Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Take Care

Many times, we mom-types find ourselves in a viscous cycle of being exhausted, not having enough energy/time to take care of ourselves, being in a reactionary mode of taking care of home/family/others when needs become our “crises”, upping our energy levels with caffeine or other foods, battling insomnia which results in being exhausted… and the cycle continues…
We feel we are being noble by putting ourselves on hold, being available for everyone else, and ignoring the warning signals that our body is sending us when it becomes overtaxed.  As a result, we are saturated with stress, yet we feel so noble (and, at times resentful as well…), but are we really doing anyone a favor by constantly putting ourselves last?
Heart disease is one of the biggest health-threats for women.  Women are six times more likely
to die of heart disease than breast cancer.  Heart disease kills more women over 65 than do all cancers combined (according to information from the Mayo Clinic).  Factors such as metabolic syndrome and mental stress & depression contribute to the likelihood that a woman will develop heart disease. 
Metabolic syndrome is characterized by three main factors:  belly fat, high blood pressure and high blood sugar/triglycerides.  It can be minimized, if not eliminated, through improving diet and participating in regular exercise.  This is not a condition that we are unable to control.  We totally have a say-so in whether or not we develop this condition through the choices we make in the grocery store, at the dinner table, and in how we choose to spend our time. 
Mental stress and depression make it difficult to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  The day to day stresses of taking care of others, of juggling multiple tasks, of fulfilling many roles can take its toll on our mental and emotional wellbeing, whether we want it to or not.  Often, when we are not taking proper care of ourselves we eat in a reactionary mode to compensate (ie:  drinking coffee to help wake us up, eating sugar when we need more energy, drinking alcohol to help us feel relaxed), end up feeling lousy and don’t feel like we can muster the drive to eat well, much less exercise.  Often, this can result in more stress and depression.  We become entangled in a downward spiral of our physical, mental and emotional health and wellbeing.  Unfortunately, our hearts suffer the effects of this.
We women tend to have this “savior mentality”, thinking that if only we work a little bit harder we’ll create THE ideal home environment… if only we cook a fancier meal our family will applaud and enjoy the fruits of our labor… if only we sacrifice just a little bit more of ourselves our children will turn out to be successful, focused and driven to succeed… if only we give up a few more hours’ sleep or a few hours that we could exercise or a few moments for quiet meditation for driving to this one more place for the kids, or baking this one more batch of cookies for the bake sale, or saying “yes” yet again when you really mean “no”, then everything will turn out so much better, all because of US.  We think we are being sacrificial, when really we are being so self-centered that we believe that the entire universe revolves around how much WE are willing to be a SACRIFICE!  I’ve come to realize that this line of thinking is not productive for anyone, much less the ones we love the most.  WE are NOT the saviors of the world.  Somebody else holds that role, I believe.  I don’t want my children to be responsible for changing my diapers or burying me well before “my time”.  I don’t want to have anyone incur years of hospital bills or worry on my behalf, if at all possible.  I want to live my life to its fullest – an active and vital participant until the end.  The best way to do that is to take care of myself.  Granted, when we are in the “taking care of infants” stage, this is not as practical as during other stages of our lives.  But if you are not in that stage, you owe it to yourself and those you love to take care of YOU.  Show the love by doing just that.
This is not National Heart month.  This isn’t “Wear Red” for heart disease day.  This is simply a reminder that we women must take the time to care for ourselves, or we won’t be around as long as we should be to care for those we love or contribute in a meaningful way to this world we live in.

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