Like many of you have probably felt before, I’ve been struggling with feeling present, intellectually nourished, and healthy. My battery is constantly on low, and I feel like a robot going through the motions, living for others.
I assume this is common for those who have the responsibility of caring for or working for others. For me specifically, it’s my new position as homemaker. I spend every waking and sleeping moment thinking about and caring for a child, managing a household, and being a wife. So, to nobody’s surprise, I’ve placed my own health and needs on the back burner, forgotten, for the last year. And you guessed it, I burnt out after the big move.
I would like to clarify that I love my life, my family, and my baby, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t work or difficult. Being the default parent and a homemaker is a lot of work day and night. Even though I love that I can give all of myself to my family, that doesn’t mean I can’t take some of myself back in order to be better for them. It’s all about balance.
I have been focusing on being better for my family by taking initiative when it comes to my mental and physical health. I need to be an example for my child and keep myself from crashing and burning in an unsustainable routine.
You can’t pour from an empty cup.
I was at my healthiest before I got pregnant in 2020. I was living healthy and eating well, with my ideal physical health and improving mental health. Having a baby absolutely wrecked all of my progress. Right now, I am the least physically healthy I have ever been in my life, but my mental health has been better in the last 4 months than in my entire life. My mental health was at it’s worst during and the 7 months following my pregnancy. (My baby is almost 12 months at the time of writing this.) So, now that I am not constantly on the brink of a mental collapse, it is time to get healthy again by starting new habits!
But sticking to new habits is hard!
It can seem nearly impossible to start and keep up healthy habits for a number of reasons. Dramatic changes from our regular routine make it difficult to stick to it. We naturally want to revert back to our comfort zones and avoid hard things, especially on dark days. Not to mention that everyone is different, so finding advice and resources that work for an individual can be discouraging and sometimes a waste of time.
My advice on starting new habits…
You know yourself better than anyone. Try. Try anything and everything you think will work for you, and even some things you don’t think will work. You’d be surprised.
You alone have the power to create change in your life (and prevent wild fires🔥 lol).
Where to begin?
It often starts with an honest conversation with yourself or a loved one, in order to figure out what you would like to add or change about your habits and why.
I find that adding habits is easier than removing them, so I recommend replacing over removing.
Write things down. Create a habit tracker or a vision board. Do anything to put your intentions somewhere concrete. Doesn’t matter what it is. The act of committing by pen, word, or action is a promise to yourself. Show yourself that you care and know you can do this.
Any progress is progress. No matter how small.
Do not, I repeat, DO NOT try to implement a whole slew of habits and/or strict routines all at once. You will likely fail. Humans don’t work that way. Trust me. So many people fail because they start too big.
Start with one or two easy things. Once you’ve successfully implemented those habits permanently, then you can add one or two more. Continue this process until you feel like you are satisfied with your lifestyle. It will take more time than you see on the internet, but that’s okay. Long term life changes take time.
Additionally, it’s going to seem silly, but make a plan that is ridiculously easy to achieve in the beginning. I mean it. If you can measure and achieve a very simple goal every time, then you are more likely to exceed your goal without pressure.
An example of what this can look like is setting a goal to drink one cup of water a day. That’s it. One average glass of water for the whole day. And, as you succeed, slowly up the amount when you’re ready. Go to two cups a day, then three, and so on. But, I recommend keeping the minimum to one glass, so that you can’t really “fail”.
If fitness is the goal. Try to do some form of physical activity in the largest increment you can think of that is more than now. Even if that is just take a 10 minute walk once a month. Whatever works for you is best. If you never walk, once a month is progress.
Starting small will lead to better results in the future. It’s unrealistic to expect to just randomly start at 100%. I am not going to go from not walking at all to walking 20 minutes every day, because my mind and body aren’t used to that. I will likely give up after a few days, because it’s just too much pressure. But, starting small and building up the habit in your routine will create a long term dedication without the pressure. It just makes sense for long term change.
Be flexible and give yourself grace. When you don’t achieve your goal, remember that change is not linear. Breaking habit isn’t the end of the world, because you can always start again tomorrow. Just make sure you actually start again as soon as possible. If you don’t get that glass of water in today, no worries, drink a glass tomorrow or two if that makes you feel better.
Don’t compare yourself to others. You are you. You are not someone else. Everyone is at a different point in their life dealing with their own things. You cannot compare yourself to others, especially over the internet. If you try to do what others are doing, you will most likely fail, because it’s not what you need.
Starting healthy habits/routines is not a competition. The only person you need to make proud is yourself.
Attach the habit to a time/activity
One of the most important things I do in order to successful implement a new habit into my routine, is to attach the new habit to a time of day or activity that already exists in my routine.
This creates a tangible time and plan for how you can succeed, because there are no excuses about finding the time or forgetting. Schedule in your habits like you would an appointment or important meeting. This also helps for when you miss a day or week or month, because there is scheduled time for the next one, so it’s easy to hop right back in without even thinking about it.
