My family is going through a challenging season with our kids’ mental health. Between doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions, meetings at the school, researching, and writing countless emails, I am TIRED. While tired I still love, support (e.g. help with homework, listen to the social adventures of 3rd and 4th grade, answer questions about the universe, etc.), and snuggle my kiddos who are feeling their challenges first-hand; motherhood knocks me from tired into exhaustion.
One thing my friends and family keep saying is: “Take care of yourself.” I confess when I hear that I do an internal eye roll. In what time-space continuum do I have the opportunity to take care of myself? What does that even mean on a practical level?
However, once I set my bad attitude aside I remember there are two basic ways to take care of myself, both of which make up the foundation of self-love: eating and sleeping. In doing these two things for myself first, I can then take care of my people so much better.
Same for you, my dears. Eating and sleeping are human things, not just Leanne things. If you can’t find any other way to love on yourself, then at the very least consider doing these two things.
The most fundamental way to love yourself is to eat! And I don’t mean eating according to a diet, cleanse, or perceived “good” or “healthy” way. Diets, cleanses and rigid eating are all forms of restricting nutrients that feed you. If you’re restricting then you aren’t feeding your body, you’re controlling it. And control in any relationship, especially with your body, is not love.
Listen to hunger cues and ask yourself what sounds good. Don’t question or judge what your body says. If your body is asking for something you (or culture) have deemed “unhealthy” or “bad,” I encourage you to throw that judgement out the window and eat the food. Body love trumps cultural rules.
When the challenges of life are pulling your body into fatigue, stress, or worry, eating becomes imperative for brain function so you can think critically and make appropriate decisions in whatever you’re dealing with. Hard times are demanding on the body; love your body–take care of yourself–by eating. Not restricting or starving.
This is not to be confused with eating to cope with your feelings. Eating as a way to avoid hard feelings is just as unloving as starving your body. Feel your feelings. Listen to your body; eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full.
One of the most annoying experiences is to be exhausted yet not be able to sleep. When you’re anxious or worried or angry, sleep can be elusive, but it’s the best and most loving way to calm down. Sleep also restores energy and keeps your body cues accurate (which is important for eating!). In fact, if you’ve ever labeled yourself a “sugar addict,” I’d encourage you to take an honest look at your sleep habits. If you aren’t sleeping well then your body lacks energy. The body’s natural biological response to low energy is to ask you for fuel that has quick, efficient energy. The most efficient form of energy is sugar. Tada! Be nice to yourself. You aren’t a sugar addict; you’re probably tired.
It’s also important to understand that your body can be fatigued without you noticing or feeling tired. Anxiety has a way of tricking you into thinking you have energy, and thus getting plenty of sleep. This is called an inaccurate body cue.
So how do you know if you need a nap or need food? This can be tricky and you have to tune in to your body to learn the difference. Sometimes you might need both. It’s going to be different for everyone, but a couple of clues might be:
~If you’re not eating much and find yourself thriving on a mere four hours of sleep. This could be a clue that you’re running on anxiety. You’ll need both good nutrition (which will help you sleep) and sleep (which will help reset your body cues).
~If you’re constantly feeding your body yet always feel tired. This is a good clue that you might need more/better sleep.
~ You’ve slept great but have low energy OR you’re extremely tired and calm yet can’t sleep. This could be a clue you need more nutrition. Your body will not sleep or sleep well if it’s hungry.
One last note about sleep. Good sleep hygiene is part of loving your body. This means doing simple things that prepare your body for good sleep like:
~ Meditation to calm the mind and body. (Click here for my favorite bedtime practice.)
~ A hot shower to rinse off the day, soothe tense muscles, and calm your nervous system.
~ Massaging lotion into your feet and toes as an act of gratitude for holding you up all day.
~ Deep breathing to relax shoulders, gut, and butt (common areas that hold stress).
Take care of yourself. If those four words cause you irritation or panic because you don’t know what that means or you think you don’t have time, remember the two basics: eating and sleeping. Start there. Listen to your body and honor what it needs.