I’ve always thought of myself as fairly healthy. I try to walk as much as possible and make healthy meals for my family. This fall, however, I realized that I’d been ignoring my own wellness. Over the past several months, I’ve been taking small steps towards increased spiritual, physical and mental wellness. Here’s what I’ve learned along the way.
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1. Listen to Your Body
The exhausted mom is a big stereotype on social media. It’s always bothered me, but somehow, I also accepted it. I told myself I was just tired because Joey wasn’t sleeping through the night yet, or because one of his sisters had also been up at night (bad dream, sore legs, etc). Then one day the thought occurred to me that I hadn’t been this tired when my first baby was waking me up multiple times a night. Back then, I drank one coffee a day because I enjoyed it, not because I needed it.
As moms, we’re good at putting ourselves last. We may ignore our own exhaustion and health issues because we’re so busy chasing our kids and taking care of their concerns. Yet ignoring my exhaustion wasn’t helping me take care of my kids—it was making me a worse mom. I needed to stop and listen to what my body was saying. Symptoms (even small symptoms like exhaustion or headaches) are messages from our bodies that we need something.
It can also help to know the best ways to train your brain as a way of listening to your body and mind. Memory training for your brain can help you store and process information properly, enhancing your logical reasoning and intelligence. But how do you train your brain?
One way you can train your brain is by learning a new language, allowing you to recall new ways of communicating and expressing yourself. If one of your children is learning a new language for school, you could learn alongside him for a fun mother-child bonding time. Another way to train your brain is to meet at least five new people every day, and try to recall their names and their unique qualities. Next time you’re at the playground or picking your child up from school, try to approach another mom and get to know her.
2. Book an Appointment
Again, booking appointments for ourselves can too often fall to the very bottom of our to-do lists. I run my kids to their appointments but put my own appointments off. It’s hard to get to the doctor or dentist with five kids in tow. Again, if your body is telling you that you need something… make that appointment! Trade babysitting with a friend or ask your husband about adjusting his schedule to help with your appointment.
I thought about seeing a naturopath for over a year before booking my appointment. I was unhappy with my doctor and felt that a naturopath would be able to help me with my health goals in a more natural, holistic way. However, the cost and not knowing where to find a naturopath held me back.
When a friend mentioned that her naturopath works just down the road from me, I asked for her name and booked an appointment. In my first one-hour visit, I felt heard and affirmed. The naturopath agreed that I shouldn’t be exhausted, and that she could help with my eczema (without band-aid prescriptions). I wish I had booked that appointment much sooner!
3. Make Small Changes
We all know about New Year’s Resolutions. Do you make them? Do you keep them? I don’t, because I don’t. Often, we resolve to make big changes in our lives that just aren’t realistic. It’s hard to keep them, and they fall off. With my naturopath’s help, I was able to make small changes in my diet and routines that caused big changes for my health.
She suggested a few things at our first visit that I could start doing to help with my health concerns. One was taking Vitamin D, as most Canadians don’t get enough of this vitamin during the winter. Another change was to cut back on my coffee, and to start drinking a fruit-and-vegetable smoothie for breakfast instead of eating muffins or scones (which would cause a sugar crash later).
Those were do-able changes that I made easily within a week. The best part? I saw the difference! At our next appointment, my naturopath checked in with me about how those changes were working and then suggested a few tweaks. With her help, I’ve been able to keep up the healthier changes I’ve made. And the results—not being tired and not having a sore, itchy finger—have helped me keep up those changes.
4. Tell Someone
Working towards wellness is easier if you have an accountability partner. That might be your husband, a good friend, or a health professional like a nutritionist, fitness coach, or naturopath. Knowing that I’ll be checking in with my naturopath in a month or two, and telling her how I’m doing, has helped me stick with the plan she gave me. She also gives me encouragement that it’s okay to miss a day—just start over again.
Whatever your health goals are, I suggest finding someone who has similar goals or can at least encourage you in yours. It makes a difference to be able to chat with someone about how you’re feeling and to celebrate small successes or move past small failures.
5. Plug In
Back when I was a teenager, I’d end my day by journaling and reading my Bible. That habit ended when I got married (and got into a different bedtime routine with my husband!), and somehow I never established a new routine. As a teen, I recognized that I found it easiest to write when I’d had my daily quiet time. If I missed my Bible reading for some reason, my stories seemed uninspired. As a mom, I’m realizing once again that I need that spiritual recharge every day.
My Hope Planner has been helping me build a daily quiet time back into my routine. It’s not really a quiet time (as I usually get up with Joey, made my breakfast smoothie, and then sit down with my planner and Bible while he’s eating his breakfast), but it’s the best I can do at this stage of life. I’m still cracking my Bible open (using Meg Hunter-Kilmer’s daily Bible reading plan), getting into Scripture, making note of a verse or two that stuck with me, and planning my day with prayer.
6. Move It, Move It
Just before Christmas, my husband and I got a great deal on memberships at a new local gym. I’ve been trying to go twice a week, as I can take Joey and Pearl to childminding while I’m at the gym (and leave Sunshine to babysit her sisters, while they do school). I don’t always feel like going to the gym (although it is nice to keep up with several of my favourite podcasts!), but I notice that I feel better after. I have more energy, more clarity.
Getting to the gym is hard as a mom! In the past, I’ve also used at-home workouts like BeachBody or Popsugar Fitness. Often, the kids start jumping around the room with me, so it’s a great way to model an active lifestyle for them. During the summer, I prefer to get outside with them—hiking or biking. However you prefer to get active, find a way to fit it into your schedule—even if it’s a small change at first! Popsugar has some great 15-minute workouts that you can do before the kids get up.
7. Be Inspired
All of these are things that have helped me live a healthier lifestyle in the last few months. One more thing that has greatly helped me in this journey is surrounding myself with positive messages about wellness and what I want to achieve. My mom is a great example to me of living an active, healthy lifestyle and eating well. I also subscribe to several bloggers and follow people on social media who support positive wellness.
What helps you with your physical, mental and spiritual wellness?