Small Steps to More Balanced Health

If you’re anything like me, you might find it easy to get so busy and overwhelmed with life that you stop making it a priority to take care of yourself. Why do we women do such an incredible job of caring for the needs of everyone else around us, but then cease to make our own health and wellness a priority?

While I am not one to promote a self-focused preoccupation on perfect health and balance, I do believe that we are better moms, wives, daughters, friends, employees or business owners, etc. when we consciously make choices to care for our bodies, minds, and spirits.

Good health is a delicate balance. It doesn’t come just from popping a (vitamin) pill, or eating some “super foods.” It’s more than simply using organic ingredients on our skin, and avoiding nasty chemical sprays when we clean our showers.

Our complex bodies require a host of other things for optimal function… sleep, rest, manageable stress levels, adequate physical activity and fresh air, time spent in prayer and meditation. A body needs more than nutrients alone in order to thrive.

Small Steps to Feeling Better This Year

I’ve never had much success with New Year’s resolutions. I tend to dream big, overwhelm myself with too many things all at once, and my resolutions end up out the window.

Instead, I’m making a general goal of pursuing wellness this year as I come out of a season of burnout, through a lot of small and achievable goals. As I share my own goals, consider if there are any that resonate with you and might be areas in which you also need to consider setting some goals.

My Personal Health Goals for 2011


Photo by SashaW

Sleep

After a year of burning the candle at both ends and wearing out my body, I’m ready to admit that what my body needs is regular, solid sleep. I’m aiming to be in bed by 10:00 or 10:30 at the very latest each night, regardless of what’s left on my “to-do” list. I’m starting out by waking at 7am regularly as I recover physically, then pushing that back to 6:30, and then ultimately to 6am.

My priority, though, is consistent night time rest of 7-8 hours every. single. night. A rested mama is a happy mama.

Stress & Busyness

To say no more often to tasks and busyness. To say yes more often to relationships, enjoyment, family and things that bring me life.

I had to take a good, hard look at my schedule, recognize that I was attempting to do more things that I had hours in the day for, and mercilessly hack away at the things that needed to go, until I was again was left with space to breathe and for “real life” to happen.


Photo by ErinnnK

Rest

Running at full speed all day is hard on a body. To keep up our efficiency and stamina, we need to allow ourselves breaks and times of rest.

For me, this means making my couch my friend. If I feel like I need a short break from my household and homeschooling duties, I’m deciding to actually allow myself (and my Type-A personality) to take it. If the children are occupied, I might read or even close my eyes for a few moments. If they want to be with me, we can snuggle and read a book together.

Other opportunities for rest might include taking off my dish gloves and walking outside for 5 minutes to admire a sunset and breathe the crisp air deeply, or simply sit with my husband chatting at the end of a long day, hot mug of tea in hand. A ten-minute call with a girlfriend. Twenty minutes to work on a creative project while the little ones nap. The possibilities are endless, but the point is to stop and just be.

Exercise

Much as it can be difficult to motivate myself to do it sometimes, I feel far better overall when I am physically active, no matter what shape that activity takes. Increased blood circulation, less tense muscles, feel-good brain chemicals, more energy and a body that is ready for a restful sleep at night– all good reasons that I’m making it a priority to fit it in at least a couple times each week.

I don’t think that being more physically active necessarily has to mean going to the gym every day, or pulling out an hour long workout video every second day. There are many ways to fit exercise into our lives naturally and without devoting hours to it each week. It can even come in the form of taking a walk with our children, getting out in the garden, doing vigorous house cleaning (it counts in my books!), or putting on music and dancing around your living room.


Photo by funkz

Time Outdoors

We can all benefit from some extra sunshine in our lives. The fresh air is also invigorating and cleansing, and gets us breathing more deeply.

For me, getting outside is calming and it helps to ground me. It puts the frustrations of my day in perspective. It slows me down. It refreshes and inspires me. A simple goal of even five minutes a day (in winter; more in summer) is my starting point.

Soul Care

As a Christian, time set aside each day to read my Bible, bring my cares before the Lord, and sit quietly before Him is crucial for my spiritual health.

I’m re-implementing my morning times, before my children get out of their rooms, where I meet with God to begin my day. Whatever your own routine or preferences look like, we all benefit from these moments. Do you need to make it a part of your regular routine again, too?

Which areas of a healthy lifestyle do you most struggle with? What small steps are you taking this year for more balanced health?

