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'Take a Shower Every Day:' Basic Self-Care Tips for Medical Moms

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After my daughter was first diagnosed with her heart condition, I went into medical mom mode and forgot to take care of myself for years. As medical moms and dads, we spend our energy taking care of the details related to our kid’s healthcare needs: making doctor appointments, researching, dealing with health insurance and a lot more. At the end of the day, we are exhausted.

When do we take time for ourselves? How do we take care of ourselves?

If you’re like me, you learned about self-care from all the mistakes you made. I would stay up late researching a new diagnosis, eat poorly and drink when I was especially stressed. I would convince myself I had no time to exercise and put myself last on my to-do list. Many of us think of self-care as pampering ourselves like a massage, getting a manicure or going to the gym for a a workout. I know sometimes us medical moms barely have time to go to the bathroom by ourselves, so getting a massage seems pretty out of reach.

But I have found self-care is simply basic self-care like going to the doctor regularly, eating right and exercising. That’s it. It sounds so simple. You see reminders of it all around us. All you need to do is look at the headlines of the women’s magazines in the checkout line, and you will see one or two articles about self-care. So, what is basic self-care?

1. Get regular check-ups.

It’s easy to forget your own health when you’re going to so many doctor’s appointments for your children. Even though it seems impossible, getting regular check-ups will help you in the long run. Healthcare guidelines for women promote routine mammograms and pap smears. We often get reminders in the mail from our doctors who help prompt us to make the appointments. At the check-ups you’ll get your weight checked regularly and get blood drawn for cholesterol, iron levels and more. Getting routine check-ups was actually an area I really excelled in, but I never gave myself credit. While it’s not a day at a spa, regular doctor visits are very important for maintaining your health.

2. Eat a balanced diet.

We know the importance of a balanced diet, but many of us don’t follow through. I know when you’re busy driving your kids to activities and doctor appointments, it’s much easier to stop by McDonald’s for a bite. I have been guilty of this myself! I did switch to salads a long time ago and avoided those yummy french fries. But I must confess, I used to steal a couple of fries while passing the food bags back to my kids! So while we’re trying to get our kids to eat vegetables, we might as well fill our own plates with them too.

3. Exercise.

Do you have every workout video, outfit and equipment for almost every kind of exercise? I do. I have started literally hundreds of workouts by buying the right clothes and equipment. Now I have clothes for running, yoga, weights, swimming, biking, downhill skiing, tennis and more. You name it, I have it! I have multiple yoga mats (one for travel, one for the beach, one for indoors…), a good selection of weights, running shoes, a number of goggles, a bike or two, skiing equipment, a couple of tennis rackets and tons of exercise videos and whatever else I needed. After years of trying out every sport, I now choose to simply walk every day. I try for 10,000 steps, but I don’t beat myself up if I don’t. Make it simple and head out for a walk.

4. Moderation.

I am sure you have heard the statement, “Moderation is the key.” It’s not easy to put it into practice, though. We splurge because we want to treat ourselves, but end up hung over from sugar, alcohol, binge watching our favorite Netflix shows and who knows what else. While moderation sounds so simple, it is hard to do day after day.

5. Do something for yourself daily.

Simple is better. Take a shower every day. (Don’t laugh!) We all know how hard it is to get a shower in when raising small children. I read every night before I go to bed. I know other moms that read the Bible or daily meditations. Watch the sunset. Just find one thing every day that is only for you.

6. Model self-care to your children.

Many of us do not model self-care well. In hindsight, it seems so obvious we need to show our kids the important skill of self-care. Yet, we are so busy taking care of them that we forget to take care of ourselves. But it’s never too late to start. Now my young adult children see me taking care of myself and I hope they learn by my example.

7. Acknowledge and accept the stressors of your life.

It is hard to be the caregiver of a medically complex child. It took me years to figure out it was OK to be stressed. Parenting is hard; but when you add in a child who needs special care, you more than double your stress. Ignoring it or pretending everything is fine isn’t going to make it go away. I needed to see a counselor to help me work through my stress and get to a calmer place.

So what do you need to do?

You will still be busy and probably stressed out, but if you take the time for some basic care life just might be a lot easier. Your family will enjoy the happy, healthier you and so will you!

Photo credit: Liderina/Getty Images

Originally published: February 23, 2019
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