For parents, raising children is not a “What’s in it for me?” proposition. To the contrary, parenting entails more give than take for many years. Still, our children and our relationships flourish when we maintain our own recipe for wellness. Everyone benefits when we adopt a mindset and a lifestyle that enables us to give of ourselves wholeheartedly without feeling resentful or overwhelmed.
Our relationship with ourselves influences the tone of our relationships with others. Just like our children, we thrive when our needs are met. Activities that enhance our health and well being buffer us from day-to-day stress and assist us to radiate more love, patience and understanding. Plus, when we lead by example there’s no point in lecturing our children since action speaks louder than words.
Apply these basic self-care strategies to increase your vitality, optimize your outlook, boost your immune system, and nourish your brain. Healthy habits can supply the stamina and resilience needed to ride the waves of parenting—the challenges and successes–with joy and satisfaction for years to come.
1. Relationships: Life is a buffet so why not exert your preferences by seeking out people and groups that nurture and support you? Sharing your ups and downs within safe, trusting relationships dampens worry, frustration, and anxiety and prevents you from feeling isolated and overwhelmed. Warmth and compassion sooth the nervous system and reciprocity makes giving attention just as rewarding as receiving loving kindness from others.
2. Nutrition: Be kind to your heart, brain, mood, and waistline by eating whole, unprocessed foods, including plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables, of course. Your brain thrives on good fats so consider walnuts, flax seeds, salmon, and supplements for essential fatty acids (Omega 3’s and 6’s.) Eliminate trans fats and high fructose corn sweeteners that clog your system and fatten you up. Probiotics like Lactobacillus acidophilus and many others sustain the microflora that inhabit your gut and, some studies have shown, improve mood and strengthen the immune system.
3. Exercise: Exercise really works for shifting mental gears. Neuropsychiatrist Daniel Siegel MD successfully prescribes exercise for the majority of his patients with depression-like symptoms. So, choose your favorite cardio-workout to fire up both sides of your brain, perk up your mood, deepen your nighttime slumber, and fuel-up on feel-good endorphins.
4. Romance: Maybe you feel too tired, too busy, or too stressed to connect intimately with your partner or perhaps the sparks have gradually faded over the years. Reigniting passion in your relationship may require some care and creativity. A loving gaze or a soothing massage can rekindle the bonding hormone oxytocin. Try varying your routine, orchestrating pleasant surprises, and upending old habits to rouse that exciting falling-in-love-all-over-again dopamine rush. Check out Intimacy & Desire: Awaken the Passion in Your Relationship by Dr. David Schnarch to invigorate your partnership and your love life.
5. Sleep: Good sleep is powerful medicine. You might feel like you’re going crazy when your brain is scrambled from sleep deprivation. To improve the quality and quantity of your sleep, avoid or reduce tempting stimulants (caffeine, chocolate, and sugar) and depressants, namely alcohol. (Even moderate use of alcohol can trigger night waking.) In Stress, Anxiety and Insomnia – What the Drug Companies Won’t Tell You and Your Doctor Doesn’t Know, Michael Murray ND suggests stabilizing your blood sugar levels to prevent hormone spikes from waking you up at night. When caring for a newborn, sleep when your baby sleeps, recruit support during the day, and share night duties, if you can. For chronic sleep issues, visit your health care practitioner for safe and effective medicinal sleep aids.
6. Nature: Studies confirm that a “green” view from the windows in your home and office can ease stress and improve your mood. Instigate an outing at a favored natural locale to shake off pesky concerns and refresh your attitude. Luckily, my dog, Kora, frequently reminds me that even a brief frolic in the great outdoors can save me hours of mental meandering at the computer. Fresh air and a change of scene reliably restore a more positive outlook.
7. Inspiration: Whether you love music, dance, pottery, or poetry, satisfying and expressing your passion gives life meaning and purpose. Follow the inspiration to energize your spirit and keep your creative fires burning. In the words of Mother Teresa, “We can do no great things, only small things with great love.”
8. Meditation: Attention is like a muscle: The more you use it the stronger and more agile it becomes. Regularly focusing your attention rewires your brain, increases emotional resilience, and resets your physiology in significant ways. To begin, sit quietly for 5 or 10 minutes a day and focus on your breathing. As thoughts and feelings arise, allow them to pass like clouds floating across the sky. Consistent practice will yield positive results within a few weeks.
Starting new habits may seem strange or awkward at first, yet small changes can precipitate big results. Changing just one key habit–like diet, exercise, or meditation–can initiate a cascade of transformation. (The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg)
A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Lao-Tzu