If I always shower in the morning, then doing my skin care routine before or after my shower is a great way to successfully implement that goal. It is even better if the activities match or correlate, because it will be difficult to forget and easy to associate the two.
For example, I take a walk most days with the baby (I only don’t if we aren’t home or the weather is bad), so I have recently begun listening to audiobooks in one ear on walks. I used to listen to music or just think about things, but I missed reading with every fiber of my being. Now, when I get ready for a walk, the first thing I do is grab my earbuds. I can’t walk without listening to a book now, because the activities are correlated in my mind.
12 Habits that better my life and how I maintain them
1. Yoga at least once a day
I have just recently added yoga back into my routine. I’m not going to lie, it’s been very difficult. BUT, I have been mostly successful thus far for several reasons.
My measurable goal that is easy to achieve with a specific action plan: “I will practice yoga of some form every morning after I put the baby down for a nap before I have breakfast.”
This means that I have a specific time dedicated to practicing yoga every day, but it is achievable. I am not forcing myself to do a specific amount of time or intensity, but I still build the habit, because I have to do it every single day.
Some days it looks like 10 minutes of intentional breathing while sitting on a mat and relaxing my muscles, and others it is a full on workout with a 30 minute routine that I leave feeling sore and sweaty.
I can do what I feel up to any given day, while still creating an association in my mind that yoga happens every morning before breakfast. Now, if there is a deviation in the schedule for any reason, which happens fairly often with a toddler, I have created a flexible practice that I can squeeze in at any time. For example, when I miss my morning yoga, I can easily add in a quick stretch and intentional breathing before bed, just to cross the habit off my list for the day.
I have found that a loose system like this really works for me.
2. Drink at least three liters of water a day
I haven’t been very mindful of hydration recently. Hydration is very important for all sorts of reasons that we can’t get into, but it can be so difficult to regularly drink enough water when life gets busy. I often just forget to drink water, because in postpartum I no longer feel thirsty even if I am. So, I need a concrete way to remind myself to drink enough water.
First, I bought a 1 liter water bottle so that I can easily track how much water I am drinking in a 24 hour period. The bottle is also my preferred water delivery method: a bottle with a straw that you bite to get water to come out. I don’t know what it is, but certain drinking vessels encourage a certain amount of water intake for me.
This Camelbak bottle is my ideal hydration vessel, and it is the bottle that works best for me specifically. Everyone is different though. My husband prefers a bottle with a cap and small drinking spout, like this Embrava bottle.
Next, I began small. My first goal was to drink 1 liter of water a day. So, I only had to refill my bottle once before bed and finish it by the time I needed to refill it before bed the following day. I still revert back to this schedule when I catch myself slipping up.
Once I mastered 1 liter a day, my second goal became drinking 2 liters a day. I had to refill my bottle at lunch time and before bed. My final goal became refilling my bottle three times a day: before lunch, before dinner, and before bed.
It’s important to mention that I don’t always accomplish this goal. Some days I still only drink 1 liter of water, but the fact that I have easy associations and don’t beat myself up about it keeps me from completely falling out of practice. There is no pressure.
3. Eat at least two nutritious meals a day
If you struggle or have ever struggled with an eating disorder, please proceed with caution. What we are about to talk about, may be triggering for sensitive readers.
In all honesty, I am really bad at remembering to eat when taking care of the baby full time. I often forget my own survival needs, which does not create efficient parenting. I need to be healthy in order to be the best parent I can be, which is why I am making an effort to consciously plan and make at least two healthy meals a day.
I am very early in this goal. Right now, I am aiming for one nutritious meal a day, usually dinner.
How I am achieving this is by having a calendar on the wall where I plan meals for the week and prep beforehand. If I need to defrost something or a part of the meal can be prepped the night/morning before, then I set myself up for success.
The most important step I’ve taken to ensure success, is having options in the house. When I go to the store, I make a conscious effort to buy healthier options that make for quick easy meals, AND I make sure to have plenty in the house, so that I can’t run out. This means that I usually overlap having some meals left with my next grocery trip.
Additionally, after my morning yoga, I will go to the kitchen to lay out the dry ingredients and check to make sure we have everything we need for dinner that night. This eliminates the excuse that I didn’t know we were out of an ingredient. Having everything laid out also makes it easier once the cooking has begun.
Crock pot, instant pot, and prep-able meals make eating healthy at home a lot easier in the beginning. Low effort = more likely to succeed when struggling
The ultimate goal for me is to eat at least two nutritious meals every day, probably breakfast and dinner. Right now, I am starting with the mentality that eating anything (even a snack or something unhealthy) is better than nothing.
Not only do I have a bullet journal, but I also use Notion and an app called Finch. I have been very good at keeping up with Finch daily, but I’ve fallen out of the habit of bullet journalling and habit tracking.
I find that when I struggle to journal is when I need it most. I have not yet mastered this habit, but I am currently working on it. I used to journal several times a day, but life happened and I fell out of the habit.
Currently, I start the day by filling out my morning Finch content while giving the baby her bottle first thing after we wake up. I also check in at lunch time and before bed. That’s 3 times a day!
