I love my mom. My mom is awesome. She was a stay-at-home mom until I was about 8 or 9 years old. She made clothes for my dolls, she hand-sewed pillows of the letters of my name, she even threw a sleepover St. Patrick’s Day party with green make-your-own pretzels just because we were moving and I would miss my friends.
She was a role model for keeping an orderly and clean house, she created nutritious family meals and always made our birthdays and holidays extra special and magical. I admired when she went back to school and established a career. I so valued the fairness she always aimed for between my brothers, my sister and me.
I learned so much from my mom that nourished my development and made me the person I am today—and yet, there was at least one important area that I had to learn on my own. This was highlighted for me when my son was first born and I was still nursing him. I was spending a week at the beach with my extended family. As many of you know, nursing along with sleep interruption can be very demanding physically. I was about 6-8 weeks into it, and let’s just say Jacob was not a great sleeper. One morning Jacob started to fuss and seemed to be hungry, so before getting “into position” to nurse him for what could be up to 30-45 minutes, I decided to first eat a quick breakfast. My mother didn’t control herself from chiming in with her vote on my decision. “Juuulie…,” said with that tone that conveys in an instant that I have done something that warrants disapproval. It became clear in that moment that I was not following my mother’s wisdom but instead my own. Just like on an airplane when the adult puts on her oxygen mask first and then assists the child—this was what I was doing with my son. I was grateful that my mom was able to hear my perspective and acknowledge that somehow both my sister and I were able to learn this valuable lesson on our own. I learned it the hard way. I learned it after a variety of “accumulated-stress/health crisis” type experiences where I realized that I must take care of myself (my heart, body and soul) because others won’t AND that I must do this to better serve my family.
This lesson is one that I think we all circle back to many times in our lives. It is frankly challenging to do and often requires a certain set of conditions to sustain. What works at 20 or 30 may not at 40. What was possible before kids may need to be revised after kids. Below are some specific aspects I have learned with regard to self-care:
- Break the downward spiral. This can be the hardest part. When we find ourselves over-tired, anxious, craving sweets and it’s raining outside—what is it going to take to break the cycle enough to move us towards feeling better enough to want to keep doing what is best for our own care? Identify the support you need and get it.
- Get the help you need. If you need to jump start out of a downward spiral, you might want to pay a professional (doctor, naturopath, therapist, acupuncturist, personal trainer, coach, etc.) to turn the tide. A little St. John’s Wort could go a long way.
- Build a community of support. Once the momentum is headed in the right direction, your support could be your spouse, your friends, or relatives. How we eat and what we value is significantly influenced by those we are with daily. How often have we been drawn into having a chocolate éclair just because our sweetie bought it for us?
- Find what works for you. For your body. (Do you need a run to get the serotonin going or is restorative yoga the type of relaxation your body craves?) Experiment, learn about physiology and nutrition and use your self-awareness to discern the right formula for you.