If you’ve ever been flying, you’ll remember receiving the ever helpful ‘safety speech’ at the beginning of the flight: “In the event of an emergency, oxygen masks will drop down from the ceiling, ready for use.” As parents, our first instinct would be to put the mask on our children and protect them from harm. The exact opposite is true; the mask needs to first be put on you and then on your children. Why? Because airlines have embraced one important fact: We need to take care of ourselves before we can take care of our kids. We need to take care of ourselves so we can take care of our kids; we can’t help them if we’re dead!
Sadly, this fact escapes us in everyday life, doesn’t it? We tend to put our own needs (note I said needs and not wants) behind everyone else’s. We eat last; we sleep less; we hardly remember to drink two cups of water a day, much less ten; we push ourselves to the limit to get things done; we overburden ourselves with ‘responsibility’; and we go until we drop. While I find it admirable, caring for others, we also need to be taking care of ourselves.
Recently, I’ve noticed a scary trend. More and more parents, especially homeschooling parents, are taking a hit. We’re tired, we’re frustrated, and we’re almost ready to throw in the towel. Why is this? Perhaps it is because we are putting everyone ahead of our own needs.
Eat – Let me be the first to admit, I don’t eat enough. And when I do, I don’t eat the right things. For years, I lived on Snickers and Coke. (Yeah, I know; bad combination.) If we aren’t feeding our bodies the right food, how can we expect our bodies to function properly? If we aren’t functioning properly, how can we be expected to care for others? Eat a healthy, balanced diet and do it regularly.
Drink – Yup; I’m bad at this, too. It wasn’t until I started making myself sick from lack of hydration that I started to take this seriously. Do yourself a favor… drink some water!
Sleep – Most of us don’t get enough of this either. If you can’t get eight solid hours during the night, consider taking short, afternoon naps. If you’re having trouble sleeping (which I do on occasion), narrow down the reasons why. Does your body need nourishment or hydration? Perhaps you need a little exercise? Which leads us to…
Exercise – You’d be amazed what just a twenty-minute walk everyday can do for your health and your mental well-being. If getting out of the house isn’t an option, find some form of activity which will get your heart pumping and your body moving. Play tag with the kids! They’ll think you’re loads of fun and you’ll get the exercise you need.
Time Out – Even if we’re doing everything else we’re supposed to, sometimes we just need a break. Affecting more our mental heath than physical (although it can start affecting our bodies), stress takes a toll. Don’t be afraid, or ashamed, to take a step back when needed; ask for space. When you’ve had an opportunity to just breathe, you’ll find your able to function more efficiently.
Conversation – I don’t know about you, but just hearing a friendly voice keeps me balanced. Sometimes we just need to talk with others who understand where we are and hear their wisdom on how to move forward. Never be ashamed to call on friends and ask to talk. Being able to express ourselves and unload the doubts praying on our minds maintains our mental health.
Seek Help – So, you’ve tried everything else and something still feels off? Call the doctor! It isn’t your imagination, it isn’t you being dramatic; there is probably a very logical reason for your feeling ‘down’. It might be hormones; it might be thyroid issues; it might be a vitamin deficiency (which is what mine was); or it could be something more serious. It’s better to have a professional way in on the situation and set your mind at ease. Have your family doctor do a quick check and let you know what’s really going on.
When we remember to eat, drink, sleep, and take time for ourselves, we better serve those around us. When our bodies are healthy, we are better able to minister with grace, mercy, and love. Taking care of your needs isn’t selfish, it’s essential. To take care of others, you must first take care of you.
Time to Chime In: Which are you most likely to skip out on: food, sleep, or exercise?