Meal Planning as Self-Care

Self care is about taking good care of yourself and treating yourself as kindly as you treat others. Self-care is about making our own well-being a priority. 

So why do so many of us put our needs at the bottom of the list, allowing ourselves to be in a constant state of stress in order to get through an endless list of tasks. 

How can practicing some self-care help us protect our time, our energy and our health?

When we talk about self-care often we think of manicures, hot stone massages, and other luxuries. We don’t often think about planning, organizing, or scheduling as examples of self-care because they sound kinda like …well… work.
But here’s why we should consider these as self-care activities – they actually play a big role in protecting your health. Think about how you feel when you’re rushing around, running late, or looking for things that are never where you can find them.

 Stressed, right? 

And that’s a problem because if you spend enough time stressed out, your body will have a chronically elevated level of the stress hormone, cortisol, which can really be problematic for your health, in both the long and short term. 

Self-care is important because by doing things that protect our time and energy, we minimize the low grade chronic stress that we bring upon ourselves by not being proactive. 

Listen, if you’re about to say you’re too busy to sit down and take time to plan out meals for the week because it feels like one more chore to add to your already long list of things to do – trust me when I say taking time to plan for meals each week, and writing out a grocery list, ultimately benefits you in a lot of ways! 

It will save you money because dining out is so much more expensive than preparing meals at home. It also means less food waste because you’ve only bought the items you need to prepare your meals. 

It means you’ll eat healthier. Even when you make healthy menu choices, portions are generally twice what you’d normally eat, and restaurant food usually contains higher sodium levels than what we make at home. And it’s usually prepared using lower quality oils like soybean. With meals planned and prepped ahead of time, you’re less tempted to get greasy takeout or hit up the drive-thru. 

Choosing ingredients from the grocery store gives you more control over the quality of your food. When you select and prepare your own food knowing exactly what is included in the dishes you make, you’re able to better control the quality of your meals. 

And most of all, it means less STRESS. Planning meals reduces your stress level because you have a solid plan for your week and you won’t have to rack your brain at the last minute to figure out what’s for dinner, trying to pull something together with whatever you happen to have on hand. 

How to Create A Weekly Meal Plan: 

  • Print out the blank Weekly Meal Planner printable guide here.

  • Take a look at your schedule for the upcoming week and note what days of the week will you be home to cook and which nights will be a little more rushed. For those nights, schedule a crockpot meal or pre-cooked dinner the night before.

  • Schedule one day near the end of the week as Leftover Day, making sure not to let food and money go to waste

  • Decide what you’ll eat on each day. Need menu ideas? Sites like emeals.com, TheFresh20.com and TheSixOclockScramble.com include healthy recipes that are quick and easy to prepare along with the grocery shopping list for you. Pricing starts at around $5 per month.  

Create your Grocery List:

  • Compile the list of ingredients from all your recipes

  • Figure out what you have on hand and what you’ll need to pick up at the store

Prep Your Meals: 

  • Spend time on the weekend doing some batch prep for your meals:

    • Chop all of your vegetables together

    • Cook all grains and beans ahead of time

    • Make your needed sauces, dressings, and marinades

  • Pack your prepped food in clear containers and make them easily accessible in the fridge. 

Tips: 

  • Think ahead and cook up an extra batch. Plan to make double what you would normally make for dinner so you have leftovers for lunches or freeze it for another dinner.

  • Be sure to have food defrosted if you’re using any frozen items like meat, chicken, or fish. 

If you haven’t meal planned because it seems too time consuming, know that by creating a system, it will be so much faster and easier each time you do it. Once you start implementing a weekly meal plan, you’ll notice you feel less stressed over the dinner-time rush. 

You’ll feel so much less stressed when you know you’re ready for the week and you have what you need to make healthy meals for your family. Taking an hour to sit and plan your meals for the week will save you much more than that in time and energy in the long run.

 

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or Registered Dietitian. The information presented is purely to share my experience and for entertainment purposes. As always, check with a doctor before making any fitness or nutrition changes. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site.

 

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4 Steps to Create a Life-Changing Meditation Practice

 

 PHOTO CREDIT:  ASHLEY MARKS PHOTOGRAPHY

PHOTO CREDIT: ASHLEY MARKS PHOTOGRAPHY

 

Meditation can be a life-changing practice if you struggle with stress or anxiety. Meditation has been shown to rewire the brain to return to a calm state and teaches you how to manage your racing thoughts or excessive worries.

You may not know this but 20 years ago I struggled with crippling anxiety and panic attacks. I went to the dr for anti-anxiety pills but instead got a lesson in meditation. Learning how to quiet my mind has been an invaluable tool in managing my anxiety since then.

