A healthy balance is so important!
Between the demands of work, maintaining a well-kept and organized household, and taking care of one or more children, you might feel like your head is spinning right off. When it comes to empowering ourselves, investing in “me time” can get swept under the rug.
You need to find a way to carve out at least one hour of time in each day to dedicate to your physical and mental health.
As a Registered Dietician, I've spent the past decade helping my clients better understand how creating balance, especially with nutrition, can create a lasting positive impact on their lives.
It wasn’t until I had my own child that I realized how difficult maintaining a healthy balance can be. After 15 months of motherhood, I can tell you that it is not only a necessity but something that should be at the top of every parent’s priority list.
I completely understand the selflessness that comes with being a parent but investing in yourself is best for everyone. With some extra organization and planning, you can make the time.
Here are 7 tips parents need to know about "Me Time".
1. Fight or flight is a real thing
First, I’d like to explain what is going on in your body when you are stressed, tired, skipping meals, and missing that precious workout/sweat time.
Stress can cause an increase of cortisol in your body. Cortisol regulates energy by selecting the right type and amount of carbohydrates, fat or protein the body needs to meet the demands placed on it. Cortisol (along with epinephrine) is best known for its involvement in the “fight-or-flight” response and temporary increase in energy production.
However, chronically elevated cortisol levels can have a detrimental effect on weight (i.e. weight gain more specifically focused on the abdominal area), immune function, and chronic disease risk (i.e. increased blood sugar levels, etc.).
2. Skipping meals is a no-no
Skipping meals is very common for busy parents, but this will put your body at risk for low blood sugar. Blood sugar is known as glucose.
Glucose comes from food (i.e. carbohydrates such as bread, rice, potatoes, cereal, fruit, milk, etc.) and serves as an important energy source for the body.
Without enough glucose, your body cannot perform its normal functions. Symptoms such as blurry vision, rapid heartbeat, nervousness, fatigue, dizziness, and trouble thinking clearly or concentrating are common when you have low blood sugar.
For any parent, these symptoms can turn a busy day into a bad day.
3. Don't underestimate the small stuff
It is very important to eat smaller more frequent meals throughout the day that contain a source of lean protein and whole-grain carbohydrate to fuel your body.
One trick I recommend is to always have snacks with you (in your car, purse, stroller, or at home) to prevent dips in blood sugar. Especially if you’re a breastfeeding mother, you will need extra carbohydrates because your body is burning at least 500 more calories per day to produce adequate breast milk for your baby.
4. Eat the right foods and drink a lot of water
This goes without saying but really do your best to avoid foods filled with refined sugar and saturated or trans fat (unhealthy fats). They create a vicious cycle of making your body crave more unhealthy food.
Focus on nourishing foods such as fresh fruits and veggies, whole grain carbohydrates (i.e. oats, sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa), lean proteins (i.e. eggs, fish, chicken, turkey, tofu, beans, grass fed beef) and healthy fats (i.e. nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, canola oil). Be sure you’re also drinking enough water. Increase your fluid intake during the summer months, especially while exercising. Remember, up to 60% of the human adult body is water so staying properly hydrated is crucial.
Be sure you’re also drinking enough water. Increase your fluid intake during the summer months, especially while exercising. Remember, up to 60% of the human adult body is water so staying properly hydrated is crucial.
5. Physical activity is a must
Another component to a healthy balance is physical activity. Exercise plays a huge role in stress reduction and weight control, as well as increased energy and blood flow, lowering blood pressure, and boosting mood. It is so important for your mental sanity and when you exercise, you will find that you have more patience with your kids and to take on the normal daily tasks.
Starting the day off by doing something for yourself first thing in the morning will set a positive mindset and sense of accomplishment. Think about it, you will have already gotten your workout in before most people have even woken up. You will be back home by the time your kids are waking up. Personally, I think this is the best way to start the day! It will give you more patience and calmness of mind.
Put your coffee on an automatic setting, lay out your workout clothes the night before, and pack a snack so you’re prepared for your morning workout routine and pre/post-workout nourishment to keep your energy running on high!
Try to get in at least 30 minutes per day of cardio (try to get your blood pumping). If this is too much, then set a realistic goal that works for you and your lifestyle.
Go at your own pace, and stay focused on your goal.
Remember, we are striving for progress, not perfection.
6. Sleep is a non-negotiable
One of the best gifts you can give yourself is sleep, sleep, sleep!
It’s been linked to improved memory, increased longevity, reduced inflammation, weight control, and lower stress (which helps to lower blood pressure). Sleep and metabolism are controlled by the same sectors of the brain. Therefore, getting adequate sleep is important for proper metabolism.
Go to bed early, wake up early and feel ready to conquer the day!
7. Priority lists are extremely helpful
Make a list of priorities that you would like to accomplish each day and each week.
Ask yourself, “What needs to be done today? What can wait until tomorrow?”
When you put yourself first, I promise you will be a better mother/father, wife/husband, daughter/son, and friend to all of those around you. You will have less anxiety about the little things, and more energy to give to your friends and family, as well as peace of mind.
A list of "me time" ideas
Here are some of my favorite things to do by putting my health first. Choose a few that suit you and your lifestyle and try to implement them this week:
- Exercise for at least 30 minutes per day (i.e. running, yoga, insanity workout video, hiking, biking, swimming, being outdoors)
- Going for a quiet walk alone
- Listen to your favorite music (in peace)
- Meditate (great for reducing anxiety, and gaining clarity, peace of mind) – even if you only have 5-10 minutes your body will thank you – I recommend the Headspace app)
- Try belly breathing (i.e. diaphragmatic breathing) which will help ease the fight or flight response that comes with high-stress situations and increased cortisol levels
- Hot Epsom salt baths (great for increased blood flow, muscle recovery, and relaxation)
- Jacuzzi (great for lowering blood pressure, relaxation, and getting out those knots we all have from carrying too much at once and our kids)
- Take a nap once a week (important for overall well-being, especially if you’re still waking up in the night with a baby)
- Book a massage (important for keeping your body aligned)
- Book a manicure/pedicure (a relaxing activity, also good hygiene)
- Book a facial (relaxation)
- Book an acupuncture appointment
- Go on a date night (call your sitter or someone you trust to watch your child/children for a few hours to get out with your partner)
- Make a coffee, lunch or dinner date with a friend (having a strong support system is very important)
- Plan a kid-free day by the pool (even a few hours will feel like a great break)
- Picnic in the park (call a sitter and pick up sandwiches and bring some wine, call it a night)
Things to avoid:
- Say no to the things in your life that do not add value or positivity to you or your family
- Do not “overbook yourself” which leads to feelings of exhaustion
- Don’t let your never ending running “to-do” list run your life
I'm Courtney Sullivan, Registered Dietitian certified through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Certified Personal Trainer, as well as a Group Personal Training Specialist certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. I'm passionate about helping my clients reach optional health through the delicate balance of nutrition and exercise. My private practice, Nutrition For Body and Mind is focused on lifestyle behavior modifications and customized nutrition plans to help my clients accomplish their individual goals and address any nutrition related disease specific conditions.
To learn more about nutrition and following a healthy plan to suit your individual macronutrient needs you can connect with me here.
Courtney Sullivan is a Registered Dietitian certified through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Certified Personal Trainer, as well as a Group Personal Training Specialist certified through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She's passionate about helping her clients reach optional health through the delicate balance of nutrition and exercise. Her private practice, Nutrition For Body and Mind is focused on lifestyle behavior modifications and customized nutrition plans to help her clients accomplish their individual goals and address any nutrition related disease specific conditions.