Self-care for moms

May 6th, 2019
A mom and daughter smile at each other in a park.
Moms spend a lot of time caring for others, but they need to take care of themselves, too. Photo: Getty Images.

Moms spend a lot of time taking care of others. Which makes it all the more important that they make time for themselves.

But often, that’s easier said than done. Below, Dr. Rosanne Iversen, a family medicine physician in Steamboat Springs and a member of the medical staff at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, gives her self-care tips for women.

Get your move on

Exercise has a long list of benefits, including lifting your mood, helping to prevent diseases, strengthening the heart and helping to maintain a healthy weight.

“It’s essential to your emotional and physical health, and your overall well-being,” Iversen said.

Skiing, biking, hiking and running are all great ways to exercise. But don’t forget to add some flexibility and strength-building through activities such as Pilates or yoga.

“To prevent injury, you need to have balance,” Iversen said.

Rest on it

The health benefits of sleep are significant. When trying to work new habits into an already busy schedule, take care not to skimp on sleep.

“The major limiting factor I hear from patients is the big ‘T’ – time,” Iversen said. “That time has to come from somewhere, but it shouldn’t come from your personal sleep. Instead of trying to get up at five in the morning to fit everything in, think of other ways to make more time, such as picking up takeout for dinner or getting help from family, friends or babysitters.”

Take a deep breath. And another.

Among meditation’s benefits are improved sleep and self-worth, and decreased anxiety, chronic pain and depression.

This is a photo of Dr. Rosanne Iversen.
Dr. Rosanne Iversen. Photo by UCHealth.

“MRI imaging studies have shown that meditation changes brain function,” Iversen said.

And it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. One study suggests that a 90-second, three-breath meditation, when done right, can be as effective as a 30-minute meditation.

“Usually, I tell patients to softly close their eyes and count to three while breathing in, then count to three while breathing out, and do that for three breaths,” Iversen said. “Before opening your eyes, ask yourself, ‘How do I feel?’ Whatever that answer is, is what it is – and that’s okay.”

The buddy system

“We need to support each other, as friendship improves our health outcomes,” Iversen said. “Friends can help you through tough times, whether that’s injury or family situations, and can help motivate you to get out and go on that hike or to that yoga class.”

Start simple

For many women, especially those over-achievers, Iversen stresses that the key is making one small change at a time.

“Start by just picking one thing to focus on until you get it under your belt,” Iversen said. “That might take two or three months. Really make it a part of you before you focus on the next thing.”

And with any change, understand your motivations.

“Ask yourself, ‘Why do I want to change?’” Iversen said. “That will lead you to what you want to work on first, and will help you stick with it, too.”

Go easy on yourself

A patient who has quit smoking five times, only to start up again each time, may feel that their efforts have failed. But Iversen flips that idea on its head, pointing out that the patient has succeeded at quitting – five times, in fact – but has just struggled with not starting again.

“We shouldn’t look at it as trying and failing. Each time you make a change, it’s a success,” Iversen said. “Don’t let past attempts stop you from attempting again.”

And keep in mind that perfection is an illusion.

“Our society expects perfection from women, but we have to let go of that,” Iversen said. “None of us are perfect. But all of us are enough.”

 

This article first appeared in the Steamboat Pilot & Today on May 6, 2019.

About the author

Susan Cunningham lives in the Colorado Rocky Mountains with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys science nearly as much as writing: she’s traveled to the bottom of the ocean via submarine to observe life at hydrothermal vents, camped out on an island of birds to study tern behavior, and now spends time in an office writing and analyzing data. She blogs about writing and science at susancunninghambooks.com.