In addition to Finch, I’d am working on adding Notion and physical journalling into my routine. I try to fill out my Notion at breakfast and while making dinner but have had varying success.
Finally, I’d like to add in morning planning in my bullet journal and evening reflection in my diary. This has been the most difficult habit to get back into for me. For now, I am starting with Finch and Notion daily, and slowly adding in weekly bullet journaling.
In order to get back into physical journaling, I am going to start by weekly journaling as opposed to daily. It’s been hit or miss, but to be fair, it’s only been two weeks since I began.
5. Get out of the house once a day
If it wasn’t apparent, I am an introvert. I prefer being at home. I want to be alone. I hate going out. But, with a baby it is important for mental health and sanity to get out of the house.
This was actually the easiest habit for me to pick up after the move, because the baby gets fussy in the afternoon and we both need a change of scenery by then.
Usually, I will take her for one or two walks every day, or we will go out to run errands, or we will play in the back yard. She loves walks, but I don’t always have the energy and sometimes it’s too windy (we get 70-80mph winds and temperatures in the 100’s fahrenheit regularly where we live). So, we often will go to the library, grocery store, or for a coffee. We just got a plastic kiddy pool, so now that the weather is warming up, she can play in her pool or we can go down to the kids water park in our housing community when it opens.
I’ve found that getting out of the house helps on those hard days when the baby just wants to fuss/whine about everything, and I’m at the end of my rope. This is also the optimal time for me to listen to audiobooks.
6. Practice a new language
I have been learning Spanish for the last six-ish years, because I find it fun and good for fulfilling my need for intellectual stimulation.
I am currently aiming to use Duolingo for 10 minutes every day. I was doing well a few weeks ago, but fell off after the move. I am slowly but surely getting back to it by practicing while waiting for the baby to fall asleep for her afternoon nap.
Again, this one is very touch and go at the moment, since I have so many hobbies and so little time.
7. Writing twice a day
In addition to journalling, I would like to write for this website and fiction on the side for fun. I have a degree in Creative Writing, so it’s good to keep up on those skills in order not to lose them.
I have been writing while I have breakfast in the morning and either during lunch or before dinner. I love writing, so it’s been nice to get back into the habit.
8. Read once a day
Reading is one of those things that is great for my mental health and anxiety, but requires time and mental energy. I need to read to be happy, so it’s been important to schedule out time while taking care of the baby to read when I feel up to it.
Recently, I have been listening to audiobooks while taking walks, cooking dinner, putting the baby down for bed, and cleaning. This has been an excellent way to multitask and do something for myself while doing what I have to do.
I may not always have the mental space, but it is important to take full advantage of the times that I do.
9. Play Animal Crossing
I have a hard time relaxing. It’s just not in me to kick back and watch tv. I feel like I need to be doing something at all times. But, like most people, I still need to find a way to relax.
One thing that I’ve found to make me relax is playing Animal Crossing on our Nintendo Switch. I’ve been playing Animal Crossings since I was a kid. I love it. It’s relaxing. It makes me feel accomplished. It’s fun but also chill.
I haven’t actually implemented this one into my schedule fully, but I have been playing for 10 minutes here and there. I usually play before bed or after lunch if the baby hasn’t waken up.
10. Finish chores before dinner
Because I have so much to do, I often find myself doing chores up until bedtime. I can just keep going. It’s a horrible habit. So, I now have a rule that I will only do chores until I start making dinner. All I’m allowed to do after dinner is wash the dishes I used to make it, then it’s off to leisurely activities.
This has been vital for avoiding burnout from working too hard.
When I do this for myself, I am guaranteed time to:
- spend time with my partner
- get a head start on sleep
- take a hot bath
- anything else
11. Tidy up before bed
Resetting the house to a tidy state every night before bed has helped me feel less chaotic and anxious the following day. I sleep better knowing everything is how it should be.
This one is especially hard after a long day, but the payoff is worth it. I make sure to clear off the counters, take things upstairs, and tidy the bedroom before or after dinner. It really only takes 10 minutes at most and makes cleaning at the end of the week a lot easier than doing it all at once.
My mental space often reflects my physical space and vice versa, so it is important for me to take control where I can by keeping my physical space tidy.
12. Get ready, feel good
Unlike most people, I don’t get a weekend. Seven days a week I wake up when the baby does, we follow our daily routine, and then go to bed at the same time.
Additionally, I am one of those people who feels more motivated and productive when I get out of comfortable clothing for the day. If I stay in my Pjs or loungewear, I will not get much done. The same with makeup. If I put a bit of makeup on in the morning, I am twice as productive as I would have been if I hadn’t.
With that in mind, I now aim to get dressed in clothes that make me feel good at least 6 days a week, ideally 7, and put on makeup when I have time after yoga or before an important day.
I am quite lax on this goal, but I think that’s what keeps me from getting frustrated by it. So far, I get dressed about 5 days a week and do my makeup two to three times in a good week.
I get ready for me and me alone. Never make yourself look a certain way for other people. Do what feels good for you.