The week that I’m recording this podcast, I am wrapping up my Spring Break. It was a great week, but it was busy and I had been intending on using that time to re-start some of my self-care habits that have been on shaky ground the last month as Micaela went through some medical issues and things at school got a little wacky.
This is so humbling to admit to you, my audience who I show up for to help you implement habits that support your health, but it is a perfect opportunity to really let you in and help you see what being a busy mom and health habits are like, especially for me.
Okay, so before we get started, I want you to know that while things have been a little wacky around my house, I haven’t gained weight or started to see myself doing some things I tend to do when I’m overly stressed--like emotional eating. However, I can feel myself on a precipice. Pretty much, if I don’t turn it around soon I might really engaging in some emotional eating or drinking.
To help you understand where I’m at right now in my own health journey (Emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual) I want to share with you my own habits and routines. Then I’m going to give you 3 important tips for staying healthy with your habits when you are a busy mom like me. This might be a little longer episode but I know you’re going to get a lot out of it.
So, I begin my day by coffee, getting dressed, then going over to my couch and curling up with my Bible. I read the chapters in my Bible study plan. Then I work on verse memorization for five minutes and pray. I end my morning routine by reviewing my planner and deciding what I’m going to eat that day. I’m pretty good at sticking to this and prioritize getting up at least 30 minutes before my family to make sure it happens.
Staying hydrated is a cornerstone habit for me. I refill my 64 oz water bottle each day as I get the family breakfast and I make sure I drink that before I go to bed. It goes to work with me and returns home with me.
My next self-care habit is my 20 minute reset at 4:30pm. This is the one that has gotten really shaky. Through trial and error I’ve pinned down this crucial time that if I stop and refresh with time alone then I end the day with strength and patience instead of a whiny, angry, exhausted mess. I like to do a 15 minute workout and five minutes of journaling. Okay, but this hasn’t been happening regularly. I feel it too.
My last habit is ending my day with my planner. I look at the next day and set my top three goals. I also review my 24-hour meal plan and record any foods I ate outside my plan. I’m in bed early enough that I can wake in plenty of time to complete my routine in the morning.
Honestly, that isn’t much. I’m talking about a half-hour of self-care in the morning, another 20 minutes in the afternoon, and about five minutes before I go to bed. Less than an hour a day. That might seem like a lot but I guarantee you are already using a few hours a day to do things you find enjoyable, like chatting with a friend, scrolling social media, or watching TV. So, let's look at 3 ways you can successfully implement healthy habits even if you are a very busy mamma.
1. Cornerstone Habits
As I work with women, I see that those that are successful long-term develop cornerstone habits. These cornerstone habits are things they can do, come rain or shine. They are also habits from which their health sits on. Mine are drinking water, making a 24-hour food plan, Bible study, and using my planner. I have four cornerstone habits. If you notice, that reset time isn’t a cornerstone habit because I can skip it for a week or two without falling apart. However, who knows, somewhere in my future I might level-up and it might become a cornerstone habit for even better health, emotionally and physically than I experience now.
You might not have any cornerstone habits right now, and that is okay. My advice is to start with one. JUST ONE and implement it until it is something you do without a lot of thought. In my course, I teach women many tools for weight loss and emotional health. What ends up being a cornerstone habit for each woman is so different, but it is so fun to see the huge difference just a couple consistent habits can make in someone’s life.
So, if this is something you would like to start, pick one easy habit that peaks your interest like weighing yourself daily or doing some stretching before you get dressed.
When others in your home know that you do a certain thing at a certain time, fighting for space becomes easier. For example, exercise sometimes feels like having to get a dozen monkeys in a row. I have to make sure the girls are okay, I have to make sure I have the space, time, and equipment. I have to change my clothes. I also need to make sure my daughter with special needs is supervised, especially since the recent change in her epilepsy.
With all that, I have totally been ducking out. But, I also know that if it was routine, then the people in my home would be ready. Adela would know she needs to stay inside a few extra minutes to keep an eye on her sister or my husband would know I would be heading out to our bunkhouse around 4:30pm most afternoons to go for a jog on the treadmill.
