By Mutryce A. Williams
“If you want to know what your experiences were like in the past, examine your body now. If you want to know what your body will look like in the future examine your experiences now.”
Navigating "Island" Parenting is a submission of quotes, tips and parenting advice that I have gathered over the years as a source of inspiration and as tools to deal with the daily challenges of parenting. An experience this past week prompted the focus of this week’s installment of Navigating “Island” Parenting – Your Health First.
The advice that I received from a wise and affable lady from the island of Nevis set me thinking, and I realized that there is a lot of truth to what she said that women and mothers often put themselves last on the list -- or leave themselves off the list completely when it comes to care and being vigilant with their health.
Her advice was, “Take care of yourself now and you will be around long enough to enjoy your children.” The hope is that this submission would make the journey of parenting a bit easier or brighter, even if it is for one person.
Making Health a Priority!
“Self-care is not an option. It is an imperative.”
I stealthily entered the room, took my place and readied myself for the warm up when Keara, who was no more than an arm’s length away, shouted, “So where have you been these past few days, Missy, we have missed you.” All eyes were now focused on me; everyone seemed to be awaiting the response. A bit embarrassed I replied, “Wow, thanks for calling me out Keara, but I have been quite busy.”
After the workout a few of the ladies came over and reminded me quite nicely that contrary to what others may think, taking care of one’s self and most importantly one’s health was a priority, a necessity, not a fad and definitely not a luxury.
A very nice lady from the island of Nevis who noted that she was in her seventies came over, sat me down and gave me a thorough lecture. “You shouldn’t wait until it is broken to fix it,” she said.
“Exercising should not be about your wanting to look slim and trim, and then that’s it, you just stop. This is about your health. Please remember that an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. Look at me! Would you guess that I am in my seventies? I don’t have high blood pressure, diabetes or arthritis? I owe it all to ‘healthy’ eating and healthy living. Young lady, you need to make your health a priority. You should never be too busy to exercise. It should be a part of your lifestyle. You young people like to use that word, ‘lifestyle.’ I began exercising in my early thirties and I am still at it. Take a page out of my book, eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly. I understand that you have young children, and I understand that you have a million things that you need to be doing, but young lady, your health is your wealth, please remember that, I am telling you that your health is your wealth. Do you know what the number one killer of women is? It is heart disease. I was telling a friend that as women we work our hearts so hard taking care of everyone and everything else, except for us, and in the end, it does us in. It kills us. Young lady, please take the necessary steps today to prevent all of the ailments that can befall you tomorrow. Make your health a priority. You should never be too busy to take care of you. I am sure you want to be around long enough to enjoy your children,” she said.
Her words resonated.
You see as mothers we are always “too busy.” We develop a complex that the sky would fall in if we were to take our eyes away from our children and their needs even for a nanosecond. We develop a complex that everything and everyone else, all of our responsibilities are more important than us and that if we take half an hour per day to engage in some form of exercise, which has been known to have numerous health benefits, we would be viewed as “selfish” because exercise is a “luxury.”
I recall talking to a friend once after I had returned from a workout, and the response was a sarcastic, “Hmm, that must nice,” and then she began providing excuses for why she couldn’t find time to fit exercise into her overbooked schedule. “Hmm, so you are telling me now that you are way too busy to make time for you?” I teased. “Aren’t you important?”
I am in agreement with the nice lady from Nevis, exercise is not a luxury it is a necessity, it a very important part of self-care. Don’t get me wrong it is very easy to get overwhelmed with one’s daily commitments but one has to look at the big picture. I liken this to an expression we often use when giving friends or family who have been devoting too much time or energy to work, “Work don’t dead. The minute you drop dead. Your boss will find someone to replace you, so take it easy at work. Don’t overwork yourself.”
How is parenting any different? Are you telling me that as a parent you can be easily replaced? I really don’t think it would be that easy. We strive to be the best parent that there is, and the best at everything that we do, but if we don’t take time for ourselves, to focus on our health we may not be around enjoy our children.
As a side note, so that I don’t sound like one of those self righteous fairies who live in “La La” land, things do happen, a sick child or parent, a death in the family or some other life altering event that may leave you feeling debilitated for a while so there may not be that time or motivation to exercise or in my case you may fall off the wagon for a bit. Putting one’s health into perspective is important. Just start all over again and take it one step at a time.
Health experts note that only a half an hour per day of exercise is required. You can fit this in at lunch. Wake up before your children do some jumping jacks or walk, as we know that at the end of the day we all too tired to even think about exercising. Find an exercise partner. This person could be your support system and provide encouragement on those days you really don’t want to get out of bed to exercise.
