It’s a common phase used by every walk of life. It’s meaning varies from individual to individual, but typically anyone who hears it, says it, or even encounters it maintains on general consensus regarding it, and that consensus urges it’s importance. That phrase is…love yourself. I’m sure you’ve heard this phrase, I bet you have even- as advice- issued this statement to those around you from time to time. But how many of you truly practice it?
That’s a big question, and revelation I’ve had to even ask myself over the last few months. No, I’m not out there calling myself stupid, ugly, unimportant, or shaming myself for things I haven’t exactly done “right”, but that doesn’t mean that the concept of truly loving myself is one that I’ve mastered, or even consider a priority. Why is that? There is only one me- for the rest of my life. I’m living in this body, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. Day after day, week after week, month after month. I’m not EVER going to wake a different person, than I am today. So in light of that, why is loving myself such a hard concept to put into action as a daily regimen? It’s almost comical that I haven’t even thought much about what loving myself really means. This is something that should be as routine as breathing, and yet it’s the one thing that I struggle with daily. And it’s not just me! I found that several of my other warfighter (Combat Veteran) wives struggle with this exact same thing!
Now since I brought this subject up, I feel like I have to examine it a little further. First- what does loving myself mean to me? Let me elaborate for you. To me, loving one’s self means treating yourself kindly and gently. It means having pride in who you are, even when you make mistakes- no matter your successes or pitfalls- finding reasons to encourage positivity within you instead of highlighting and waxing morosely in your shortcomings. For me, loving myself means that I pledge to care for myself; emotionally, PHYSICALLY, mentally, and otherwise. It means I will nurture my creativity, passions, emotional stability and HEALTH, but it also means I pledge to own my mistakes, acknowledge them and grow from then instead of allowing those mistakes to wedge my success. It also means I will speak kindly of myself, and infuse positive thoughts at all time.
Now…here’s why I say I’ve struggled with remembering to truly love myself. My days (throughout the week) start fairly early in the morning. I wake up (or I should say I struggle to wake up) early, get out of bed, immediately go check on the frogman to wake him up and get him ready for school. After froggy is ready, I rush through washing my face, brushing me teeth, makeup application, getting my hair together, dressing and gathering everything that I need for the day. I then rush out the house, usually in a hurry, get froggy off to school and brave high speeds to make it to work on time. Once at work, I am officially ALL work NO play. After a full 8-9 hour shift, I dash home, fighting traffic, pick up froggy, fix dinner, bath time for frogman, shower myself to steam away the stress of the day, take care of the hubby, wash the dishes, and finally crawl into bed by 11:30. Not much different from every other working mom out there. But where in that routine did I stop to eat breakfast? Lunch maybe? Did I take any time out at all to breathe before immediately jumping up from one task to the next? Did I take any time to relax other than the shower- which by now is luke warm because I bathed the kiddo first and used almost all the hot water on cleaning the tube before jumping in myself. In fact- what part of that busy schedule allows for time to practice loving myself? Think about my statement above about what loving myself meant to me. Am I practicing my pledge of treating myself kindly or gently? NOPE!! Not a bit. I didn’t even realize that simply forgetting to eat, or not having time to take a few minutes in the morning to just breathe before stepping out of bed, or not taking 5 minutes throughout each day to re-commit myself to taking time for breaks; all these things are examples of me not loving myself enough to put myself first.
Here’s what this revelation brought to light. In April of last year, I started to feel sharp stabbing pains somewhere over my left ovary. I didn’t think much of it. I picked up a bottle of ibuprofen from the drugstore, and went about my way. By August the pain was so severe I actually missed nearly two weeks of work! I called my doctor and scheduled an appointment to see her. She examined me and noticed that I was extremely bloated and swollen on the left side, and she decided to order a MRI just to rule out any serious complications. Thank goodness she did that! Ladies…OMG ladies, when the MRI came back it showed a mass on my ovary, the size of a grapefruit, and several stringy pieces of tissue absorbing the entire left tube and lower intestine. I FREAKED! Do I have cancer? Am I going to be ok? Will I need surgery? All these questions clouded my mind and completely brought all upcoming events (both at work and personal life) to a halt. I am happy to report that it was not cancer!! But it was (is) Endometriosis. I had a cyst on my ovary that grew 5 times the size it ever would have due to endometriosis. I also had a ton of endometriosis completely encasing my left side including the end portion of my intestine, left fallopian tube, outer left quadrant of my uterus, and wrapping itself tightly around the affected area to a point where blood circulation had been compromised. In short, I was closer to meeting my maker than I ever want to be in my youthful years. I had endometriosis for more than 4 years, and I never even knew it, and I didn’t know it because I WAS NOT TAKING CARE OF MYSELF. I didn’t take time out to listen to my body, because I don’t stop long enough to even think about my body. I didn’t even stop to question my health once the pain started. I just figured it was a strange cramp, or even gas.
