Taking Time For You

I’m aware that I’m in danger of this sounding something like a self-help column this week but I want to write about self-care and about taking time to nurture yourself. With Mother’s Day just gone, it seems like a timely reminder that Mum’s (and indeed everyone) need a bit of a break regularly, not just once a year in an avalanche of flowers, homemade cards and breakfast in bed. But we are not passive in this, we need to claim space and time for ourselves.

It’s easy in life, especially as a parent (but not exclusively to those with small folk), to get so bogged down in the day-to-day tasks that need doing and meeting the needs of everyone around us that we forget about our own needs. Self-care is the buzz term for this but really, it just means remembering that you are a human with your own needs and wants and recognising that it’s not selfish to take some time to meet them. Mother’s especially can be prone to playing (unintentionally) the role of martyr, running themselves ragged looking after those in their lives and getting all their work done, constantly juggling tasks and appointments in order to keep their families ticking over. But the problem with this is that more often than not, we end up feeling burnt out, tired and resentful.

Luckily, the solution is not a hard one. Self-care doesn’t mean jetting off for an all inclusive spa-weekend once a month (although once in a while wouldn’t go amiss!) Rather, it means adopting a practice of remembering every day, to honour yourself by doing something that’s just for you. That might be taking the time to go for a run or to an exercise class, to sit down with a tea and a book or trashy Netflix show for an hour, it might be choosing to take some extra time to prepare a nutritious meal to better fuel your body, it might be simply going to bed early rather than spending an extra two hours tidying and tying up the loose ends of the day.

And the thing is, if we regularly make time to honour ourselves, we’ll find tension dissipating in other areas of our lives. We’ll have more patience and energy to deal with the demands that life throws at us. It’s not selfish to take time for ourselves. It’s not selfish to say no to a request to play by the kids or to turn down extra hours at work. It’s OK to put ourselves first once in a while. I remember reading something Dr Sears had written when Sophia was just a toddler, he wrote that the sun does not rise and set on one member of the family but rather that everyone in the family were of equal importance. He wrote that sometimes one person’s needs will be more pressing than others but that in the grand scheme of things, a family should equally look after each other.

I’ve come a long way in the way of self-care and now make sure I take time daily to do something for me (usually go to the gym or eat separately from the kids so I can eat something yummy I know they won’t touch!) and the difference is noticeable. I find that I shout less and that as a general rule, our house is calmer. I’m not going to lie, we still have stressful, grouchy days but there are less of them. So if you had a lovely Mother’s Day but wished you were given the opportunity to focus on yourself a little more, don’t wait another year. Adopt an attitude of daily self-care and take some time (even if it’s just 10 minutes) for yourself, you won’t regret it!

E+E Column: Getting Moving

Over the last two years, I’ve been on a bit of a journey of discovery…into the wonderful world of fitness. Before you stop reading, give me a chance! I promise it’s worth getting into (fitness that is, not my somewhat random musings). For the previous 26 years of my life I had only a fleeting interest in fitness; I found pleasure in swimming, I liked the usefulness of cycling and I occasionally went through phases of running but nothing stuck. To be honest, once a roomate at university broke the news to me that running regularly wouldn’t cancel out my habit of eating 400g of mature cheese a week, I wasn’t particularly interested. I carried more weight than my body ought to and had a slightly unhealthy sugar (and cheese) addiction.

So what happened? I bought Dan a set of dumbbells and the equivalent of ‘weightlifting for dummies’ for Christmas 2014 and after seeing him get into it, thought I’d give it a try. Before I knew it, I had found a ‘sport’ that I really liked! I loved the feeling of lifting weights and increasing them week on week, getting a little bit heavier at a time. I felt strong and powerful. I started to add in some cardio in the form of running and HIIT (high intensity interval training) and it just seemed to follow that I adjust my diet to suit. I stopped eating all the reduced cakes from the coop that I could get my hands on and started thinking more about our dinners. I even kept lifting (safely) whilst pregnant with Elijah before the SPD stopped me at 7 months. If the me from a few years ago could see me now, I think she genuinely wouldn’t be able to believe it. I’ve never thought of myself as someone who’s really into fitness but apparently have become one!

And it is most definitely, for me at least, not a vanity centred thing. I’m not going to lie, I do like the way I look more now. But if that was the only positive effect I’d have stopped months ago. No, I like the way it makes me feel. I have more energy, my moods are consistently better and more stable, I sleep better (when the baby lets me!), I’m actually able to eat MORE food to fuel myself and I just feel all round healthier. I don’t even mind not eating cake so much (mostly), finding that I savour it more when I do have it. The biggest challenge has been fitting it into life with three small people in tow. But we seem to manage to do it mostly in the evenings and at the weekend take it in turns to watch the kids for an hour whilst the other one works out. I also love that the kids are seeing us look after our bodies and stay healthy, they are already keen to follow suit and that is probably one of the biggest gifts we can give them – modelling the importance of looking after our bodies, the bodies that carry us and keep us alive. The bodies we need for all our adventures. So, (and you can have a sharp word with me if this comes across as preachy – it’s honestly not my intention!), why not get out this week and find something that gets you moving that you enjoy. I promise you’ll feel better for it!


Trusty runners seeing a bit more action these days…