Exhaustion, stress and overwhelm—I rarely talk with a woman who isn’t experiencing at least one of these emotion-draining states. We over-schedule our calendars, we forget to eat, we don’t dedicate time to spiritual growth, and we make excuses about why we don’t exercise. We know what we should be doing, but life gets in the way and we put our own self-care at the bottom of our to-do lists instead of the top. Sound familiar?
I recently began a series of four articles based on the Top 10 Everyday Stressors of Women, shared in one of my morning devotionals. Self-sabotage and lack of good time management are two major areas of our lives that cause anxiety, feelings of failure and chaos in our lives.
The third key area is our lack of commitment to ourselves. Instead of nourishing our own mind and spirit on a regular basis, we feel guilty for spending time renewing and refreshing our souls. Instead of taking good care of our health, we try hit-or-miss diets that only lead to weight gain after they end, and say we are too busy for a regular exercise routine.
Self care should be one of our highest priorities, as we have been entrusted with God’s beautiful creation. As the scriptures say, we are His temple, bought with a priceless sacrifice, and we should love ourselves as He loves us. But women are the worst about making themselves a top priority.
Better self care should be non-negotiable! Here are a few ways to “fill your own cup first” instead of allowing it to become drained.
Fuel your body.
- Know your body! Ask your doctor or holistic practitioner to do a comprehensive blood panel, and take those results to another physician for a second opinion. You may be surprised at their different recommendations! Test for hormone imbalance. Here’s an article about my experience with estrogen dominance.
- Eat whole, nourishing foods. I have cut out sugar, gluten, nutrient-poor starches and caffeine, and I feel so much better! For some great recipes and articles, check out The Holisticates and The Gluten Free Homestead. Keep a food journal to determine where you are eating those “empty calories,” and where you need to re-balance your diet. Check out this article from Redbook.com for the best apps to make food journaling easy. Many also track your nutrient intake.
- Get plenty of rest. Gone are the days when we could stay up all night and function during the day. Adequate rest is absolutely critical for your productivity, memory, and emotional health. It affects your blood pressure, heart and ability to fend off illness. The Creator fully intended for us to rest. Even He took one day off after six days of work! And Jesus spent plenty of time in prayer and solitude to keep Him fueled and focused
- Exercise. Ugh, I know, I know. It’s hard to develop the discipline for a regular workout. But just 20 minutes of activity every day dramatically reduces your risk of cancer, heart disease and dementia. It keeps your muscles young, and it actually regenerates twice as many brain cells during your lifetime, which translates to better memory. A daily walk cuts your risk of premature death by almost a third, while keeping your weight in check. If you don’t do it for you, do it for the ones you love. Find an exercise buddy and set up a Fit Bit challenge for more fun!
Fuel your mind.
- Exercise your brain to keep it healthy. One term for this is “neurobics,” engaging different parts of the brain to do familiar tasks. Try writing with your non-dominant hand, switching the hand you use for your computer mouse, doing crossword puzzles, painting and reading. Write the question “If I were an animal, what would I be?” Record the answer with your non-dominant hand. Then ask a series of “Why?” and explore the creative answers written with your non-dominant hand.
- Unplug from electronics. We have become so addicted to our technology that now there is an official term for it! NOMOPHOBIA is the fear of being without your phone! The distractions of smart phones, tablets, and social media are having profound effects in the workplace and in our personal relationships. Plus, they keep us from thinking clearly. Put away the phone, enjoy some silence and be present with those you are with.
Fuel your spirit.
- Start your morning with an”unhurried” time for prayer and meditation. For many of my clients, that seems like an impossible task at first! But just try five minutes in the beginning, setting a timer if necessary. I promise it will become one of your favorite parts of your day! A quick devotional such as First 5 will inspire you, and setting your intention for the day will keep you focused. You might even try the 6-Minute Miracle Morning “guaranteed to transform your life before 8AM!”
- Practice gratitude, which is vital to having a nourished spirit. Keep a gratitude journal or a joy jar, and add something new every day. Take a gratitude walk, breathe in your surroundings, and note the goodness all around. When you are feeling down, reflect on the things you have recorded to boost your spirits. Remember to be grateful for YOU!
Think of it this way…if you saw your friend withering away from stress and lack of self care, wouldn’t you try to get her to slow down and take better care of herself? Treat yourself like you would your best friend! Loving yourself through radical self care honors God as you nurture one of His greatest miracles.
You are in charge of you. People won’t force you to slow down, say no and practice better self-care. They have been trained by you that you are on a mission to manage the universe! But if you don’t hit the pause button occasionally, you’ll end up exhausted, sick and perhaps even depressed. In the grand scheme of life, it is really important to push yourself that hard?
When you are 90 years old and look back on your life, what will you be most proud of? Will you have any regrets? Few people wish they had worked longer hours to achieve more. Most wish they had taken more time to deepen relationships, explore new things and love life.