Routines help you not to give into arguments in your head and also help others know how to support you. Don’t underestimate the power in that. I’ve decided that I need to be a lot less compromising and simply draw a line that when we get home from school or 4:30pm rolls around here at home that snack time happens for the girls so that they are seated and together while I get a quick workout and journaling session in.
3. Understanding your weaknesses
This one is SO SO important. I know that my weaknesses are not wanting to mess things up or not show up for my family. So, I’ll just keep going. However, my house is still not perfect and I’m not perfect no matter if my floor is swept or if I’ve made that phone call. But, the way I experience that day and the overall health of my body and soul is strengthened by investing a few minutes into my care. Question yourself. What is a fear or belief you have about doing self-care? What does that say about you?
I can’t remember where I heard this study. I want to say it was in a book by Michael Hyatt called Free to Focus, but people who did less hours of work and invested time into self-care, were overall more productive when compared to their over-working peers. I SEE this and FEEL this as a mom. When I’m worn out, I’m dragging and irritable. I get things done slowly and with loads of resentment. However, when I take a moment to refresh, I have spring in my step and a smile on my face. It is worth it.
Okay, my dear, you can do this. I know you’re busy. You’re serving others and trying to get so much done. Remember, just start with one habit and find something that supports your health and you can do without thinking. Next, invest some time and thought into routines, helping yourself follow through and others know how to support you. Lastly, pay attention to your weaknesses and become willing to target those areas so you can show up the way you need to.
You are amazing. Before we sign off, I just want you to know that enrollment for my 12 Week Course, Weight Loss from the Soul, opened up today! That’s right, it is open. If you have been waiting to work with me, this is your chance. I won’t open up the course again until the fall so if this is something you’ve been thinking about, go ahead and head over to the course page at loraarmendariz.com/weightloss to see pricing and details.
Next week I’m going to talk to you about how to keep your diet from sabotaging your weight loss efforts. I’m telling you, I have some information that is going to blow your mind so don’t miss it. Bye for now!
So you come home. It’s Friday. And, at the end of a long hard week you just don’t seem to have the willpower to keep going with all those healthy habit changes. You decide to take the evening “off”. And, then, feeling tired Saturday morning, you decide that you really need more time to decompress so that day is also, “off”. Sunday comes around and you say, “Whatever. This weekend is already ruined. I’ll start fresh Monday.” Yes, ouch. After working so hard the majority of the week it stings to blow it on the weekend. But the solution isn’t will power, sweetheart.
This episode goes out during my spring break after a weekend I spent taking my archery team to State Championships in Albuquerque, NM. I’m a bit of an introvert and those events can be exhausting for me. Now, if you know any introverts or are one yourself, then you realize that the best way to recharge is to spend some serious time alone. However, that too can be difficult if you have a busy family or just a busy life. I know that I often sought comfort in food and gave up a lot of healthy practices because I just felt too tired. I bet you can relate. However blowing it on the weekend isn’t a sign that you lack will power. Not at all. It is a sign that other needs are not being met and that your mind has taken you to a place where you feel you don’t have a lot of choices.
How are you taking care of your basic body needs?
First things first: How are you doing on drinking water and getting enough sleep on your weekdays AND your weekends? I’ve now mentioned this a thousand times, but a dehydrated and sleep deprived body is typically packed full of the stress hormone cortisol. Also, when we are lacking our basic needs, the lower brain freaks out like a hangry toddler who needs a nap. It wants all the things and needs them NOW. And, at that point, you will totally lack the strength to stick to the healthy and less convenient choices to take care of yourself.
This reminds me of post-seizure days with my little girl. When she has a bad episode I still struggle to take good care of myself. And, since she has nocturnal and daytime seizures I am stressed to the max and incredibly sleep-deprived. In those situations I have three options: Option 1. I can talk to myself like this, “Power through and suck it up. No room for wimps around this joint. You know better than to let those healthy choices slide. God never gives you more than you can take.” Option 2: talk to myself like this, “This is too hard. There is no point in even trying. Whatever. Just eat the junk and do whatever you can to survive. We’ll figure this out later.” Or, thankfully, Option 3, “Okay, we are stressed and exhausted. What are three things we can do to take care of ourselves today? Remember, we’re not alone. God loves us and is with us and makes no mistakes. I’m resting in Him today. He’s got this.”