If you’re struggling with constant worry or a brain that doesn’t relax, you may want to create your own meditation practice. It doesn’t have to be complicated, you can start right now!

Here are 4 steps to getting started:

1. Create space

Literally and figuratively. Find a place where you’ll be able to sit in peace for a few minutes at a time (to start). Free of noise, distraction, traffic, or anything that will disrupt your meditation. Put a comfortable pillow, chair, blanket in the place where you’ll meditate to designate it your meditation space to help your mind and body transition into your practice.

If you can’t designated one space for meditation, don’t sweat it. The great thing about meditation is it literally can be done ANYWHERE, but most people find that having a designated spot for it helps get into the right mindset for the practice.

Also, carve out a time in the day when it will be convenient for you to meditate. Most people prefer to do it early in the day, that way it doesn’t get postponed or eventually left undone by a busy day or being too tired later on.

2. Pick a style

Figure out what kind of meditation you want to do. I’ve listed some beginner-friendly ones here:

  • Breathing meditation – focus only on the breath. Inhale, exhale. Inhale, exhale.

  • Counting meditation – the same number sequence is repeated over and over.

  • Mantra meditation – focus on a word or phrase for the duration of the session.

  • Sensation awareness meditation – scan through your body one part at a time and just tune in to the sensations of your body at that time. No judgement, just awareness.

  • Walking meditation – Sitting meditation usually provides the greatest benefits, but you may need to start with small steps. Walking meditation is useful for beginners or as an alternative on days when a regular session isn’t feasible. Walk around your own living room or backyard. Walking automatically puts you in touch with your body. Observe your posture from foot to head.  Align your breath with your steps. Pause frequently to create a slow and restful state of mind. Take a moment to stand up straight. Lift each foot gently, and roll from heel to toe as you place it down in front of you.

    To start, just pick one type and see if it resonates with you. if not, you can move on to another type. Most beginners start with a guided mediation.

3. Start Small

For most people, one of the most difficult things about meditation can be finding the time to squeeze a session into your busy schedule. You can start by meditating for five minutes or less!

  • Stop on red. You may start looking forward to red lights if you use them for a refreshing break. Focus on your breath and appreciate the world around you.

  • Take advantage of routine tasks. Empty your mind and your dishwasher at the same time. As you remove forks and plates, clear out nagging resentments and doubts.

  • Ease stressful moments. Meditate on whatever disturbs you.Being annoyed with a salesclerk who rang up your purchase without putting down their phone could remind you to listen more attentively to family and friends. Let it be a teachable moment that creates more harmony.

  • Express gratitude. Happy events are also worth pondering. Stop to give thanks for hot chocolate or spring flowers

4. Join a Guided Meditation Group

Guided meditation sessions with a group leader take care of the agenda for you.

  • Find a community. Yoga studios, public libraries, and local hospitals may offer programs. Browse online or check bulletin boards in grocery stores and coffee shops. Start your own group through Meetup.

  • Locate a meditation instructor. Effective instructors come in many shapes and sizes. Ask about why they teach meditation and how they lead a session. As long as you feel comfortable with them it may be a good fit.

  • Work with distractions. Meditating in a crowded room may feel different than sitting down alone in your bedroom. If trying to screen out distractions makes it difficult to concentrate, try accepting them instead. Remain aware of your surroundings. If a door slams or a phone rings, gently bring your focus back when you’re ready to resume.

  • Go at your own pace. Meditation comes more easily for some practitioners, and your powers of concentration will probably rise and fall from day to day. Listen to the instructor when you need more guidance. If you already feel clear and connected, you may want to follow your own thoughts instead.

You can start a meditation practice today even if you’re short on time and juggling many responsibilities. Practical meditation techniques can put you on the path to managing stress and enjoying greater peace of mind.

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Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor or Registered Dietitian. The information presented is purely to share my experience and for entertainment purposes. As always, check with a doctor before making any fitness or nutrition changes. The author and blog disclaim liability for any damage, mishap, or injury that may occur from engaging in any activities or ideas from this site.

 

 

How much water do you actually need?

Water – How Much Do I Really Need to Drink?

Water is essential for life. You can only survive a few days without it. And being hydrated is essential for health. I could argue that water is the most essential nutrient of them all. Water is neededfor every cell and function in your body. 

 

Water is a huge part of your blood; it cushions your joints and aids digestion. It helps stabilize your blood pressure and heart beat. It helps to regulate your body temperature and helps maintain electrolyte (mineral) balance. And that’s just a few of its roles.

