Have you ever felt you were running on empty by the constant barrage of daily life: work, family, and for some, school?
Whether you’re a single parent or a parent with special responsibilities, such as, caring for a physically or mentally impaired relative or a parent who has to juggle with everyday life, we all fall into the trap of guilt and shame because we feel we’re underperforming our parental duties — or like me — doubting my duties as a daughter to aid my disabled mother. Thus, we push ourselves to the point of mental exhaustion — and when that breaks down — so does our bodies.
I speak from experience because I had been a caregiver for my mother, and then later for my aunt and grandparents and that was not including raising three small children at the time. However, during that journey, I suffered health ailments: hypertension, obesity, and depression. There were times I didn’t know how I was going to get out of bed, not along to care for someone else. But by the grace of God — I prevailed.
Still, I learned the mind can be a powerful thing. This amazing anatomy that weighs around three pounds can train the body and soul like a battery to an electronic device — powering it up and programming it where you want it to go. For me, I had to learn to shift my thoughts from the negative to the positive and believed all things were possible.
So, on Lent 2010, I made a committed effort for a lifestyle change. I also devised a plan to make my journey easier. If it worked for me, it could for you:
- Exercise the Mind: Read a book by your favorite author; challenge yourself to a crossword or word search puzzle; get up early while the house is quiet for prayer and meditation, or take spiritual walks. A simple five to ten-minute mind vacation does work wonders. When you find something that relaxes you, your mind smiles.
- Eat Well: Maintaining a well-balanced diet by adding lean meats, like chicken or turkey. Do eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Eliminate or sparingly eat sugary foods and drinks, such as cakes, cookies, and sodas. Do eat Omega-3 fatty foods (salmon is an excellent example). More importantly, water, water, water! It is a known fact that drinking eight to ten glasses of water a day cleanse unwanted toxins from the body and avoids you from overeating. As I say all the time: Treat the body well, and it’ll love you in return.
- Stay Connected: Make a phone call to an old friend and share laughs. If you have a church home, seek comfort and guidance with the pastor and/or parishioners. Join a book club. Take a class to learn something new, like pottery, cooking, or back to the first plan to help relax the mind and body — yoga.
- Seek Support: This may be a repeat of number three but this goes deeper if you’re suffering from burnout or depression — especially caring for a loved one. Most will seek comfort and advice from their pastor, which is great but if you’re having signs of feeling worthlessness, oversleeping, a change in your eating habits, irritability, or worse, suicidal thoughts, it’s imperative you seek mental health counseling. Also, just because you speak to a mental health professional doesn’t mean they’ll prescribe anti-depressants. Mental Health Professionals are not the boogeyman. They’re to help sort out problems and give their professional advice on which way to go.
- Loving the Body: Have you ever heard the cliché, your body is your temple. I also consider it as a gift from God. Like any precious gift you’ve received, shouldn’t your body be treated as such? Whether you’re out of shape or need to lose a few pounds, there are simple and common sense ways of getting fit, such as, take brisk thirty minute walks; participate in a physical activity with your children, like kickball; use the stairs at work instead of taking the elevator, and game consoles like Wii or Xbox have interactive games to fight against the bulge. Be creative with any physical activity you chose and make it fun.
These five tips aren’t a magic pill but it’s a start to alleviating the stress. If you don’t try all five, just try one of them. Better yet, devise your plan and share the results in the comment section or on Twitter under @imani_wisdom. I would love to hear from you. And who knows, whatever you share could benefit me.