Obviously, only option three makes space to really address the situation and create opportunities for good self-care. Plus, it is simply the most realistic.
How do you think about your weekdays?
Next, consider, what are you thinking during the week? Most Americans are experiencing a lot of stress these days combined with increasing work demands and a looming recession. Throw demands from family, illnesses, and other complications and we have a lot on our plate. So, how do we think about all that? Our thoughts create our reality. I know this to be a fact. There is a world of difference between thinking the thought, “I have so much to do, it is more than I can handle, and no one appreciates me.” and the thought, “Everything will be fine, one foot in front of the other, I’m so thankful to be able to care for my family.” One thought increases and the other relieves pressure. During the weekdays if you harbor resentful, angry, fearful, worried, or defeated thoughts then you will need a way to heal on the weekend. One way to really help yourself on the weekends is to start to think about your weekdays with life-giving thoughts. THis isn’t something that will happen overnight. One practice that helped me turn it around is journaling. In fact, if you begin your day by listing 5 things your excited about happening that day and then end your day by listing 5 things you feel good about, your brain will begin to notice and look for positive aspects of your life instead of gravitating toward the sad or defeating element of your world to confirm you belief that the weekdays are awful. THen, when you make it to the weekend, you don’t have that feeling of needing to relax or decompress. You might want a change of pace but that could mean doing something with loved ones or for yourself that really refreshes and invigorates you.
Are there other things to look forward to on your weekend?
Apparently, another thing that many Americans are missing is a hobby. I mean, like a true hobby and not just TV, Social Media, or video games. Healthy hobbies usually encourage body movement or creativity. They get you out of your normal and help you see different aspects of the world God created and the people you do life with.
We are needy creatures. God created us to be multi-faceted. We don’t just have a single playing field. We are emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, and relational beings. So, consider what you do every day during the week. Do you use your mind a lot? Then maybe it would feel nice to have a hobby that requires you to move your body. Do you work with people and deal a lot with emotions? Then perhaps some time alone doing devotional or Bible Study time would make your weekend feel like a true break.
Can you plan portioned and appropriate ways to decompress?
Lastly, we should have a plan. You might have great intentions and completely understand your emotional, mental, and physical state. However, inertia’s a real thing. It is hard to get going and get moving on taking care of yourself.
One of the best hacks I ever learned on the Internet was by a man named Michael Hyatt. In fact, read any of his books and you will be rewarded by amazing tips for managing time, work, and mindset. He recommended that hobbies and fun things should be scheduled in your calendar and protected the same as if you had an important meeting.
During my spring break, I have an entire day dedicated to organization of my home, an activity that I passionately adore. I am looking forward to it so much and you can believe I’ll be committed to protecting that time the same as if it were a doctor’s appointment or school event.
There, I hope you feel empowered. You see, willpower isn’t the issue. In fact, when you fail to address the issues we explored today and then decide to power through and be good on your weekend, then you’re just being unkind to yourself and eventually the dam will burst and your need for true self-care and helpful thoughts will burst through.
My suggestion is to pick one thing we talked about today and take seven days to implement it and see how much better you feel and strengthened to get through your week and your weekend with love, grace, and peace.
Do you ever feel like your own worst enemy? You know what you need to do and how it needs to happen. You fully comprehend all the ways that will guard your health and improve your soul…but then the end of the day comes and you just can’t will-power your way through it anymore. Oh, my love, I know and I’ve been there more times than I would like to admit. However the secret to success is lodged in the mighty brain God created for you.
I remember a period of time that I went through where I could not figure out why I kept back-tracking on all my attempts to become healthier. I wish I could have blamed it on medical emergencies or tragedy, but usually my downfall was a random day that I simply lacked energy and motivation. Then I learned the amazing truth about how different parts of our brain do different things. Once you understand that, you truly begin to have traction in that habit change.
