By Dr. Shawna Darou, ND
Yes, busy women I’m talking to you! Our bodies are so resilient that they let us get away with bad habits for a long time. Skipping meals, not getting enough sleep, over-exercising, too much coffee… we start to feel like the rules don’t apply to us. I can honestly say that nobody gets away with this indefinitely – it always catches up eventually.
I am certainly guilty of this myself. When my kids were small, I was astounded at how well I functioned even after severely interrupted sleep. And I am still amazed at how forgiving my body is with irregularities with nutrition, sleep and exercise.
What this means ultimately is that we don’t have to aim for perfection in everything – we just need to keep the basics all afloat with what I like to call “flexible consistency.” Our body’s natural resilience will take care of the rest.
Warning signs that it’s time to start paying attention:
- You’re always tired
- Colds and flu’s are lasting a long time or coming frequently
- You have injuries at the gym that aren’t healing
- Your sleep quality is deteriorating – especially waking up around 3-4 am and staying awake for a while
- You’re always irritable
- You have more PMS than before, and your periods are more difficult
- Weight is showing up in areas you never had it before
- You need 2 or more coffees to get through the day
- You need wine to unwind and fall asleep at the end of the day
All of these signs say that you’re not taking care of your body’s basic needs well enough – with nutrition, sleep, downtime and movement. It’s time to pay attention before warning signs turn into more serious health issues. These annoying signs that you can live with are your body’s signal that you need to begin to prioritize your health. You’re certainly not alone here. As women we are wired to put everyone else’s needs first, and sometimes we genuinely forget that it is just important for us to eat lunch as our 5 year old child.
Here are some of my top, simple recommendations:
Taking care of yourself really can be quite simple, and does not need to be extremely time consuming. These are my 6 quick tips to start with.
(1) Learn how to Meal Prep
Simply planning out your dinners for the week and shopping for all of the needed ingredients in advance will make a big impact on the quality of your nutrition, save you a significant amount of money, and also means less impulsive eating.
(2) Create a Bedtime Routine
Just like small children, we also sleep better with a bedtime routine. A simple routine might look like this: Turn off all screens 1 hour before bedtime, get yourself ready for bed, enjoy a relaxing cup of tea, and then read in bed for 20 minutes before lights out. You can literally program yourself to fall asleep faster and with better quality of sleep with a simple routine.
(3) Find Space for Short Regular Exercise Sessions
If you feel like you need more energy, then you need to move your body. The trick to fitting it in is to begin with short workout sessions, even 20-30 minutes counts. You can also build in regular movement into your day by walking part of your daily commute, taking the stairs when possible, and getting out for a walk on your lunch break.
(4) Find Your Downtime: at least one evening off and 1/2 day on the weekend
Your body needs time to recharge, and when life is simply too busy it’s even more important to block off some time in your week. Aim for at least one night without errands, social events and commitments per week, and at least a 1/2 day on the weekend to rest too. You will probably find that you need to block it off like an appointment, otherwise it will get filled up quickly.
(5) Do Something That Nourishes You Once a Month
Think about what activities really nourish you, and restore deep balance – is this a massage, trip to the spa, having friends over, a weekend away, a facial acupuncture treatment, or a restorative yoga class? Make sure you have something just for you to look forward to every single month – it will completely change your perspective, and shift the feeling of being depleted.
All in all, these are very simple habits to build. The key first is to recognize that you need to prioritize your health too. It really doesn’t take a daily routine of 2 hours at the gym, cooking dinner for an hour each night, and an hour-long meditation practice every day to stay healthy. Please don’t wait until you fall down before integrating some nourishing habits into your week.
My challenge to you is to choose two simple practices from the list above, and integrate them into your life this week. Your body will thank you! If you need help to get started, or are simply too depleted to know where to start, please ask during your next appointment.
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