or wants seconds, have them wait for it or get it themselves.  (I know that statement assumes a lot, adjust it as you need.)

6) Talk to adults several times a week
This can be a spouse or partner, but only counts if the conversation is not about the kids.  Get together for play dates, talk to others at church or while waiting for the kids at dance class or school, go to the park and chat with another parent that is there.  Heck, I have even struck up conversations in the store with a stranger simply for a few moments of an adult conversation.

7) Introduce yourself by something other than "so-and-so's mom"
If the conversation is going to revolve around one of your children, use that as a description of who you are, but always introduce yourself by your name first.  Being a mother is a part of who you are, but you are so much more than that. 

8) Ensure you are getting enough sleep
If you are not going to bed on time because you are always working on house chores or school projects for your kids, stop it now.  Even if you only forgo them a couple of nights a week,  the extra sleep you will be able to get will help improve how you feel. 

9) Get out by yourself a couple of times each month
If you are a stay-at-home parent,  this is especially important.  You can even combine this with a necessary errand, such as grocery shopping or a doctor's appointment, or go window shopping at the mall or take a run or go for a walk.  The idea is to get out of the house in a role other than as mom.

10)  Take care of your body
Exercise is important and so is a proper diet, both of which we all know we should be doing, but I am also talking about taking care of your medical and dental needs in a timely manner.  Do not put off making an appointment that needs to be made.  Many adults do this, even without children.  Then, the problem often ends up much worse than it would have been had it been taken care of in the first place.  Also, be sure to stay hydrated and remember to eat throughout the day.

Having listed all these, I know it is easier said than done.  Some of you are single parents, some of you do not have friends or family in the area, and some simply cannot figure out how to find the time.  Next week, I will give you some ways to find the time and means to get these things done. 

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