I am going to illustrate this by sharing a story: The Candy Bin at 7:00pm
For years I waged an all out war with the candy bin in the cabinet. Every holiday: Easter, Birthdays, Halloween, and Christmas the girls would receive an exorbitant amount of sweet treats which I then stuck in the cabinet to ration them out at appropriate times over the following months. Well, I don’t know how to describe it except that the candy cabinet got LOUD at about 7pm every single evening. I’d be rushing around, barely holding myself together as I got dinner cleaned up and got the girls ready for bed and then I’d hear every single jelly bean and mini Twix bar calling out to me. It won often and one piece I promised to stop at while washing dishes became fifteen or more by the time I rolled into bed.
When it comes to behavior, neuroscientists have broken the brain into two parts: the higher brain and lower brain. The higher brain is higher functioning and unemotional. It makes the decisions based on facts. The lower brain is in charge of instinctive reactions and involuntary functions. The lower brain I like to describe as cross between a toddler and teenager. It has three main concerns: Avoid pain, seek pleasure, and conserve energy. This part of your brain can get LOUD. Afterall, it sees anything difficult as an emergency needing to be solved in any way necessary.
Guess what!? That candy that I battled with for years never said a single thing to me. It was all my lower brain. At the time of day that I was the most stressed and exhausted it wanted me to stop and have candy. If I was eating candy I was taking a break from my chores (conserving energy), avoiding pain (not standing my ground with cranky toddlers or standing in front of a sink of dishes with an aching back), and experiencing pleasure. However, the moment I swallowed, the situation of chores and children returned and my lower brain loudly offered the same solution over and over and over again.
What I had to do was both learn how to let my higher and rational brain do the driving while speaking lovingly to the part of my brain that was just trying to help.
This is simple. Let me show you.
The lower brain says, “Why don’t we grab a handful of those gummy bears. They tasted so good last night. I love that texture. You deserve it.”
The higher brain replies, “They were yummy but why do you want them? Dinner was filling.”
Lower brain: “I really just want something sweet. These dishes are never-ending. It would make it better.”
Higher brain; “Thank you for offering the gummy bears, but it will be fine. In thirty minutes the girls will be in bed, the chores will be done, and we can sit down for a while.”
Those replies totally worked for me. Eventually, I taught my lower brain that end of the evening chore time was normal and not an emergency.
You can do this too. Your lower brain will scream at you during the most inconvenient times. It doesn’t want to exercise, it wants to watch the next episode and sit on the couch. It doesn’t want a bottle of water, it wants a Dr. Pepper. It doesn’t want to do your monthly budget, it wants to get on Amazon.
The lower brain always wants to avoid pain, seek pleasure, and conserve energy. It is there as a kind of fail-safe to make sure that as human beings we are taking care of ourselves. Now, take a moment and consider that new habit you are trying to establish. Your higher brain probably knows that in the long-term this new healthy habit will help you avoid pain, give you pleasure, and help you save energy in some way. But, your lower brain is only interested in what is immediate. So, how do you turn this around?
Honestly, you are not a mess and you aren’t hopeless. You are just listening to the part of the body that is a fail-safe meant to run the show for your body and protect you. So, learn to work with it but not let it be what is making all the choices in your life.
I want you to stop and consider that thing you keep doing. That thing that gets in the way of your progress and goals. Maybe you're trying to feel more balanced at home, but are still pulling out your phone to get on Tik Tok instead of making eye contact with your kids. Maybe you keep diving into that candy bucket instead of decompressing with a walk after work. Perhaps you keep meaning to go to bed at a good hour but just let the streaming app load the next episode.
Hey, my dear sweet human, it's okay. First I just want to tell you that the fact that you see that and want to change is huge. It is the first step. So, you're here now, trying to figure out a way to get out of some of these habits that don't serve you so that you can find a healthier rhythm.
