This is my last post in the Designing My Day series and probably the one area that I need to work on the most. I’m really good at making my health the bottom of my priority list – if it makes the list at all. I’m always wanting to take care of my husband and kids but don’t take care of my own health.
Maybe the best example of this is when I found out I had thyroid cancer almost 4 years ago. My rambunctious 10-month old son head-butted me in the neck, and this led to the doctors finding a cancerous growth that was 4 cm x 2 cm x 2 cm. I could actually see this lump on my throat if I had ever bothered to look. Instead, God used my sweet baby to help us find it. If that doesn’t illustrate how low on the list my health is placed, I don’t know what would.
On my last birthday, I decided that I was getting older (who wants that?) and really couldn’t just keep ignoring my health. You’d think after the thyroid cancer, I’d be better, but I’m a slow learner. Am I the most physically-fit woman? The epitome of good health? Actually, it would be pretty laughable to describe me like that, but I refuse to keep ignoring my own health (I won’t be able to take care of my husband or kids if I don’t pay attention to it.) Anyway, I wanted to share a few strategies of what I do to take care of myself.
Little things that I do:
- Get enough sleep. For me, I have to get up at 6 am almost every day so this means I need to go to sleep by 10 or 10:30. I know others can function on less sleep, but for me, getting this much sleep at least most of the time is a necessity. Sometimes this means I have to leave work until the next day or miss out on a later night activity, but it’s what I need to function well and get done all that I need to accomplish in a day. There is nothing I can do to stop a sick child waking me during the night or other nightly disruptions, but I can be in control of what time I go to sleep. I also am learning to give myself grace and not have as ambitious of a to-do list when a child does disrupt my sleep. (I had to put off writing this post because a lack of sleep getting up at 4 am with a child. Oh, the irony.)
- Have less caffeine. Slowly but surely, my caffeine intake had increased until I was drinking 3 or 4 cups of coffee a day. Besides it making sleep difficult, I just felt lousy with that much caffeine and hadn’t even realized how much I drank. I’ve cut way back and may even try to cut out more. When those lack of sleep nights happen, I have to fight the urge to just use more caffeine. I really feel better even on those tired days if I just don’t drink it.
- Drink more water. Not only did I cut back on caffeine, but I have increased my water intake greatly. Often when I want a second cup of coffee, drinking a water bottle actually wakes me up more. Drinking all that water also keeps me awake since I have to use the bathroom way more often.
- My morning routine includes some exercise. For me, this is when I have to do a series of foot exercises. I have a lot of trouble with my arches, and unless I stretch every single morning for about 15 minutes, I can’t walk across the house by the end of the day. I would love to someday have more exercise than that in the morning, but it’s the most critical exercise for me.
- Find ways to exercise while doing other tasks as well. I finally have admitted to myself that my feet aren’t going to allow for running any time soon and so I started using an exercise bike. One bonus of the exercise bike is that I can read while on it. I literally propped up my CC guide book and quizzed Elijah on memory work while riding. I told him I’d ride as long as it took him. When he was ready for me to look the geography map and get off the bike at 40 minutes in, I was relieved. I’m glad I figured out a way to add more exercise into my day.
- Distract myself when I’m in a food-eating mood. Lack of sleep usually leads me to eat more so my new strategy is to use the exercise bike, drinking more water, or cleaning something to keep myself from extra, non-hungry, tired eating. It doesn’t always work, but it’s a start.
- Set weekly goals that are about my health. All of the little things listed above have ended up on my weekly goal list from time to time. For instance, my weekly goal might be 7 1/2 hours of sleep a night, 4 water bottles a day, eating a salad for lunch at least 5 days, or a certain number of minutes on the exercise bike.
- Make sure I keep up with regular bloodwork and doctor’s appointments. Taking time to do these things is usually the last thing I want to add to my daily to-do list, but making sure my thyroid medications are right is important. Routine care is also vital since I didn’t even notice a large lump on my neck until my son head-butted me.
I’m a work in progress on this (just like so many other things), but that’s really the point, isn’t it? I want to be a work in progress instead of just being satisfied where I am. I want to be intentional about my health instead of just ignoring it. How do you design your day to take care of your health?