In my role as a wife and mother, it's so easy to find myself getting worn out and run down. Have you ever thought to yourself, “Here I am in the prime of my life… Why am I not feeling better?” How is it that so many of us are overtired, overwhelmed and our bodies are physically dragging by lunchtime? Yeah, yeah, we all know we should exercise more and eat better… but sometimes in the midst of babies, children, chores, tight budgets and limited time we just don't meet those ideal goals.
What if I told you that there are 8 really simple things you can add into your day to help you feel better… starting today? (Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor. If you have serious medical issues, go see one! Think of me as your best girlfriend. This is what I would tell you if you were here at the farm, sitting at my kitchen table.)
The Acronym to Help You Start Feeling Better
First I want to share an acronym with you that someone taught me several years ago: NEW START. It's a fitting acronym, because when I am in the midst of exhaustion, a new start is exactly what I feel like I need! Here's what NEW START stands for: Nutrition, Exercise, Water, Sunshine, Temperance, Air, Rest and Trust in God.
Did you notice? Everything in that list is easily accessible and free! Now here are some hints I've found helpful for including these in our family's lifestyle:
The battle to make healthier eating choices is best fought at the grocery store, not standing in front of your cupboard at 10 pm, super hungry looking for a snack! If you don't let the junk into your home in the first place, it won't tempt you at inopportune times.
Avoid processed foods (you're paying for convenience and packaging!) and try as much as possible to keep your shopping confined to the outer edges of the store (where the whole foods are found). Eat lots of raw fresh fruits and vegetables. That's a quick way to get lots of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals with the least amount of calories. In our home, we start every meal with a fresh salad or raw food. (Hummus is a favorite around here!) Eating salad when we first sit down to eat and are still really hungry helps us eat more of it! Also, look for places in your diet where you can easily substitute a healthier option.
Getting enough exercise was really difficult when my children were young. Going to the gym was expensive and not practical with young children. (Some gyms offer a children's program, so if you can afford it, it may be worth checking out. If nothing else, you would at least get an uninterrupted shower!)
In my case, I had to get creative. When it was nice outside, I would walk around our property line several times while the children played. I also went on Craigslist and found an inexpensive exercise machine to use when the weather didn't cooperate. (The one I bought was called a “Gazelle.” I think I paid $15 for it!)
Exercise videos are another fun thing I have used over the years. I took some sample classes to see what kinds of exercise I enjoy and then bought exercise videos by Denise Austin so I could do those classes at home. (Here is my current favorite.) Remember, you don't have to join an expensive gym to get exercise! Walking, swimming, cycling, gardening, yard work… all this contribute to a healthy, active lifestyle! If you can exercise outside, you'll also be getting the benefits of sunshine and fresh air!
Drinking enough water is difficult for me. I know that each cell of the body needs water to function well, that the kidneys need water to excrete toxins efficiently and that dehydration can lead to many diseases. Yet, water is something I don't really enjoy and it's hard for me to remember to drink it. Purchasing a water bottle with an infuser allowed me to add some fresh (or frozen) fruit to my water and make it just a bit sweeter and more palatable! It is delicious! I tried fancy “smart bottles” that reminded me to drink and measured my water intake and wasn't impressed. In a few years I'm sure the technology will improve but for now, a simpler, more effective and free solution was to set a timer on my wristwatch or phone which beeps every hour. When it beeps, I drink a small 8 oz glass of water. Throughout the day those hourly water breaks add up! (For a fascinating read about how water and dehydration affect our bodies, I highly, highly recommend the book Your Body's Many Cries For Water.)
While sunburns are bad, sunshine is good for us! Growing up in Canada, I remember that every winter news anchors would announce rising suicide rates and remind people to take Vitamin D supplements. (Where I grew up the sky was grey for several months out of the year!) A lack of vitamin D can lead to depression, but studies show that enough vitamin D can increase our sense of well being as well help our immune systems and decrease our risk for certain diseases. Spending even just 15 or 20 minutes outside in the sun can help our bodies produce up to 10,000 IU (International Units) of Vitamin D! Take the children outside to play, sit and read a book, have an outdoor picnic! When my children were little I used to let them make beds outside under a tree for their nap time and then sit out there with them and relax or do yard work while they slept!
In our modern society, it's so easy to find ourselves sucked into an intemperate lifestyle of being too sedentary, staying up too late and forming other habits that hurt our bodies instead of help. Finding balance is key! Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by all the things on my “to-do” list and feel like I don't have time to do everything. In those seasons I show the list to my husband and ask him to help me prioritize. What on my to-do list is necessary for our family and what can be delegated to someone else or dropped completely? His answers often surprise me. It lightens my burden to not be focusing on things that the other people I live with don't care about.
Fresh air and plenty of it! Fresh air is cleansing and energizing so open those windows and doors and invite the fresh air in! When we moved into our current home we were blessed to have good screens for our windows and screen doors so that we can let the fresh air in and keep the bugs out! (Screen doors keep bees out too…. click here to read a hilarious story about what happened one time when I didn't close the screen door!)
(As a side note, living in the country has spoiled us with incredible fresh air. We are always amazed at how yucky the air feels to us when we drive into the city. If you live in the city, I highly suggest scheduling a visit to the countryside just to breathe deeply and fill your lungs with clean, crisp air. Maybe even move if you can. Because the air quality out here is incredible, y'all.)
Oops. As a blogger, proper rest is another area I struggle with. We Mommy bloggers tend to put the kids to bed and then get working on our blogs… which means many of us are still up at midnight and in the wee hours of the morning. I have listened to the lie that there is not enough time to sleep, but the reality is that if I don't get enough sleep I am not my best self in the morning. I am not the best wife or mother or even human being that I could be if I wasn't chronically tired.
Some tips that I have gathered (and am still working on implementing!) to help me wake up more rested are to relax in the evenings. For me, I have to be strict about what time we have supper so that we can get the kitchen cleaned up in time to get the children to bed at a decent hour. I need some quiet time after their bedtime to unwind. Turning off the electronics, taking a hot bath or asking my husband for a massage are great ways to help my body relax. Many people find tea with chamomile in it to be relaxing. (I love the taste but if I drink it at bedtime my full bladder will wake me up several times during the night.) Also, trying to turn my brain “off” and not rehash the problems of my day, but think about my blessing instead also helps me go to sleep.
Not only is there the daily 24 hour cycle to consider, but there is also a weekly 7 day cycle. Our family takes a full 24 hour day of rest every single week and we highly recommend it! Try taking a weekly Sabbath day of rest and see how that impacts your work performance the other 6 days of the week and also your relationships with the other members of your family!
Trust In God
Sometimes there are a few lifestyle changes that we can easily make to improve our health, but usually sustaining those changes over time is the challenge! Ultimately, the power to change doesn't come from within ourselves, it comes from God. Thankfully, God invites us to “cast our cares” on Him and let Him help us make lasting changes!
The 8 tips in the NEW START acronym are a great place to get a free start with healthier living. If you'd like to equip yourself with a Healthy Living Library on a budget, it is possible to have a huge collection of healthy living resources at your fingertips! Check out the 2016 Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle. It's only available until midnight tonight.