 

Dehydration can impair mood and concentration,and contribute to headaches and dizziness. It can reduce your physical endurance, and increase the risk for kidney stones and constipation. Extreme dehydration can cause heat stroke. 

 

So, water is criticalfor life and health. 

 

But, just as way too little water is life-threatening, so is way too much. As with most things in health and wellness, there is a healthy balancebe reached.

 

But, there are conflicting opinions as to how much water to drink. Is there a magic number for everyone? What counts toward water intake?

 

Let’s dive right in.

 

How much water do I need?

 

Once upon a time, there was a magic number called “8×8.” This was the recommendation to drink eight-8 ozglasses of water every day;  that’s about 2 liters of water.

 

Over time, we’ve realized that imposing this external “one size fits all” rule may not be the best approach. Now, many health professionals recommend drinking according to thirst. You don’t need togo overboard forcing down glasses of water when you’re not thirsty. Just pay attention to your thirst mechanism. We have complex hormonal and neurological processes that are constantly monitoring how hydrated we are. And for healthy adults, this system is very reliable.

 

Besides thirst, pay attention to how dark and concentrated your urine is. The darker your urine, the more effort your body is making to hold on to the water it has. Urine is still getting rid of the waste, but in a smaller volume of water, so it looks darker.

 

There are a few otherthings to consider when evaluatingyour hydration status. If you’re sweating a lot, or are in a hot/humid climate drink more. Breastfeeding moms, elderly people, and people at risk of kidney stones need to drink more water too. So do people who experience vomiting and/or diarrhea, as both can quickly dehydrate our bodies.

 

So, ditch the “one size fits all” external rule, and pay more attention to your body’s subtle cues for water.

 

What counts toward my water intake?

 

All fluids and foods containing water contribute to your daily needs. 

 

Water is usually the best choice. If you’re not drinking pure water, consider the effects that the other ingredients have on your body. Drinks containing sugar, alcohol, and caffeine will have effects besides hydration. Sugar can mess with your blood sugar balance. Alcohol can make you feel “buzzed.” And caffeine can keep you awake. Let’s talk a bit more about caffeine for a second.

 

Caffeine is the infamous “dehydrator,” right? Well, not so much. If you take high dose caffeine pills, then sure, they cause fluid loss. But the idea that coffee and tea don’t count toward your water intake is an old myth. While caffeine may make you have to go to the bathroom more,that effect isn’t strong enough to negate the hydrating effects of its water. Plus, if you’re tolerant to it (i.e., regularly drink it) then the effect is even smaller. So, you don’t need tocounteract your daily cup(s) of coffee and/or tea.

 

Also, many foods contain significant amounts of water. Especially fruits and vegetables like cabbage, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, celery, spinach, lettuce, apples, pears, oranges, grapes, carrots, and pineapple. These foods are over 80% water, so they are goodsources of hydration.

 

So, you don’t need tocount your plain water intake as your only source of hydration. All fluids and foods with water count.

 

Conclusion

 

There is no magic number of the amount of water you need. Everyone is different. Children, pregnant women, elderly people need more. Episodes of vomiting or diarrhea will also increase your short-term need for more water.  The most important thing is to pay attention to your thirst. Other signs you need more water are dark urine, sweating, constipation, and kidney stones.

 

Water is your best source of fluids. But other liquids, including caffeinated ones, help too. Just consider the effects the other ingredients have on your health as well. And many fruits and vegetables are over 80% water so don’t forget about them.

 

Let me know in the comments: What’s your favourite way to hydrate?

 

Recipe (Hydration): Tasty hydrating teas

 

You may not love the taste (or lack thereof) of plain water. One thing you can do is add some sliced or frozen fruit to your water. Since we learned that you could hydrate just as well with other water-containing beverages, here are some of my favorite herbal teas you can drink hot or cold.

 

●     Hibiscus

●     Lemon

●     Peppermint

●     Rooibos

●     Chamomile

●     Lavender

●     Ginger

●     Lemon Balm

●     Rose Hips

●     Lemon Verbena

 

Instructions

 

Hot tea – Place tea bags in a pot (1 per cup) and add boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes and add a touch of honey and slice of lemon, if desired. Serve.

 

Iced tea – Place tea bags in a pot (2 per cup) and add boiling water. Steep for 5 minutes and add a touch of honey, if desired. Chill. Add ice to a glass and fill with cold tea.

 

Tip: Freeze berries in your ice cubes to make your iced tea more beautiful and nutritious. 

 

Serve & enjoy!