My point is, overlooking things as small as properly hydrating myself, nourishing myself by way of GOOD food (no fast food ladies), resting a full 8 hours at night, or even taking time to listen to my body- as pain is indicative of a problem- are all things one should do in conjunction with loving yourself. If I don’t care for me, who will? I suddenly was faced with a wakeup call- take care of yourself, or there won’t be a YOU to take care of again. It’s harsh to put it to term in that form, but ultimately it’s so true. As I sat in the recovery room after surgery, I asked an on call nurse (whom I’d spoken to before and discussed my diagnosis with) what could I do to encourage healing and prevent this issues from becoming this bad again, and her answer blew me away. She told me that my diet (what I thought was good food at the time), stress (not new news at all), inactivity (healthy exercise or active lifestyle), and of all things, SODA, contribute to healthy management of endometriosis. Why didn’t I know that the combination of all these things, could cause a reproductive issue? It blew my mind, and I knew I had to change something really soon! So I did! I had the surgery, stopped eating nasty foods, and went back to my vegan roots, cut of soda all together (no soda in over a month!), and also decided to cut out processed foods and excessive sugars. Within one month I have lost 26 pounds, and have already started to feel a difference in my breathing, mobility, sleep, and (surprise, surprise) my mood! I’m happy! No, really- I wake up happy!
I learned a good lesson, that luckily did not cost my life, but it’s an important lesson that I wanted to share with all of you. You see, loving yourself isn’t always you looking in a mirror and loving what you see. It goes so much deeper than that. Think about it, when you are in love with someone, they have your complete attention don’t they? Of course you still can maintain a job, kids, friends, and everything else- I mean, loving someone won’t consume you to a point where there is nothing else other that your object of affection. Loving anything typically means you will care for it. You will view it highly, and it will become a focal point in your everyday life. That is what it means to love- so why not apply that love to you! In loving yourself, you will (despite our crazy busy lives), make it a point to make you a priority EVERYDAY. I’m not saying make yourself a priority all day every day, but every day you should be taking time to think about you. What drives you? What excites you? What motivates you? What do you need for your own growth and physical and emotional health? And it doesn’t just stop with your physical health, there is an entirely separate issue of our mental health to consider as well. I was more prone to criticize myself, before I would ever praise myself. I would come down hard on myself if I couldn’t do something for someone, or if I didn’t do enough. Want to know what that did to me? I can tell you it took it’s toll physically, and made me sick.
We have to take a stand, and take care of ourselves always. So here are some suggestions on how to do that even starting small.
1) Take 5 minutes in the morning once you wake up to meditate. You can do this by connecting to anything that calms you. You can choose to pray, or you can close your eyes and think of things that make you happy. You can even grab your iPod and play a song that lifts your spirits, or clams you. Anything goes, as long as you don’t leave your bed for at least 5 solid minutes. Breathe deep, and connect with you
2) Water heals all things. Drink at least two 8 ounce classes of water first thing in the morning. It’s suggested to drink 8 6 ounce glasses, but I’ve confirmed with a physician that two 8 ounce glasses will suffice. This process of drinking water soon after you wake will help rehydrate your body as we often dehydrate overnight. This will also help to kick start your body and energy levels. Drink lots of water throughout your day as well.
3) Kick caffeine- now don’t kill me ok… I’ve heard many times that drinking coffee can actually cause multiple health issues later on in life. Try drinking a cup of green tea instead, and if you are looking for energy throughout the day, eat granola bars, and energy fueled veggies and fruit for lunch.
4) Learning to walk again- Walk peeps! Oh what walking for at least 30 minutes each day can do for your body, mind, improving lung function, weight loss, and so much more.
5) Take 30 minutes at night before bed to lay silently. No TV, no music, no light, just you. It’s fairly common knowledge that getting into a quiet space at night for at least 30 minutes prior to bed will promote healthy sleep. This is important for us ladies because our combat vets often have nightmares that wake us throughout the night. If you watch TV right before bed, your mind is still stimulated and often doesn’t completely shut down to allow for restful sleep. This combined with being woken up by nightmares of your loved one, and really prevent a healthy sleep schedule, which leaves you tired, confused, and actually trigger you to eat comfort foods throughout the day that could be equally damaging to your body and overall health. By shutting everything down and lying in bed for 30 minutes prior to bed, you allow your mind to quiet down, thus allowing you to fall into a restful sleep, which will promote better focus, energy, circulation, and even burn calories over the duration of your sleep!
Remember, these are just small cookie cutter steps you can take to kick start your overall journey, but they are all very important factors of loving yourself. I’m not saying you should completely omit the notion of caring for your combat vet or children, but what I am saying is that if you don’t find a way to incorporate taking care of you as a priority, the results could be devastating. It’s worth it, you are worth it, so just do it already. Believe me when I say, you won’t regret it when you do.
Until next time
Health and Happiness to all!