Talking with friends recently, we realized something – we’re a handful of years away from 40 but still treat our bodies like we’re 20. We’re at the point in life when family members and friends are dealing with health issues at an increasing rate, yet, we continue to neglect our own health in the name of “busy.”
Our bodies respond to the care we give, and, in the long run, what we put in will be reflected in what our bodies give back to us.
What we need to remember is that we rely on our bodies for basically everything and that taking care of our health is not an option – it’s a necessity. Our bodies respond to the care we give, and, in the long run, what we put in will be reflected in what our bodies give back to us.
It’s not always easy to put yourself first, particularly when you have an unending amount of responsibilities. But, as we know, parenting is physically strenuous and having capable bodies is a big part of being able to give your all to your kids. Here are six ways to prioritize your health.
1. Take care of your skin
Sure, add Vitamin C and Retinol to your daily routines, take off your makeup before bed, and pat on that eye cream each night. But, more importantly, go to the dermatologist and get your skin checked at least once a year. If you’re an ’80s baby like me, chances are that you’ve been less than cautious with your skin for most of your life. As we get older and go through pregnancy, those bad decisions in our early 20s might be showing up as discoloration, moles, freckles, and melasma. Most of the time, these are harmless, but often enough, they’re not. And unless you’re getting checked regularly, you might not find out early enough to be able to proactively manage.
And yes, wear sunscreen every single day and reapply often.
2. Drink more water
It seems easy enough, but for most of us, it doesn’t happen. Sometimes, it’ll be one or two o’clock in the afternoon before I realize that I haven’t yet had a glass. With getting the kids up and ready for school, making lunches and breakfasts, dropping everyone off on time and rushing home to start work, it’s often lunchtime before I can even grasp my bearings.
We know that adequate water intake is important for nearly every bodily function – your body needs water to lubricate organs and joints, transport nutrients, regulate body temperature, maintain blood pressure, and preserve organ function, among many other things. And without enough water, you’ll start to feel the effects on your body and brain (dizziness, fatigue, increased UTIs or kidney stones, constipation, poor appetite, cloudy thinking, mood shifts, distractedness, and poor memory).
Sound familiar? Yeah, me too.
Remember though, this doesn’t mean you need to be chugging water 24 hours a day. Just be mindful of it or make a routine to help you – like having a glass before your coffee in the morning, and then at every transition and meal (breakfast, before work, at lunch, before pickup, at dinner, before the kids’ bedtime, and after if you feel like it). Making it a regular thing and not kicking yourself when you forget or don’t feel particularly thirsty both help.
3. Strength train
If you’re someone who favors cardio over weight or resistance training, you’re certainly not alone. According to Time, “While about half of people do the recommended amount of aerobic activity each week, only 20 percent also do the muscle-strengthening moves that work major muscle groups.” This is especially impactful on mothers for a number of reasons. First, as you know, being a mother requires a good bit of strength – you are constantly climbing stairs, running around, picking up and carrying children of varying weights and sizes, and of course, toting around all of the stuff that little ones require.
Strength training is also one of the very few ways to actually make your bones denser. As you know, the aging process makes your bones more brittle and more prone to osteoporosis, a bone-density condition that primarily affects women (of the 10 million affected in the US, 80 percent are women, says Time). Recent research also suggests that strength training can lessen a woman’s risk for many major health afflictions, like heart attacks, strokes, and Type 2 Diabetes.
The best part? This doesn’t mean that you all of a sudden have to deadlift barbells and get used to the free weight room at your gym (why does it smell like that?!). It just means you have to be more proactive in making sure you’re trying to build muscle as well as getting your heart rate up during workouts. This could be as simple as a low-key free weight routine in your living room (mine only takes 15-20 minutes, tops). And you’ll be rewarded in no time with how strong and capable you feel.
4. Get your eyes checked
Sounds simple enough, right? Well, it’s been over two years since I’ve gotten mine checked, and I can’t imagine I’m the only one. Many times, headaches, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, muscle soreness, and sensitivity to light can all be caused by eye strain. Eye care is something we largely neglect, but with how much we use them daily (and how much we stress them with constant screens), it’s definitely something to move to the top of the list.
Ah, the ever-elusive night of rest that all parents daydream of. Let’s face it, sleep is not easy to come by when you’re parenting. There are night-feedings and night wakings, there are illnesses and nightmares, and then there’s the constant worry that sits on your minds as a parent and makes it hard to relax.
Sleep is integral to our health. Sleep not only allows our bodies to rejuvenate but also contributes to executive function (concentration, productivity, memory) as well as mental health.
Now is the time to get rid of all of our terrible sleep habits (I’m looking at you late night Netflix binges and endless phone scrolling), and make sure we’re getting the rest we need in order to continue to give our best to our kids.
6. Eat fresh and whole foods
We go through so much to make sure our kids are good eaters, and then often, we just stand at the kitchen counters and nibble at their leftovers. Eating fresh, real foods can help our bodies in so many ways – one of the biggest being getting rid of that run-down, sluggish feeling we all seem to carry.
If you’ve gotten into bad eating habits, don’t worry, you’re not the only one. Making small steps, like swapping out processed or sugary snacks for fruits and vegetables, is a great place to start.