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A Teenager Can Motivate You Towards Self-Care…

Well, well, well…  Look at these thoughts I scribbled down a few weeks ago for a draft of an article.  How ironic that today they are a perfect reminder of what I need to do to get back to a steadier place of self-care, so that I am giving myself a decent chance to be other than a crazed parent of a teenager!  Here’s what I wrote.

“The wonderful thing about self-care is that it builds on itself.  Progress in eating healthier food helps you feel better.  Getting enough sleep allows you to feel more rested and be more focused.  De-cluttering and getting organized can not only give you a sense of relief but also more energy and clarity.  And engaging in stress-management or relaxation practices has positive physical, mental and emotional benefits!”

By giving you an intimate look at my current state of self-care, you may be inspired to look at your own self-care and maybe even consider making a small, doable change that can have that positive domino effect!

This week I’m focusing on the nutritional part of my current self-care checklist.

Am I eating mostly nutritious foods?

Well, I am on both sides of the fence on this one.

  • Fruit?  I do love and eat fruit on a reasonably consistent basis.  Check.
  • Veggies?  Well, I love and eat spinach and tomatoes frequently and throw in other veggies here and there, but I am sure that I am not eating the recommended three servings of a variety of veggies most days.  Maybe half a check.
  • Whole grains?  I love the Nine Grain bread that one of our local restaurants makes.  I also buy whole wheat bread.  But I also love English muffins, the plain old white kind.  Maybe three-quarters of a check.
  • Dairy?  Probably only drinking a cup of milk a day.  I do love cheese, however.  Good for dairy requirements but not so good for low-fat fare.   I take Vitamin D and Calcium supplements to round out this category.  Close enough to a check.
  • Protein?  I love deli turkey, tuna and smoked salmon.  So far so good.  Also love sausage and bacon.  Good for protein.  Not so good for the high fat content.  Love beans also.  They help to add some substance to this category, plus beans are great for getting in some fiber!  Some days I skimp on the protein, but overall I do OK.  Giving myself a check here.
  • Fat?  Oops!  Probably more than I need.  Love half-and-half in my coffee.  Also love margarine on my toast and lots of mayo on my sandwiches and in my tuna salad.  Also love peanut butter and nuts, which are called good fats because of their high nutritional content.  This is a category for careful attention and for flexibility.  If I’ve had a ton of margarine at breakfast, then, instead of tuna salad with lots of mayo at lunch, it’s better to go for a spinach salad with mandarin oranges and a few walnuts for lunch, which I also love!
  • Fat and Sugar?  It’s not actually a category per se, but it seems important to mention if I’m taking an honest inventory, right?  I love chocolate.  And I love an occasional cookie.  For some reason, I have developed a particular love for chocolate-covered cherries lately.  Depending on the day, I may eat none of these, or I may indulge in a few cookies or chocolate-covered cherries.  It’s not really a category to check or not, but to be aware of and notice what’s going on if I’m indulging too much or too frequently.

Overall, I’m doing reasonably well in the nutrition area.  I do need to be watchful of the fat and sugar combos and also be careful to eat small healthy snacks in between meals so I don’t get too hungry or tired or spacey from not having the energy I need to function at my best!  I love dried fruit and nuts or a single serving of yogurt for those snack times.  Delicious, and I feel better!

What Works For Me

For this part of “beefing up” my self-care, I’m doing OK.  It could be argued that I’m doing really well, or it could be argued that I’m doing terribly.  That’s OK.  It’s all a matter of perspective.   At this point in my life, I know what kind of eating makes a difference in my energy and mood.  For me, I always do better if I add food, rather than attempting to tell myself that I can’t have this or that.  Denying myself particular foods only results in me craving them more.  If I am really determined to banish a particular food from my diet, that’s a whole different ball of wax.  For now, I am interested in balance and making small changes that can add up to a big difference, like making sure that I have nuts and dried fruit on hand to eat between meals so that my energy stays more steady.

Then I have a chance to use that steadiness to be a calmer, loving parent.

Next week we’ll peek into a different area of my self-care to see how I’m doing and decide whether another small change might be helpful.  Then you can use those questions to determine how you’re doing with your self-care!

Motivation for Change: Part 1

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” — Lao-tzu

Making a change can seem like a huge undertaking, if not completely overwhelming.  To counteract that feeling, it can help to remember that change is a process that occurs little step by little step by little step.  The cumulative effect of those little steps creates the change that you want!

Once you have identified the change that you want to make (whether it is exercising or being on time or cleaning out a cluttered closet), the next thing to do is to break it down into parts.  Often we do not move forward because our goal is in too big of a chunk.  It’s actually several actions instead of one.  Each action may be simple enough in itself, but our brain is attempting, in some way, to do them simultaneously.  It’s doing its best, but it will not succeed unless you first back up and break down your goal into simple, concrete, manageable actions.  Then, you and your brain can go for it.  That’s where the SMART goal format can come into play.

