As mothers, it’s common that we put the needs of our family before our own. I think we can all agree that our personal health and well-being are incredibly important in order for us to properly care for our children. Even while acknowledging this, it’s easy to sweep our own needs under the rug as we focus on our family.
Take your child’s doctor’s appointments for example. In the first year, babies usually visit the pediatrician in the first week of life, as well as at 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, 6 months, 9 months, and 12 months. That’s a lot of appointments. And I’m guessing you didn’t skip any of those.
But did you go to your one yearly physical and two dentist appointments? Hm, personally speaking, I might need to check my calendar for those. And even crazier, we can even end up putting our pets’ needs before ourselves. My dog has an allergy and has been to the vet pretty much every month to try and find a solution. Meanwhile, I have been experiencing hormonal acne for about a year, yet making an appointment to see the dermatologist keeps getting pushed off—maybe next month!
But our health is important. And I’m not just talking about working out and eating nutritionally dense meals. I’m talking about the whole picture of health, which includes attending yearly doctor’s appointments and keeping an eye on stress level, sleep, staying active, and yes, also eating a balanced diet. All of this can also impact your fertility, as Dr. Cynthia Murdock, a reproductive endocrinologist with RMA of Connecticut shares: “Factors that can have the biggest impact on fertility include nutrition, sleep, stress, and exercise.”
So why is it so important for us to prioritize our health? When we take care of ourselves, we can better take care of our children. When our energy is drained, being present for our children becomes a huge challenge. Also, by taking charge of our own health, we’re setting a good example for our children to know that it’s important to prioritize health and self-care.
Here are six steps to make your health a priority.
1. Look at your whole picture of health
The words health and wellness may trigger visions of working out, eating salad, and drinking a matcha latte. This isn’t the case at all. Health goes far beyond workouts and what we eat. The big picture of your health does include staying active and eating a nutritionally rich diet, but it also includes connecting with loved ones, getting sufficient rest and downtime, managing stress levels, and prioritizing mental health. Take a moment to think about all of these areas and where you may want to lend more time and focus for better overall well-being.
2. Lose the all-or-nothing mentality
Making huge sweeping changes to improve your health (“I will get eight hours of sleep every single night” or “I will workout every other day for 45 minutes,” for example) are great, but also not very realistic. And it doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing approach to your health. Sabrina Renee Hermansen, a Master Certified Health and Life Coach specializing in helping busy women discover balance and to live intentionally, explained that small steps can be more effective. “Let go of the ‘all or nothing’ mentality that is easy to fall into when things feel busy,” Hermansen said. “Create little windows of time that are designated for your health, and you can create a bunch of small habits that result in a big impact.”
Hermansen recommended stroller walks or jogs, online workout videos, backyard play, and bike rides with child seats. It might not be the sweaty HIIT class you religiously attended before having kids, but small movements are keeping you active and add up. The same goes for sleep. Maybe those eight hours a night aren’t happening, but do something small that will improve your situation, even if it means getting into bed just 15 minutes earlier than you typically do to get more sleep at night. Avoid perfectionism and focus on starting small.
3. Write out your weekly goals and plan ahead
The act of writing out your goals can help you to define the steps needed to achieve them. On Sunday nights, consider spending a few minutes defining your wellness goals for the week. Think things like spending time outside each day, stretching, or taking a yoga class. As for the mental health aspect of things, Hermansen recommended listening to self-care podcasts, reading books about mindset, date nights, and calling a good friend.
Look at your week and see where you can potentially fit in these actions while maintaining flexibility since life can be unpredictable. When the free time does arise, you can look to your list and see what wellness items you can jump into. Make your wellness goals a priority, just like you would cooking dinner or finishing a work assignment.
4. Ask for help
We often can feel the need to take on everything ourselves, but it’s not necessary, and it can lead to eventual burnout. As you write out your goals and do your planning, if possible, enlist some help. Set aside time for your partner to take over parenting duties if you need to get to an appointment, a gym class, or you simply need some quiet alone time. Compare schedules with your partner so you can have a plan in place.
5. Involve your children to set a good example
Our children look up to us and model their own behavior after ours. I’m sure we’ve all felt like the frazzled sleep-deprived mom at one time or another. That’s bound to happen, but we also want to show our children an energetic, positive, and self-loving version of ourselves as well. Show your children that you go on walks or workout to stay strong and healthy, you eat a variety of foods to honor your hunger and to stay energized, and you visit the doctor and dentist because it’s important for your general well-being and to stay healthy.
6. Schedule your yearly appointments all at once
And speaking of those appointments, time moves quickly and before you know it, it’s been over a year since you’ve been to the dentist. If you tend to push off scheduling appointments, correct this habit, and make all of your appointments now, so they are set for the year. It’s easy to push it off but it actually only takes a few minutes to get this chore done. Having appointments on your calendar far in advance helps you plan accordingly. If you need to reschedule you can, but with it on your calendar, you’re more likely to go.
Here are the appointments you should consider each year: one gynecological exam, one yearly physical, two dental appointments (one every six months), one vision exam, one dermatology appointment, and a mammogram (typically recommended for women after 40). And if you get into a good routine, you can then make your next appointment at the end of each appointment you attend.