About Stephanie

Stephanie Langford has a passion for encouraging homemakers who want to make healthy changes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke, and (her newest!) through successful meal planning. Together she runs a music school teaching piano lessons in Surrey with her handsome husband, is mama to 4 little ones, and she is the editor and author of Keeper of the Home.

Comments

  1. Getting enough exercise during the winter (and thus time outdoors). I crave walks that include warmer temps and some sunshine. Right now they’re down right miserable and sometimes cleaning or dancing in the house just doesn’t seem enough.

    • I hear you, Kara. It’s a struggle for me, too, as I’m not someone who enjoys the cold and I live on the gray, rainy Westcoast. I try to take advantage of any little bits of sunshine that we get, even if it’s just 5 minutes to stand on the deck and soak up the rays.

  2. I love your list here. Last year I really focused on combining the getting outside and exercising aspects of what you are talking about. It helped that we got to spend so much time last summer at a beach. Just walking to the beach instead of driving or riding bikes to the farmer’s market instead of taking a car makes such a difference in my outlook for the day.

    I also find that my “soul care”, as you put it, (love that term) is so much easier for me when I am outside. I find a nice place of calm in my head as I coast on my bike down a tree lined path or just sit bundled up in a towel with my kids watching the waves. Peace can be found anywhere and anytime if we just look for it.

    Of course, with a focus on being healthy we can’t overlook the food and drink we put into our bodies. Right now my focus (and my pledge for the week on my blog) is to drink my water each day. It clears my head and makes me feel less tired when I’m maintaining a good habit of water drinking. I’m also focusing on wasting less food by buying less at the store and using more of what I buy. Meal planning makes it so much easier to make sure that you have nutritious and delicious food for yourself and your family available when you need it and you don’t have to turn to anything pre-made or processed.

    Here’s to a healthy new year!
    Elizabeth E.´s latest post: Pasta with Meatballs

    • Drinking more water is a great goal, one that I could use to add to my goal (oh wait, the point is to keep it simple and not overwhelm myself, right? :). Love that you’re trying to waste less food, too. I totally agree about meal planning!

  3. Definitely exercise! It’s ridiculous, because it’s the number one thing that helps with my anxiety but it is so hard to do. Any day I just do a basic 20 minute yoga practice and take the dog for even a 15 minute walk is normally a great day. When I don’t get that minimum, I feel stressed all day. But my favorite days are when I get a full day of hard physical labor. Those are best. When I’m working hard and tired at the end, I don’t have energy left to worry about anything so my anxiety disappears. Plus I sleep well, feel good the next day, get stronger, and feel empowered b/c I’m actually using my body to accomplish something. So today, after laundry and a casserole, I think I’m going to repair the chicken’s house and replace their nest boxes.
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  4. Christine S says:

    I am really trying to eat whole foods. This year I want to get a garden going; a friend of mine and I have been talking about it all winter how we are both going to start gardens and help each other. She is one of my spiritual friends so we can have some good God-growing talks while we exercise in the garden and produce some delicious food. I like how one aspect can touch so many other areas of our life at once!

  5. Sarah Gainey says:

    Since Jan 1 I’ve been taking time to spend in prayer and scripture, eat a warm breakfast, do 10 mins of core strength training 3x’s/week, shower and get dressed for the day. That is pretty much all I have time for in my little guy’s 1.5 hour morning nap, but I am loving the way it makes me feel the rest of the day. I’m not sure how this will look when I have multiple kids, but these are goals I hope to accomplish each day. For my health and my family’s too!

    • I’m sure it will change once you have multiple kids, but I bet that establishing that habit now will make it easier to find other ways to accomplishing those goals later on. You’ll want to find a way to make time for it, because you know how good it makes you feel and how much better your day goes. Now that I have three kids, I find mornings are my best bet, before they’re up.

  6. Thanks for this wonderful reminder! just about every single thing you mentioned and how you put it really resonated with me! I’ve been short with my husband and my son and I think ultimately they really didn’t do anything wrong, I just need to get a new grip on how I want to live my life.

  7. I’m struggling with how to get outside more right now. It’s bitterly cold here and the kids and I hate the 20 minutes it takes to put on all the boots and snowsuits and find all the mittens… and then we end up back inside in five minutes. :)
    Alicia´s latest post: Green authors to offer online garden class

  8. This would pretty much be my list!! One thing I would really like to make a priority is meditation. I do make time for yoga once a week, but I think daily meditation would be very beneficial to my well being (now if I could just make the time for it!!)
    kristen´s latest post: Toy as Art

  9. LOVE this article and how simple you make it sound :) Great blog!

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