A SMART goal is an acronym for a goal that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable/Achievable, Realistic/Relevant and Time-based.

Specific – Take, for example, “exercise.”  That is not specific.  It is vague.  What kind of exercise?  Swimming?  Walking?  Racquetball?  Where will you exercise?  Outside?  A particular gym?  Do you already belong to that gym?  Will you be exercising by yourself, or do you want to work-out with someone?  Who is that “someone”?  Do they have an interest and time available when you do?  These are questions that seems obvious but can kill the success of a goal if they are not clearly answered!

Measurable – How often?  Once each week?  Three times each week?  And how long for each time?  One game?  Thirty minutes?  If you’re looking at a goal like exercise that is best done with a gradual progression from starting out small to building on your successes, it helps to have short-term, intermediate and long-term goals.  Perhaps you’ll start out by just walking for 20 minutes three times the first week, then building to 25 minutes each time the second week, then 30 minutes the third week, and so on, until you have built up to the amount and frequency that you are wanting.  You can increase your likelihood of success by identifying which days you will exercise on:  Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays?  Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays?  Your long-term goal may be to run a 5K by a certain date.

Attainable (or Achievable) – Is the goal something that is possible for you to achieve?  Do you really believe that it is possible?  If you decide to exercise every single day but have three days each week that are already so jam-packed full of commitments that you really don’t have the time or energy to exercise on those days, then daily exercise is not an attainable goal for you!  However, by modifying your goal to perhaps three times each week, it becomes attainable.  Seems like a very simple and obvious point, but you’d be amazed how many of us tend to overlook the importance of really looking squarely at this guideline.

Realistic (or Relevant) – “Is your goal realistic?” is very similar to “Is your goal attainable or achievable?”  “Is your goal relevant?” addresses whether or not your goal fits with your vision and values and what is important to you.  How does your goal matter in the overall picture of what you want for yourself?

Time-based – If you leave this one out, your brain doesn’t have a way to wrap itself around your goal and go to work for you.  Having a definite date for getting started on your goal and a definite date for completing your goal increases the structure for your goal and, therefore, helps support you in accomplishing that goal.  Dates also help by providing you with some motivation to get going (because, for example, you want to be ready for the 5K!)

Little step by little step by little step.  But before you take any steps, put the change you want to make into a SMART goal format to increase your likelihood for success.  You want to use the resources you already have to give yourself the support you need!

Self-Care

As I have crossed the threshold of a decade birthday, I have been giving self-care a lot of thought.  It seems so ho-hum a topic, as in “Yeah, yeah, I know, eat “right,” exercise, get enough sleep…blah, blah, blah.”  Well, yes and no.  That is what makes self-care so tricky.  It’s sounds so easy, and you’ve heard what you should do, but many of us only give ourselves the attention we need in an inconsistent way or not at all until we’re presented with some medical crisis or diagnosis.  Or perhaps reality snuck up on us, and all of a sudden we notice (not very compassionately) that we’ve gained more pounds than we realized or we’re out of breath so easily.  The consequences of ignoring self-care are quite noticeable, particularly as we get older…

Self-care is important for everyone (who wants to enjoy life or have a body that works well and lasts a long time.)  However, for someone with AD/HD, self-care is absolutely essential … because, guess what?  Without it, your symptoms are going to be in-your-face.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not so fond of my symptoms being that glaring, to me and to those around me.  The symptoms of AD/HD are exaggerated without self-care.  That means that, minimally, life is more difficult.  At the other end, it can mean that life feels like it’s spinning out of control and that there’s no hope.  It is very hard to “do” daily life like that, much less enjoy it.

The good news is that, just as much as a lack of self-care can have such a negative impact on AD/HD, even a tiny change or two can have a very positive impact, which is often all we need to continue down the path where life feels better.  What might that tiny change be for you?  As a friend once pointed out, instead of trying to get in all five servings of fruits and veggies every day (when you’re only getting maybe one or two), what about just committing to eating an apple every day?  (Or whatever fruit most appeals to you.  I like bananas because they require nothing but pulling back the peel.  Easy!  And if I add some peanut butter, then I’m getting in a bit of protein to help keep my blood sugar steady and energy at a more even keel.)

With the weather finally getting warmer again and the days getting longer, what about just going for a walk around the block?  Or what about committing to shutting off your computer, iPod, cell phone, etc. by a certain time at night to give your brain a chance to wind down and get enough sleep?  (That’s my current challenge.)  You know your challenges.  We all have some area that could receive some needed attention.  What is yours?  No, not “I will start eating all five servings of fruits and veggies and exercising for an hour every day and going to bed at 9:00 every night and …”  No, not all of those.  Not even one of those!

Your goal is to start small.  Very tiny baby steps.  Think about the way that a baby walks.  That toddler take little steps because, if they step too big, they fall!  Let’s learn from the babes and take tiny steps so that we can keep our balance and improve our self-care!

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