Mothers often put themselves last on the list -- or leave themselves off the list
“Mothers are so busy taking care of everyone else in the family, mothers often put themselves last on the list -- or leave themselves off the list altogether! However, since the rest of the family relies heavily on moms, they need to take care of themselves, and accept help from others as well. The following are self care resources for mothers:
Mothers need to keep their bodies in prime condition, or suffer some potentially serious consequences down the road. And aside from avoiding illness, moms who eat right, get enough sleep, and in other ways take good care of their bodies experience greater levels of energy, lower levels of stress, and good feelings of self esteem. In fact, some forms of exercise can be fun to do with kids, so everyone gets the benefits.” Elizabeth Scott M.S.
Taking care of your body can have lasting physical and emotional benefits
“Taking care of your body can have lasting physical and emotional benefits. Eating a healthy diet, for example, can stabilize your blood sugar levels and help keep mood swings at bay. It can also keep your body healthier so you’re sick less often, feel better about yourself, and live longer. Maintaining a regular exercise regime can provide the same benefits, plus give you a release of endorphins and other positive emotions, help you release tension, and lower levels of stress hormones like cortisol.” Elizabeth Scott M.S.
Healthy Things that Every Mother Should Do -- Tips from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
• Healthy diets rich in fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases.
• Fruits and vegetables also provide essential vitamins and minerals, fiber, and other substances that are important for good health.
• Most fruits and vegetables are filling and naturally low in fat and calories.
• Limit foods and drinks high in calories, sugar, salt, fat, and alcohol.
Move More -- Add Physical Activity to Your Life
It’s one of the most important things you can do for your health. It can help:
• Reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease
• Control your weight
• Reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome
• Reduce your risk of some cancers
• Strengthen your bones and muscles
• Improve your mental health and mood
• Improve your ability to do daily activities and prevent falls, if you're an older adult
• Increase your chances of living longer
There are a lot of ways to get the physical activity you need. Walk, run, dance, bike, swim, garden, or do anything else that will help you get the recommended minimum 2-1/2 hours of moderate physical activity each week.
Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of chronic diseases and conditions such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and depression. How you feel and perform during the day is related to how much sleep you got the night before.
Stress can be beneficial by helping you develop skills to cope with and adapt to new and potentially threatening situations throughout life. However, the beneficial aspects diminish when the stress is severe enough to overwhelm your ability to take care of yourself and your family.
The best ways to manage stress are through self-care:
• Avoid drugs and alcohol
• Find support
• Connect socially
• Stay active
Share Your Medical History
Know and pass on your family health history, which is a written or graphic record of the diseases and health conditions present in your family. Family members share genes, behaviours, lifestyles, and environments that together may influence their health and their risk of chronic disease. Your family's health history could be important for determining your and your child's health risks too.
Get Regular Wellness Check Ups
As women we tend to visit the doctor only when we are not feeling well, however scheduling an annual wellness visit can prove quite beneficial. Your doctor can do a thorough assessment of your health, and you can discuss any concerns that you may have about your physical and mental health.
You Can Get Fit – Ms Ernestine Shepherd - An Inspiration
As I flipped through the September issue of Ebony magazine, the photo of a youthful, muscular and well-toned 77-year-old Ernestine Shepherd, who was featured in the Health Spotlight, caught my eye. The caption read, “Making Weight Lifting a Must-Do! Bodybuilding Champ Ernestine Shepherd, Shares the Value of Weight Lifting for Women At Any Age.” Ms Shepherd, who won her first bodybuilding competition in 2008 at the age of 71, and who didn’t start exercising until she was 56, was listed as the oldest competitive female body builder in the 2010 and 2011 Guinness World Book of Records.
Ms Shepherd is quoted in the article as saying that exercise is the “best anti-aging pill. Proper exercise has been shown to slow the aging process through reduced cholesterol, high blood pressure, stress levels, insulin levels and onset of osteoporosis.” She also said, “I wanted to create a body women could look at and know that with a certain amount of determination, dedication, and discipline, they could achieve the same thing. You can get fit. Age is just a number.” Ms Shepherd encourages women to be persistent and set a regular time to exercise each day, and also to drink lots of water.
Quotes on Self-Care
When the mothers start to shatter, then everything just comes undone. Tori Amos
Health is certainly more valuable than money, because it is by health that money is procured. – Samuel Johnson
When the well's dry, we know the worth of water. – Benjamin Franklin
He who has health, has hope; and he who has hope, has everything. – Arabian Proverb
It is health which is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver. – Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi
“Don’t sacrifice yourself too much, because if you sacrifice too much there’s nothing else you can give and nobody will care for you.” -- Karl Lagerfeld
“Our bodies are our gardens to which our wills are gardeners” -- William Shakespeare
Mutryce A. Williams is a native St Kitts and Nevis whose writings embrace and mirror the West Indian life. She holds a Masters of Politics degree and is a doctoral candidate pursuing studies in Public Policy Administration with a double concentration in Terrorism, Mediation and Peace, and Homeland Security Policy and Coordination. She may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org