by Lisa Martin
Your nose is running. Your body aches. You know you got that cold from your seven-year-old. The work project you’ve been struggling with is due Friday, and you keep telling yourself, “I just don’t have time to be sick.”
No career-committed mother wants to give up her precious time to illness. But the truth is if you don’t make time for your health, you will have to make time for illness. And, illness, we all know throws a curve ball at our balance.
So how do you fit in exercise, relaxation and all those fresh carrots and green vegetables when time is so limited in your life already?
Start by reclaiming ownership of your health. Good health is about integrating all aspects of your life—body, mind and spirit. It’s more than adding three hours a week at the gym to your schedule. It’s about obtaining a general sense of well-being. Take a step back and look at your health from a more holistic perspective—exercise is just one part of the equation. Examine how you are treating your body. Are you respecting it in terms of nutrition, movement and rest? Are you tuned in and paying attention to how you feel?
See Your Doctor(s) Regularly
If you haven’t seen your general practitioner lately, make an appointment for a full physical exam. That includes checking your cholesterol and blood pressure levels and, if you’ve been feeling particularly stressed or tired, having your thyroid and adrenal gland checked as well. This will give you a base measurement from which you can go forward.
While you’re looking after yourself, schedule an appointment or medical screening with your dentist and optometrist as well. You’d do it for your car, so why not your body? In particular, if you’re experiencing any unusual symptoms, don’t ignore them. Lumps, bumps, knots and fatigue are your body’s way of saying that something requires your attention. Tell the appropriate health-care provider about them.
Become a Strategic Eater
The fuel you put into your body can make all the difference to your health and energy levels. Practicing good nutrition means learning about food. It does not mean dieting. Understanding which foods give you energy and which rob you of your vitality is essential to keeping you at your best. Different metabolisms call for different combinations of fat, protein and carbohydrates, and through being aware of what you’re eating and how you’re feeling you will know what foods combine to bring you maximum energy.
While becoming clear which foods work best for you, start thinking about the size and frequency of your meals. Eating small amounts five or six times a day has proven to be better for us than three large meals. It is easier on the digestive system and provides a more constant, even flow of energy to the body, avoiding the hunger peaks and valleys. You’ll be less tempted to grab that chocolate bar or bag of potato chips to get you through the afternoon, and you’ll arrive home with better energy to face the evening.
Make Meal Planning a Family Event
One of the simplest ways to keep your health on track is to plan your meals. Many of us wake up with two questions on our minds: “what should I wear today?” and “what should I make for dinner?” Running in the door at dinnertime having to come up with that constant “six o’clock solution” creates stress and leaves us open to less-than-healthy answers.
For many people, last-minute meals often mean hitting the drive-through on the way home or ordering take-out meals several times a week. While a bucket of chicken or a pizza can be a great treat, as regular fare it is hard on your body and can be hard on your wallet. Try calling a family meeting when everyone can be there and ask your family if they are willing to take a more active role in dinnertime planning and preparation. Get clear on everyone’s time commitments, and then come up with a “dinner agenda” for the upcoming week.
Move for the Joy of It
Okay, you know that exercise is good for you. You know that regular exercise reduces stress, decreases cholesterol levels, lowers blood pressure, strengthens your immune system and improves the health of your heart. Even though you know all this, it is still challenging, if not downright impossible, for you to fit regular exercise into your life.
There are several reasons exercise programs ebb and flow. First, if the exercise program feels like a “should” you likely won’t keep it up. If you are trying to “fit it in” rather than commit to it as a priority, you likely won’t keep it up. If it starts out too big—like telling yourself you are going to go to the gym three times a week or three mornings by seven o’clock—there’s a high probability you won’t keep it up. But most importantly, if is not joyful, you definitely won’t do it. If you want more physical activity in your life, try looking at exercise differently.
List the activities you loved to do as child. What kind of movement was fun for you? Remember the things you used to do as a young girl, when you weren’t concerned about “getting in shape” or keeping off the pounds. What activities were a part of your life up until your schedule became “too busy” for exercise?
To bring joyful movement back into your life, try starting with small steps. Commit to doing whatever it is you love to do for a short amount of time each day. When you focus on the joy of exercise, it no longer feels like a “should;” it becomes something that you really love and want to do.