This week, at AromaTools™, is our Week of Wellness, and we are offering a series of posts that correspond with the free classes being held at our Pleasant Grove, UT, location from various essential oil experts. Check back throughout the week to see what great information is being shared!
This post is from a friend of ours, Jennifer Antkowiak. Jen has had personal experience being a caregiver and has a passion for helping other family caregivers. Along with being the creator of a corporate wellness program for caregivers, she is also a nationally certified fitness instructor, a gold-ranked member of an essential oil company, and a mother of five children.
How to Take Care of YOURSELF While You’re Taking Care of Others
We all have times when we feel overwhelmed. Are you feeling the effects of spreading yourself too thin? Maybe you’re having trouble getting enough sleep or you’re not eating well. Maybe you’re struggling to manage stress. Maybe you’re taking care of a sick or elderly family member, and you feel you just don’t have enough time to take care of yourself. I can help you fix that by showing you how to get back on track with taking care of YOU.
Think for a minute…what have you done for YOURSELF lately? I’m not talking about something that you had to do; I mean something that you wanted to do—just for you…just for fun!
In our busy worlds, it’s easy to let self-care slip to a back burner, and that shift is having devastating results:
- 79% of caregivers say they need help with things such as “finding time for myself, managing my emotional and physical stress, and balancing work and family responsibilities.”
- 59% work and manage caregiving responsibilities at the same time.
- 40% of women and 26% of men caregivers rate their emotional stress levels at 4 or 5 out of 5 (statistics from AARP).
We take care of our families, jobs, and homes because we love them and need them. But we only have so many hours in a day, and the more we’re called into action for each of those things, the less time we have for ourselves. Letting go of making ourselves a priority puts our health at risk and strips us of the strength and energy we need to do the things we want.
I found out about this in a big way when I was a primary caregiver for my mother-in-law and father-in-law. Taking care of my in-laws opened my eyes to the struggles that family caregivers deal with every minute of every day. We don’t get enough sleep. We don’t eat well. We don’t exercise. We lose connection with friends and family.
Living in this way, strangely, starts to feel “normal.” And after a little while, we don’t even recognize that we’re living in an unhealthy way.
So how do get yourself back on your radar? In my books, talks, and workshops, I teach people to focus on baby steps—little ten minute chunks of time to grab and maximize. Can ten minutes really make a difference? Yes!
Within just seconds, you can increase your heart rate, move more oxygen through your system, and trigger the brain to release chemicals you need to either power up or relax!
To jumpstart your journey back to self-care so you can start feeling better fast, let’s focus on the areas of life that are the core of health and wellness: Sleep, Nutrition, and Fitness.
In doing research for my books, I visited sleep labs in medical centers and saw how doctors observe and treat people with sleep disorders. To help people get better quality sleep, they keep the room dark—no TVs or cell phones on at bedtime. They also talk with patients about the importance of creating and maintaining a nighttime routine.
For me, it starts about an hour before bed with a cup of green tea with a honey stick infused with lavender, lemon, and peppermint essential oil. It’s sold as an Allergy Blend, but I love it for the relaxing properties of lavender, the uplifting nature of lemon, and the digestive support from peppermint oil. For me, it sends a signal that it’s time to wind down. I also keep a spray bottle of lavender essential oil in our bedroom to spritz bedding and curtains and a roller ball bottle of lavender essential oil mixed with fractionated coconut oil that makes it quick and easy to roll a little on the bottoms of my feet.
Focusing on nutrition in self-care most often simply means making the time to eat! I know many people who gain weight, not because they’re eating too much, but because they’re skipping meals. That really throws the metabolism out of whack, and it can be tough to get it moving again! Consistency pays off here––make sure to keep a steady flow of fuel to the body to allow it to work the way it’s made to work!
It’s important to pay attention to staying hydrated as part of our talk about nutrition. Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water every day. I like to add a few drops of a Metabolic Blend of essential oils, which includes grapefruit, lemon, clove, peppermint, ginger, and cinnamon, to a glass water bottle. I drink this between meals, and I especially like it during a workout. It boosts my energy and allows me to get the most out of exercise.
I also love to use essential oils in cooking to add nutrition and therapeutic benefits. There are some great recipes in a book co-created by my friend Ruthi Bosco called Everyday Cooking with Essential Oils.
Last (for now), let’s look at how to bump up your fitness level. If you’re like many overwhelmed people that I know, you’re thinking I’m a little nuts to suggest you leap off the couch and go for a jog. “I thought you understood, Jen… I’m TIRED!” Guess what? You may be tired because you’re not moving enough! Strange, but true—more activity equals more energy!
So, to get you moving more, start in baby steps. Aim for a little ten minute walk to get you going. Soon, you’ll learn to love that time for yourself. Your body will actually crave it and want more! I do some of my best thinking during a nice long walk. The movement is good for the muscles and also for the brain—for stress relief. You may not believe it now; but trust me, your workout will become a mini vacation!
Exercise provides a much needed mental break.
I’m a nationally certified fitness instructor, and I teach a variety of aerobic and strength–based classes. I’ve been thrilled to see how Soothing Blends of essential oils help to support healthy muscles and joints and allow people who didn’t think they were able to move much at all to start exercising again! In fact, I like to keep samples with me to share with people who could benefit from them. A drop of orange or lemon essential oil mixed with a drop of peppermint in a glass water bottle is a refreshing energy boost before, during, and after a workout! And, I like to keep a little plastic spray bottle of peppermint oil and water in my gym bag—just a spray cools me down right away!
Think about how you can pull just one of these tips to take better care of yourself today. I want you to care for yourself with wild abandon! No guilt! Be confident in knowing that there’s BIG power in those little minutes. Taking even a little time for yourself will work wonders in keeping you healthy, strong, and happy for everyone else. I’m looking forward to sharing more with you through this blog.
Which area of self-care do you want to focus on first?
[recipe title=”About the Author”]
Jennifer Antkowiak has a 20-year career as a trusted, beloved, Emmy award–winning television news anchor and reporter. She currently anchors the early morning news on KDKA-TV (CBS Pittsburgh). Jen has a special connection with viewers, who say they appreciate her warmth, wit, and wisdom.
Personal caregiving experiences fuel Jennifer’s passionate mission to help family caregivers. She founded Jennifer Cares (www.JenniferCares.com), which provides information and products that make life easier for caregivers, and is a caregiver, author, coach, and advocate. She’s a sought-after speaker and creator of a corporate wellness program for caregivers. And, Jennifer is a nationally certified fitness instructor who teaches classes with a focus on stress relief, weight loss, and fun. She is in development of at-home fitness programs for caregivers.
Jennifer is working to educate and empower people to be healers in their homes through the use of Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils for natural, effective support for help with physical and emotional issues. She is a passionate gold-ranked member of an essential oil company, and her team continues to break records for growth and momentum.
Jennifer and her husband, Joe, have five children. They live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
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Thank you, Jen, for sharing your knowledge and experience with us!