Taking Care of Myself

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I’ll confess something.  I’m pretty horrible about taking care of myself.  I mean, I am clean and everything. Thankfully, that isn’t what I’m talking about! But I hardly ever go shopping for clothes for me or go out for a pedicure or things like that.  It is so bad that I was told by my doctor at an appointment the other week that I needed to put my feet up more and get a pedicure.  I told that to my husband and he said, “You mean you had to have your doctor tell you that to figure it out!  Go get a pedicure!  Relax and read a book!”

It isn’t that simple though, right?  Who is going to cook dinner, get permission forms signed, homework questions answered, kids taxied around to various places and take the dog to the vet?  My husband can’t do most of those things since he is at work when most of that takes place.  So when do I do this?  Seriously, when?!! I tend to place more importance on family or household needs, rather than myself.  I know I’m not alone.  I know that there are millions of other moms just like me.

Another confession: I have no less than 4 spa gift cards and free movie passes that I have had for over 2 years.  I know…. I have a problem.  Believe me, I want that pedicure or massage and I have plenty of movies that I’d like to see.  I just never get around to it.  There is always something I can do for the kids instead.

Somehow I got blessed with a wise husband.  He reminded me yesterday that we need to take care ourselves.  Stress is bad for your health.  I know this first hand. It can affect anything from your heart to your gut to your ability to sleep. Stress is no joke!

But there is only so much we can do to eliminate external stressors from our lives.  What we can do, is control ourselves.  We can control how we spend our time, what we eat, what we read or watch. And what we do for fun. It is actually beneficial to your health to do things for ourselves.

When I was working, I had a period where I really struggled with stress.  I had chest pains, my heart pounded, I got shaky and I cried all the time.  It was really bad.  I was working way too much, commuting over an hour each way and sleeping way too little.  I couldn’t change my commute or workload, so I worked on changing the things I could.  I cut back on caffeine.  Okay, maybe I didn’t cut back very much. But I did make sure that my last cup was before 3pm.  I limited TV time in the evenings and went to bed earlier. In order to accomplish getting into bed earlier, I had to commit to not working from home in the evenings. Instead of going to bed at 11:30 or midnight and getting up at 5am, I went to bed at 10:30pm for a few nights.  Then I went to bed at 10pm for another couple days.  And I continued to go to bed 30 minutes earlier every few days until I was going to bed by 9:30pm.  With the extra sleep at night, I was much more productive at work.  So much so, that I didn’t need to work in the evenings.  I was able to control my emotions better too.  No more crying at every little thing. Win, win!

In addition to going to bed earlier and drinking (a little) less coffee, I also started doing some things for me.  I went to the gym or went for a walk with a friend during lunch.  I started going to a dance or exercise class once a week.  I started reading for pleasure again.  And my chest pains started going away. I no longer felt my heart racing at random times. Now, I am no way a doctor and you should get a doctor’s opinion if you are experiencing anything like this (I sure did!). But once I found out I had nothing physically wrong with me causing these symptoms, and that it was actually stress, these steps were very beneficial for me.  The doctor did say that while I was ok, if I continued to live under that stress for an extended period of time it could begin to cause problems.

So if you are like me and tend to use any excuse not to take care of yourself, you aren’t doing yourself any favors.  Do things that make you happy.  It actually can help you!  Use those gift cards and coupons or call up that friend for a walk or a playdate and chat while the kids play.  Use those opportunities to take care of yourself, it may help you live longer!

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