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How to put yourself first

Karen Hawthorne is a health and lifestyle writer and producer in Toronto, Canada. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications including Glow, Homemakers, BestHealthMag.ca and the National Post.

Tips to take care of you

Women are notorious for putting the needs of others ahead of their own. But bringing yourself into the spotlight will give you the energy and enthusiasm you need to be at your best. Does the mere thought of putting yourself first make you cringe? Here's why it shouldn't and a few ways to prioritize taking care of you.

Woman running with friend

Find balance in your to-do list

Stress often spikes in the summertime, when kids are home from school and vacations have to be planned and scheduled. If you're taking care of the house, work and family -- and neglecting yourself -- there's no balance in your life. Studies show that not taking time for yourself and fulfilling your needs, puts your health at risk, so you're less capable to meet life's demands. It's a downward spiral.

One way to alleviate some of the demands is to have a family meeting to coordinate other family members helping out with the daily chores and errands. You might even consider a nanny or working with extended family to take care of your kids, if they are too young to do chores; it will give you a few more precious hours in the day and better balance your daily to-do list.

Instant ways to recharge and revitalize

Feel as though you need a few rejuvenating days of not-lifting-a-finger at a spa? You may not have the luxury of time or money for that kind of indulgence, but it's the little changes you incorporate into your daily life that make the biggest impact. Start with these four "instant" strategies to rev your energy: move more, eat well, rest up and get connected.

take care of You: Move more

Start a morning walking group with neighborhood friends. A group activity provides the motivation and social support. Once you do it, you'll feel great for the rest of the day.

Squeeze in physical activity throughout your day. Walk up and down the sidelines at your kids' soccer games or practice mini-sprints around the playground at the park. Do lunges or squats while you watch your favourite TV show and switch to sit-ups or push-ups during the commercials. Buy a cordless phone so you can stand up and walk around while you're talking. Every bit counts.

Make fitness a family event and play with your kids. Run with a game of tag, skip rope, throw a Frisbee or kick a soccer ball around an obstacle course. Not only does this get the whole family moving, it also affords you important quality family time.

Get active during your vacation. Sometimes family vacations can feel more draining than staying at home. To help you reap the vacay rewards, make a concerted effort to connect with nature. Swim for 20 minutes if you're staying near a lake, bring your bike or inline skates along, too.

 

take care of You: Eat well

Forget fad dieting. Resist the urge to crash-diet — it will only make you tired and cranky. A sensible approach that includes a healthy diet and regular exercise is the best route to looking and feeling good.

Eat fresh. Plan outings to farmers' markets or pick your own produce, so you'll have fresh fruits and vegetables on hand.

Snack smart. Stock up on good-for-you snacks for road trips and look for items flagged as healthy at restaurants while on vacation.

Forgo the high-calorie drinks. Limit those high-calorie iced coffees topped with or without the whipped cream and sundae-style sauce available at most coffee shops. They're a calorie wasteland that will sabotage your diet and drain your energy, not to mention your wallet.

 

take care of You: Rest up

Make sleep a top priority. There are so many benefits from a good seven hours of sleep each night. It improves your mood, heightens your concentration and can help you manage your weight by regulating your appetite. Make sleep a priority, especially when you're juggling family, work, chores and your social life.

Catch a catnap. Lighten up the schedule during a vacation to give yourself a little extra time to sleep in or take a blissful afternoon nap.

Don't lie in bed and stew. If you're having trouble sleeping, get up after 20 minutes or so and do something that relaxes you, such as reading a magazine on the couch or sipping a cup of calming chamomile tea.

Create a sleeping sanctum. Keep the bedroom for sleep, not TV time or discussions about money or major issues. When you go to bed with a busy brain, it's more difficult to mellow out and drift off to sleep.

 

take care of You: Get connected

Stay social. Having a social network of friends and family that you keep plugging into will lift your spirits and your energy level.

Reach out. Make a standing date with a friend, such as a movie night or brunch every two or three weeks. If you can't see your friend in person as often as you'd like, send her a note to say hello.

Rekindle a friendship. Make contact with an old friend by a phone call or e-mail and plan an outing. Friends provide balance and can offer a fresh point of view when you need it most.

 

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