If your checklist seems endless this time of year as you make sure the kids get settled into new classes with new teachers, new sports with new coaches and new activities with new friends, well, time to add a few more items to it: ways to actually take care of you. While a solo trip to a five-star spa resort may not be a possibility right now, there are plenty of little things you can do to practice some self-care. We got the scoop from Englewood Hospital and Medical Center's Mary Beth Augustine and Linda Davida, practitioners at The Graf Center for Integrative Medicine, which takes a holistic approach to wellness through yoga, meditation, acupuncture, nutritional counseling and a host of classes and workshops. (We've been big fans since the center opened!) Here’s their advice. We suggest you take it.
You know how the flight attendants always say to put on your oxygen mask first before helping your kids with theirs? Well, that’s kind of a good metaphor for life. “If you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of your family properly,” says Davida, a yoga and meditation instructor at the center, who adds that you have to give yourself permission to skip things like cleaning up after the kids or making dinner once in a while if you’ve had a crazy day and need a rest (everyone will go on to live another day, she swears.) “From a time perspective, increasingly we’re a society with parents and kids who are so scheduled,” she says. “The answer to the problem of not having time for self-care is to actually schedule it.”
An easy way to do that is to implement a regular meditation practice. And while taking a class or workshop can ensure you learn the basics, simply squeezing in a few breaths wherever you can is way better than nothing. “Just taking three breaths—even if you’re in the shower—takes you from fight or flight and puts you in rest and digest. We can stop for a moment, take those breaths and realize that everything is OK, even if it just for that moment,” she explains.
Paying attention to nutrition is another biggie (but you knew that). The thing is, we’re not talking about super-intensive eating plans, here. Again, just a few tweaks to your routine can make a difference. “When we’re tired, when we’re stressed, we’re going to grab what’s ready and available, and most of the time, it’s going to be ultra-processed and refined and low nutrient density,” says Augustine, an integrative dietician nutritionist at The Graf Center. To avoid that pitfall, try Augustine’s can’t-live-without strategy: Assemble grab-and-go bags on the weekend: 10 single servings of cut-up veggies; 10 cut or whole fruits; five servings of nuts and seeds; and 5 dipper cups filled with something like nut butter, Greek yogurt or hummus. “Then, Monday through Friday, when life is so crazy and moms are the least likely to care for themselves, when you’re going out the door, and you’re starting your running around, grab two veggies, two fruits, one nut-and-seed-bag and one dipper cup. It’s all done. Just throw it in a cooler bag,” she says. “This way, you’re getting nutrients that are going to give you more energy and keep your mood stable.”
And when you need an afternoon pick-me-up, forgo the double espresso in lieu of a green drink, kombucha, coconut water or some other nutrient-rich drink. “There are so many natural drink options that are commercially available now that you don’t have to be blending your own smoothie or go to natural-food stores for them, so just stock up on them on the weekend,” she says. “It will give you that little boost to carry you through the remainder of your day. If you know you have a 3 o’clock crash, then have it at 2:30.”
For more helpful advice, check out the wellness programs and events coming up at The Graf Center this fall here.
The Graf Center for Integrative Medicine at Englewood Hospital and Medical Center
350 Engle Street ,Englewood