Bare minimums for demanding stages of life

During this stage of life you may find it extremely difficult to think beyond today, tomorrow, or this week, let alone think about ways to improve your health and wellness habits. This post explains why you are living in a fog and what you can do during these demanding stages.

Image by eliza28diamonds from Pixabay

When I enrolled to get my personal training certification, I also enrolled in a behavior change certification. During my time studying, I came across so many posts from coaches and trainers feeling frustrated with their client’s plateaus or lack of progress or ‘flaking’ out on sessions. These clients were being labeled as stubborn, unmotivated, or lazy. It infuriated me. I saw things differently, but the comments and language used, prevented me from sharing a different perspective. That was several years ago, and I have seen a shift in attitude from these types of coaches and trainers. I’ve also learned a bit more about how and why people change.

I was reminded of Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. Maslow’s theory states that our most basic needs must be satisfied before we pursue higher goals or values. Those basic needs include air, water, food, sleep, and shelter — basically the things that keep us alive. The next most basic needs are security, order, and stability. To make sure these needs are continually met, it requires a significant amount of time, attention, and energy. When we experience changes is our lives — job insecurity, welcoming children, a loss of childcare, stressful/overwhelming/demanding situation, etc. we tend to prioritize meeting our basic needs — and we shouldn’t be labeled as stubborn, unmotivated, or lazy.

If making changes or improving your health or wellness is not your top priority right now, stop beating yourself about what you are not doing. If you are thinking about it and do have urges to do something, here are a few ideas you can try. Pick one to do per day. Or pick as many as you like, but no more than three. 😉 Pick the one that you think will recharge or move you forward, not deplete you or make things worse.

  • 10 minutes of physical activity (walk, jog, run, snowshoe, stretch, yoga) or 10 minutes of a workout and then relax or move on to other tasks in your day. According to authors, Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski of Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, physical activity improves your health and mood and intelligence. Physical activity is the single most efficient strategy for reducing stress — it tells your brain you have survived the threat and now your body is a safe place to live. Work your way up to 20 – 60 minutes per day.
  • 20 minutes of a total body workout — because you’ve skipped core, upper body, and , lower body workouts this week.
  • Eat a healthy enough meal. Healthy enough = the meal is made up of protein (meat or plant-based), vegetables, carbs, and fat. Also known as pizza (Papa Murphy’s is our favorite). Tacos, quesadillas, or a good ole sammich also count as healthy enough.
  • Over-cook a protein that can be heated up later in the week — chicken breasts, beef roast, pork roast, ham, are a few ideas.
  • Drink water between meals. Or drink something flavored.
  • Take 3 deep breaths. Another great tip from, Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski’s book, Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, deep breathing is most effective when your stress isn’t that high, or when you need to calm yourself enough to get through a difficult situation. One technique is to smell a rose, hold that breath for a few seconds, and then exhale as slowly as you can, and pause for a count of five and repeat the cycle two more times.
  • Zone out with 2 episodes of your favorite show — if you are alone, skip this one if this a show you watch with your spouse. Or you can rewatch it without letting on that you’ve watched it. Not that I’m speaking from experience or admitting that I’ve done this.
  • Text your most supportive, empathetic friend, sibling, or coworker to vent. Or tell your spouse you need emotional support and empathy when you vent about his children.
  • Speak kindly to yourself. Practice self-compassion.
  • Sit in a quiet place (bathroom stall at work, in your vehicle in the driveway, in your kid’s closet –they’ll never find you, or in a corner of the wall so you can jump out and scare them when they come looking for you. It may also have the added benefit of teaching them to not coming to look for you.) for 5-10 minutes.
  • Cry – watch a sad movie that makes you cry if you need a little help to get tears flowing.
  • Get outside for 10-15 minutes (even in winter).
  • Unload or load the dishwasher or do that chore that is driving you nuts — even if it’s the kids’ job. You will stop being annoyed and everyone needs a little help now and again. If this is a reoccurring problem, do not bail them out — let it sit until person(s) responsible gets home and tell them it’s their #1 priority.
  • Laugh – videos of people getting hurt while doing stunts usually do it for me. I don’t know why.
  • Do a quick grocery run — just get enough to get you through the next few meals. Or send a text to your husband — do not come home until you’ve picked up the following items.
  • Listen to music you ignore, but it tunes-out the kids’ bickering, playelling (play + yelling = they are having fun, but it is SuPeR LOUD and distracting).
  • Go hide in your bed and read or listen to a podcast or scroll Pinterest for funny memes or close your eyes.
  • Change your clothes.
  • Shower or shower + shave.
  • Put on make-up (or stick to eye make-up if you are going to wash it off in a few hours and you do not plan on going anywhere) or style your hair (just blow-drying counts, too).
  • Portion out the fun foods (aka chips, chocolate, ice cream, cheesecake, etc.) and put it away. Go eat it in another room. Wait 10 minutes before getting more.
  • Talk in a grumpy voice or a voice to match your mood. Sometimes, it’s hilarious and it lightens the mood and other times, it makes everything worse, So Much Worse. By worse, I mean it escalates the challenging behavior.
  • Walk away (also, see sit in a quiet place). Or leave the kids with your spouse/coparent and tell them to treat Dad just like they treat Mom before walking away.
  • Buy frozen veggies to have on-hand when cutting up fresh vegetables feels like too much work. I prefer purchasing corn, peas, carrots, beets (only see these occasionally), green beans, cauliflower.
  • Feel what you are feeling without trying to change it. When are not supposed to feel happy all the time. You can also feel both happy and sad/frustrated at the same time. You are normal.
  • Share your feelings by using I statements: I feel _____ when I hear/when I have to remind you/when I have to point out the messes, etc. Or remind the people you live with that even though you are in the role of Mom or Spouse, you still have likes, dislikes, and limits.
  • Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues. This will take practice if you have ignored these cues for years.
  • If finances are getting you down, try a side-hustle like yard work, pet sitting, babysitting, part-time job — something that doesn’t require you to spend money to make money or will work with your family’s schedule or situation.
  • Own your limitations, likes and dislikes, preferences. Or add ‘yet’ to your self-defeating statements.
  • Say f-it and take the day off. Or do just enough to get through the day — getting up, showered/ready, eating meals, working, homework, eating meals, doing dishes.
  • Make a list of the things you enjoy that doesn’t require you to purchase anything, travel very far, hire help, etc.
  • Think about 1-2 things you are grateful for — electricity, toilet paper, running water, refrigerators, Netflix are my go-tos when I’m not feeling like myself.
  • Watch a movie with your kids and cuddle them. Or play a card game or board game with them — if you have enough energy to deal with the noise or cheating or obnoxious behavior.
  • Ask your spouse for more help around the house and with the kids. If you tend to micromanage, distract yourself so you are not critical of how he/she does things (within reason) — their way of doing things is not right, not wrong, it’s different.
  • Monitor how your hormones, quality of sleep, or other factors influence your energy levels, thinking, or emotions.
  • Have sex with your spouse — if you are highly irritated with each other, work your way up to staying in the same room, sitting next to each other, cuddling, kissing, and then ….

Thanks for reading! Until next time, I remain, The Mom that did these exact things when I was sleep-deprived, stressed out, overwhelmed, sore, unmotivated, and felt stuck in my life. Also, trial-and-error is the name of the game, here.

This blog is not intended as medical advice or diagnosis and should in no way replace consultation with a medical professional. If you try this advice and it does not work for you, you cannot sue me. This is only my opinion, based on my background, training, and experience as a woman, mother, personal trainer, and coach.