“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation.”
~ Audre Lorde
It’s January 1st. You turn on the television, and what do you see? Commercial after commercial about losing weight and getting fit. Either you sign up for a food program, fitness video or throw your hands up and say, “What’s the use!?” It’s not so much a lack of desire as difficulty maintaining consistency that undermines most people’s “New Year’s Resolutions.” You know– life just gets in the way. I’m not here to tell you what you should do to start 2018 off right, but I do want to address the challenges around taking care of ourselves in general.
Most of the parents I meet are very concerned about the health and welfare of their children. They read books, go online and use Pinterest as their go-to website for information. But when I ask those same parents how much self-care they give themselves, they usually roll their eyes and say, “Where would you like me to put that in my busy schedule?” I’ll be the first to admit those exact words often come out of my mouth, but I also understand the consequences for not taking care of my body and mind.
We have got to remember that “putting the oxygen mask” on yourself regularly is not being selfish. It’s putting into practice the principle that you can not serve anything from an empty vessel—a mixed metaphor, maybe, but that oxygen mask / filling your own vessel idea are critical to being able to help others sustainably.
The current research says that the stressors in our lives cause our bodies to release a hormone called cortisol, which worked well in Caveman times, but wreaks havoc on our entire system in modern day. Cortisol is the “fight or flight” hormone that used to help us deal with saber toothed tigers and now gets triggered in bad traffic or when other parents get competitive at school.
Cortisol enters the body and can create a cascading effect on the endocrine system. This in turn affects the thyroid, pancreas and reproductive organs. If any or all are affected it can cause weight gain, headaches, depression, menstrual problems, autoimmune issues and more. We’re more vulnerable to the darker side of cortisol’s effects when we’re over tired, eating the wrong foods, already stressed and not getting proper exercise.
To bring it full-circle, the secret to benefitting from self-care, inclusive of plenty of sleep, regular exercise and mindfulness, is consistency. Like we’ve already acknowledged, life can really get in the way of that. Here’s the thing, though: we need to find a way to make self-care a high enough priority that life doesn’t get too much in the way.
I recently attended a networking meeting where the focus for this year was to face our stressors and be our best selves. We all participated in an activity that addressed the word “resolve.” Synonyms for resolve are: determination, steadfastness, resolution and tenacity. I decided this year to resolve the stressors in my life because, besides wanting to live a healthy life, I realized I’m a model for my family, friends and the parents and kids I meet and teach.
My own steps to fulfill this resolve:
- Make sure I have a support group (enlist friends who will be supportive)
- Go to bed earlier (no more late night HGTV)
- Do not!!!!!! pick up electronic devices the minute my eyes are open (If the world is ending I’ll know it sooner or later)
- Laugh more and worry less (Jumanji made me laugh)
- Move my body (That doesn’t mean back and forth to the refrigerator)
- Salads are really my friend (Get creative with the condiments)
- Engage in mindfulness (Still working on this one)
- Take chances, stretch outside my comfort zone (Ice Slide at Winter Fest, anyone?)
- Gratitude and appreciations (I live 15 minutes from Laguna Beach)
- Radical Compassion (How about we forgive ourselves first?)
Are these steps, and the resolution they support, attainable? I think so, but first I need to take a good look at anything in my life that could sabotage them and make a conscious decision to send the saboteur packing.
I said I wouldn’t tell you what you should do, but I will invite you to join me in this. Identify what you’d like to have changed by January 1, 2019. Identify the steps you’d like to take towards that goal. Then sit down and really look at the goal, the steps and reality. Are you setting yourself up to succeed? Are there saboteurs you can manage? Is there a way to integrate your resolution into your life harmoniously? Is there anyone who can help you see it through?
And in a final note, I’ll point out that in addition to our robust offering of classes, I now offer one-on-one coaching. So if “communication with tween/teen” made your list of goals or steps, and you need some help with that, I hope you’ll get in touch!