When I'm working with women on habit change, one thing I encourage is to find a way to create a buffer from your desire and your follow-through. That buffer serves as a small pause to allow you to do something else that serves you better while teaching your brain that self care can totally take the edge off, center you, comfort you, and give you peace. I kid you not, our enemy, the devil, wants you to continue habits that corrode your health, distance you from your family, and leave you feeling more frazzled. It's a nasty cycle but one you can break free from with these five minute buffers:
1. Get Physical
When we move, our body and brain send out chemicals that make us feel good and relieve stress. Sometimes the simple action of doing a five minute walk, workout, or stretching regime can re-energize us and help us approach whatever was weighing us down from a different perspective.
I love journaling. It's private and incredibly insightful when it comes to figuring things out. Often I’ll be anxious about something and I’ll pull out my handy notebook. Even as I’m writing down my thoughts I start to see solutions or a different point of view that is both healing and helpful. Three common ways that people journal are
Tons and I mean TONS of studying have proven over and over that when people are stroking and cuddling pets both their heart rate and blood pressure lower. It is incredible. What a beautiful gift God gave us! So, set a timer and enjoy your furry friend for a few minutes. They’ll love it, too.
4. Listen to Your jams
Music just does something to our soul. Seriously. It lifts us and moves us and takes us somewhere. So turn it up and let yourself be in your favorite song for a few moments. And, if you are feeling spunky get groovy and do some singing and dancing. I have songs for every mood and especially feel it helpful when my mood is sad or angry to turn on something where the lyrics and melody express that turmoil with me for a few minutes. By the way, it is totally worth it to take the time to create playlists for certain situations and emotions. That way you know right where to go when you need a melody that soothes your soul.
Yes. Breathe in. Breath out. Meditation doesn't have to be fancy and require a special degree. Really, it is giving yourself the space to epically simply live for a few minutes. I think throughout our day, things start to pile up: worries, problems, situations, memories and in order to sort it out it helps to clean off the table and start over. Sleep does this for us, but when our appointment with the bed is still a few hours away, five minutes with soothing sounds while we concentrate on our breathing is worth it.
6. Get Outside
Once again, the studies are out there proving that sunshine does A LOT to boost mood and revive our attitudes. You could walk or even just sit down on your front porch. I know for me, I spend a lot of time indoors as a teacher so getting outside feels like a much-needed change of pace for me. Also, the sounds and smells and sensations can be great to ground yourself in, bringing you away from your worries and back into the present moment.
7. Be Artsy
Many people have an artistic streak that they do not indulge nearly enough. I know five minutes may not seem like enough, but if you are strategic you can make five minutes of art totally work for you. It helps to know what kind of art you like: photography, coloring, sculpting, crafting, knitting, scrapbooking, drawing, painting…you get the idea. Then, make an easy to grab bin with the materials in it. That way when you need to decompress you just have to grab that bin off a shelf and take it to the area where you have some quiet space. For me, I love my bullet journal and writing scripture cards. All the materials I need for both activities are in a bin on my bookshelf. I can set myself up in seconds.
8. Chat with a friend/Pray with God
Just like journaling, often we just need to get it out. We might have a job that is full of worries or a situation that keeps coming up that irks you. We all need a safe person to speak to. Someone that holds space for us, is a good listener, and responds with love and empathy. You will know who that person is if you vent to them and afterwards feel calmer and maybe even with direction for what you want to do next. God is always there to listen and He speaks to us through the Holy Spirit, scripture, and the words of Godly Christians.
Reading is refreshing and can give us a break from the cares of our mind. You might dig into the pages of a non-fiction book to find insight and encouragement. Or, you might turn to fiction for a smile, a reason to release emotions through a good cry, and some inspiration in your day-to-day life.
10. Take care of physical needs
Your body is often aching for some TLC. I want to encourage you to try these activities and really spend those minutes connecting with your body and all the sensations that come with caring for your physical needs.
Okay, my dear, do you have something you could add to this list? Send me a message or tag me in your next social media post. You can find me on Facebook and Instagram with the handle Armendariz.Lora.
by Lora Armendariz
You Can Do It!
Do you want to fall out of love with a destructive habit? The first 42 episodes of this podcast are a resource for anyone who wants encouragement and information as they take a six week break from a habit in order to fall out of love with it.