Make the Pledge to Take Better Care of Yourself

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Moms don’t seem to find time to take care of themselves. They never get sick, don’t need to get a haircut, can go without a manicure, get enough exercise by running after their kids, manage with an occasional bite off someone else’s sandwich and are used to sleeping less than the rest of the family… Okay, maybe not! But, do you have the time to take care of yourself? Personally, it has definitely been a challenge.

Editor’s Note: This article is one in a series of  empowerment and inspiration pieces brought to you by Colgate

Like any mami, I take pride in caring for my family, but I can’t say I did a good job of taking care of myself. At one point I was only eating the leftovers after my kids had dinner plus cookies if I still felt hungry; my hair was growing wild, permanently tied back in a ponytail; and I would only shave or wax my bikini line the night before my annual checkup (no significant other in the picture!).

Habits—both good and bad—have us repeating a specific behavior without second thoughts. Only when my hair starting falling out, my nails became brittle and my clothes got too tight, did I realize it was time to change. In this destructive rut, my actions contradicted the message I try to convey to my kids: it’s vital to take care of yourself, inside and out. 

That is when I made the pledge. We teach by example—actions speak louder than words—but my behavior was far from exemplary, and not the legacy I intended to leave my girls. This is what I had to fix. 

  • Diet: On a tight budget, I would do my grocery shopping with my kids in mind. Fruit was included—for them—but other than tomatoes, I bought few veggies. Eating a healthy diet would require skipping a few snacks, which tend to be expensive anyway, and buying more vegetables, beans and brown rice.

  • Exercise: I spent most of the day sitting in front of the computer, but my productivity was less than ideal. To find time to exercise, I would have to set fixed breaks in my schedule and limit social media!

Read related: 4 Beauty Resolutions for Busy Moms

  • Sleep: With not enough hours in the day, we end up cutting down on sleep. To meet deadlines I worked late into the night, when I wasn’t doing laundry or the dishes at midnight!

  • Grooming: You can manage with a daily shower, of course, but a little more effort pays up. And no, it is not frivolous to take care of the outside! Did I want my girls to be embarrassed by their mother’s dishevelled appearance?

  • Organization: Moms are more than a nanny, a nurse, a cab driver, a cook, a housekeeper, a teacher and a coach! We take care of it all on stand-by mode, barely aware of what we are doing. Practicing mindfulness helps me concentrate on each task and enjoy the present. Plus I was determined to find time for myself, to do something I enjoy, if only for a few minutes a day.

Editor’s Note: This article is one in a series of  empowerment and inspiration pieces brought to you by Colgate

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If How do we break bad habits and acquire good habits? is not the million-dollar question in psychology, I don’t know what is. Time and repetition turn healthy resolutions into healthy habits. Eventually the new conduct becomes automatic and no longer requires the extra effort. How long it takes depends on the specific habit and will vary from one person to another. 

If repetition is the key to automation, taking it slow may be the fastest way to get there. Don’t be an overachiever, psychologists warn us, for you are more likely to fail confronted by an insurmountable task. With these two strategies in mind, I set off on my pledge to take better care of myself, which would involve the following.

  • Diet: Contrary to popular belief, eating a healthy diet isn’t necessarily more expensive than surviving on junk food and, with a bit of planning, won’t take too long to prepare. Cooking in large batches takes me through the week. I make steamed vegetables and eat it with brown rice, an omelet or grilled chicken; or prepare vegetable soup and have it with a few chunks of hard cheese or add beans for a complete meal. At night, I started adding a salad to whatever my kids were having for dinner and soon they were picking off my plate!

  • Exercise: Being thin, but not exactly fit, this took a greater effort. Slowly but surely I increased my activity walking when doing errands, taking the stairs instead of the elevator and swimming whenever possible. Unbeknownst to her, a friend gave me the final push by asking if I would join her for a brisk one-hour walk. Now I’m hooked! In my experience, it can be as addictive as running and, according to a recent study, has similar health benefits.

Read Related: Tips for Moms to Find “Me” Time

  • Sleep: Becoming as strict with my own bedtime as I am with my kids’ was quite a challenge. The trick was to separate real deadlines from self-imposed ones. Some things can wait until tomorrow and, when you are fully rested, even the most cumbersome task becomes easier.

  • Grooming: Granted, I still have to convince myself it is time well spent and find it daunting to keep up with monthly beauty routines, like facials or hair treatments. It helps to mark the calendar—or set the alarm on my phone—on the same day every month, usually the 1st or 15th. Seeing the amused look on my girls’ faces when I get a compliment makes it all worthwhile!

  • Organization: Haven’t you ever wondered how busy people seem to get more done than those with fewer limitations? Plan your day ahead, prioritize, write down what you have to do and stick to it! This may seem restrictive at first if you are used to jumping from one activity to another, but it will simplify your routine and has a great reward: more time for yourself.

Editor’s Note: This article is one in a series of  empowerment and inspiration pieces brought to you by Colgate

We all have habits we would like to change, because there is always room for improvement. Make the pledge to take better care of yourself and set an example for your kids to follow. Healthy habits will protect your family now and have lifelong benefits!