Self Care: A Vital Strategy for Ongoing Health

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I don’t know whether I’m happy or sad about the fact that I find myself having to actually prescribe “self care” strategies to women.

What does this say about our culture that women - especially moms - routinely put ourselves last, tolerate never ending overwhelm, burn out regularly and think it’s normal?

Here is the reality of where we’re at (see if you can relate):

  • we run from one thing to the next with almost no time to relax and breathe

  • we have next to no “white space” in our weekly calendars ie. time where absolutely nothing is scheduled

  • our kids’ activities and schedules take precedence over everything else

  • everyone has access to our time thanks to email, social media and texting, and there’s an expectation of immediate response when someone does communicate with you

  • sitting on the couch with a tea and a good book are a Pavlovian signal to our children that they need us to do something for them

  • watching the latest episode of Outlander on Netflix while taking a bubble bath is guilt inducing. Or a completely foreign concept - one or the other

  • we get to the end of the week feeling tired, emotionally drained and in dire need of a vacation from the life we have created for ourselves. Just sayin’

There’s nothing wrong with being busy. It’s that OVERWHELMING, “I just need some time for myself” kind of unproductive but busy, BUSY that is emotionally harmful.

And it shows up in your nervous system.

Yes, a lack of self care actually creates postural changes that change the overall structure of your spine and put pressure on your spinal cord. Who would have thought?

Here is my prescription for busy, overwhelmed moms (and by the way, I use these same techniques with my female chiropractor coaching clients):

  1. Start with a blank calendar and insert the non-negotiables in your week. Work would be one of them - you have to do it. To be honest, I can’t think of many other non-negotiables. Kids’ activities and sports are NOT non-negotiables, by the way.

  2. Insert family time on your calendar, things like date nights with your husband, homework time with kids, family night on Sundays, church, time with a parent, etc.

  3. Now pick a time just for you. You can call it “Me Time”, and it should be at least a couple of hours. This is time when you’re chilling out, disconnecting and not doing anything that resembles productive or busy time. Errands are out of the question. Work is a no-go. Making a meal is only permissible if you have a glass of wine and LOVE to cook to wind down. Household chores are banned. This is a no-child, no-husband span of time when your thoughts are allowed to wander or simply be put to rest for a bit. BLOCK. IT. OUT. If you don’t, no none else will.

  4. Begin to fill in the next most important regular events on your calendar, like kids commitments or volunteer work. This can seem like an impossible task…to prioritize your kids below yourself. But the reality is that there is no sport or activity that is more important than your mental health. Explore the possibility of car pooling or taking a night off of an activity before you sacrifice your me time.

  5. Finally, use any remaining time to schedule things that do not happen regularly, like birthday parties, holiday meals, appointments, etc.

It’s not a perfect system, but it’s a good framework that reminds you that YOU MATTER!

And if you feel like you need someone to give you permission to be naughty and do nothing…

…PERMISSION GRANTED!!

Now go have some Me Time!

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HI! I'm Dr. Shawna Dingman and I operate Elevate Women's Health Centre in Port Perry. I am the co-owner of Elevate Health Centres with my husband, Dr. Craig Dingman. 

Speaking of family, I'm a mom of 3 amazing kids: Jackson, Jenna and Cole.  I've always been passionate about the care of women and children, probably because I began my career as a pediatric and pregnancy chiropractor as a young mom with an infant!  Aside from clinical practice, I also co-host a podcast for women chiropractors and coach women chiropractors who want to have practices that are a great fit for their families.  In my "spare" time, I love to cottage with my family, hang out with the kids, CrossFit at our local gym, read a book, catch a great show on Netflix, go for a run or have coffee with friends.