From the January 2017 issue

Four Self Care Tips for Parents

It's not too late to prioritize yourself in 2017. Here, Dr. Troy Sibson of DMC Medical explains why you should and where to focus.

Getting in the best shape of your life and overhauling your entire diet sounds great, but sometimes setting those huge, lofty New Year’s resolutions means they wither on the vine by this time in January.

But parents especially should be taking better care of themselves – something many don’t do enough of due to time constraints and putting the kids first.

“Self care is important because if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anybody else,” says Dr. Troy Sibson, OB-GYN with DMC Medical Group, whose office is based in Hartland.

Even if you haven’t gotten off to a great start in self-care efforts for 2017, it’s not too late. Prioritizing in four key areas will make a big difference – even if the changes are small and gradual. Dr. Sibson offers advice on how to get started.

1. Catch some Z’s

It’s probably the No. 1 area where parents (particularly new moms) suffer: getting enough sleep.

“I think initially there’s a lot of self-sacrifice,” Dr. Sibson says, who sees moms at his practice daily. “Certainly for those first few months until you establish some routine, you’re kind of at the whim of the newborn,” meaning many sleepless nights. “Self care really falls to the wayside because you’re needing to care for somebody else.”

And a lack of sleep for new moms can be dangerous since it can contribute to post-partum depression, Dr. Sibson says. The exhaustion plus feelings of loneliness “goes down a bad path.” The cure can be just a little extra support from family and friends.

“It’s really beneficial if their parents (or) the grandparents can step in for the day just to give the new parent a break to get a good night’s sleep – just to recharge their batteries,” he says.

He also encourages parents to nap when their child naps during the day and night. The few hours here and there can truly help.

2. Eat right

Snagging a candy bar from the gas station or taking the kids through the fast food chain drive-thru is convenient (and sometimes just reality), but those calories add up quickly.

Here’s a good way to initiate a change: “You need to do sort of a self assessment of what the eating patterns are,” Dr. Sibson says. Then, work from there.

Easily cut one of the worst offenders of empty calories by nixing juice and pop. Instead, stick with water. It’s a simple switch that can have a large impact. “There are water flavorings like MiO that make it taste better than just plain old water,” he says. Or, buy carbonated if you like the fizzy sensation of soda.

Are your portion sizes too big? Are you eating the worst while on the go? There’s another quick fix. Dr. Sibson suggests parents pre-pack healthy to-go snacks. Fill up a plastic bag with carrot sticks, fruit or nuts. “It can just be sitting in the fridge ready to go.” All it requires is a little forethought.

3. Get active

This goal is always daunting yet it’s fundamental to self-care and overall health.

“The hardest thing is starting. We’re all creatures of habit,” Dr. Sibson says. Try setting aside just 20 to 30 minutes to do something like yoga in the living room a couple days of the week. Even taking more trips up and down the stairs can help. “Then, eventually you’ll find your happy place with 20-30 minutes of exercise,” he says.

But don’t go overboard. In fact, parents should keep it basic while establishing a new routine. Make the desired form of exercise accessible.

“It doesn’t have to be an hour of cardio,” he says. “You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew. You don’t want to set your goals too high initially.”

4. Make time for you

This is the one self-care goal that is vital for parents – the ones up late helping with school projects, running kids to extra-curricular activities or spending every waking moment feeding and diapering their babies.

“I think as with anything, you need to find a balance,” Dr. Sibson says. “Certainly we all want to put our kids first, but if you’re constantly putting your kids first, then your self-esteem is going to go down and it does have negative effects.”

Once in a while, it’s OK to make yourself the No. 1 priority. Otherwise, as Dr. Sibson points out, the energy to care for others may not be there.

Carve out just a small chunk of time to enjoy a hobby or read a book. “Set aside 20 to 30 minutes a day for something that is just for you,” he says. “It can really bring that balance back to things.”

Looking for a doctor to guide you to a healthier 2017? Find one at DMC Medical Group where you can book appointments online in minutes.

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