After Christmas each year and we have those few precious moments to regroup before the New Year begins, I spend a few moments reflecting on the successes and failures from the year. In fact, I think it is valuable to take stock every quarter or so to reassess my goals, the unexpected twists and turns I tend to encounter along the way, and my attitude and commitment to toward those things I am trying to accomplish (in case I need an attitude adjustment or need to revisit/re-prioritize my goals completely).
This period of self-reflection finds me sick in bed, fever-ridden, nauseous, and in a battle against what I am guessing is the flu. Since I have plenty of time to think, I have been wondering what steps I have taken (or not taken) that has landed me here. Now, I could be the queen of fitness and health and still come down with the flu. But the fact is, I know there are a lot of things I have been compromising lately that have contributed to my situation.
So, it was with that spirit that I chose to share my internal reflections with my fellow women on The Work at Home Woman blog. I am guessing there are a lot of other moms, wives, entrepreneurs, employees, women in general who have made similar choices and would benefit from making a renewed commitment to their health. Not only will we feel better, but, we’ll be more successful at filling those important roles I just mentioned.
As I thought it over, I realize I’d chosen to ignore some pretty basic rules for better health and vitality. Borrowing from my mistakes, I’ve created the following list of ways we can renew our commitment to take better care of ourselves.
1. Defend the margin
In today’s culture, the idea of maintaining margin is a pretty foreign concept. We tend to live to capacity financially, with our activities/commitments, running from pillar to post from sunup until sundown when we practically passed out in our beds. We do not leave any margin in our lives. So when that unexpected situation occurs (flat tire, medical emergency, etc.), we are already at the brink and have no “room” in our lives to deal with it. If we actively build margin into our lives (e.g. living on 80% of your income, scheduling downtime into your daily routine), we will give ourselves some room to breathe.
2. Avoid overcommitting yourself
Before you roll your eyes, you know I am probably right on this one. If you are like me, you may have a hard time saying “no” to people sometimes. In my case, I may find I actually want to take on that new project or join an interesting group. But, I need to do a better job of evaluating whether I can realistically take on another task or responsibility. How will it affect my family, my marriage, my work, etc? And, building on the last point, will it eat into the margin I am trying to build into my life?
3. Get adequate rest
Are you getting 8 hours of sleep a night? When we over commit ourselves, sleep is usually the first thing to go. There are entire websites dedicated to the study of the health benefits of sleep. Check out this one from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School – Suffice to say, we need our rest.
4. Avoid the fast food
Many of you are probably wayyyyyy too smart to go near to a fast food joint, but in the haste and craziness of the past few weeks, I have found myself running through the drive through trying to eat in the few spare moments we’d have between engagements. It goes without saying, but, with better planning on the front end, we could have probably avoided that. Or, worst case scenario, we should have made better food choices. Almost all the places have salads, fruit cups, yogurt, grilled chicken, etc.
5. Set aside time for fitness
Another thing that contributed to my current situation is my lack of fitness the past few months. In my case, I tend to get up early and get some exercise each morning (that way I can just get it over with). I have been so overcommitted, overly tired and stressed, that an extra hour of sleep was more valuable than an hour of exercise. But, as a result, poor eating and less activity brought on more weight. Thus, the vicious cycle begins. I feel sluggish, tired, foggy. I am making a commitment to resume my daily fitness routine. Many women find ways to incorporate fitness into their family activities, too. Walking with your kids, going to play a game of basketball or soccer at the park, or event participating in family marathons, triathlons or etc. There are great resources on the web that can help families plug into activities like these.
Check out this family fitness guide from Fitness Magazine for some simple, age-appropriate ways to get started.
6. Purpose to relax and recharge
One thing I have neglected to do for a long time is to schedule time to purposely relax and recharge. Things like occasional massages, pedicures, bubble baths, aromatherapy, etc. I knew of one woman who had one night a week when she would take a long, relaxing candle-lit bubble bath before bed. This was part of her weekly routine and something her family came to expect and relish, with her husbands and sons helping to draw the bath or light the candles for her before she would even arrive home from work.
None of this is rocket science. But, the truth is, it can be life-changing and we can all use a reminder every once in awhile. You are responsible for your physical health and mental well-being. And we shouldn’t be apologetic about designing our lives in such a way that places a priority on these things. Our quality of life, and the people whose lives we affect depend on it.
How do you plan to recommit to your health and mental well being this year? What ideas should we add to the list? What hard lessons have you heard?