How To (Really) Start Taking Care Of Yourself
This post is brought to you in partnership with Quotacy.
I was a nanny for over five years, and although I don’t work with children anymore, I still wear the title like a badge of honor. While I am not a mother, I always have felt like one while with the kids I work with. Some of them I met when they were nearly teenagers. Some of them I met as infants, and nurtured as they grew into real, beautiful people who walked and talked and knew that if I left in the afternoon, I was coming back the next day. No matter their age, what I learned in this time is that there’s this sense of power that comes with being a caretaker for children. It flips a switch in you. Suddenly, you’re not the awkward twenty-something who can’t cook and gets nervous about “adulting” — you are the adult. Your one and only job is to fiercely protect and defend the child, and you do it almost automatically.
I always see this joke going around the internet about how, when a friend needs you to do something that usually makes you anxious, your “mom override” kicks in and you do it for them. That’s what it feels like to be the caretaker of a child. Everything that once made you nervous probably still makes you nervous, but you do it anyway. No amount of nerves or anxiety can stand in the way. But here’s the thing. We’re not all going to be mothers or nannies, and that’s totally okay! But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn to take care of ourselves in the way we would for a child. That strength — that “mom override” — that washes over you and allows you to tackle the grown-up things you never thought you would (or could), can also be applied to take care of yourself. Adapted from my personal experience taking care of children — and with the help of our friends at Quotacy, a boutique life insurance company that makes protecting your loved ones simple — I’ve rounded up some of the easiest ways you can start to be your own superhero parent.
1. Learn (for real this time) that you are not invincible.
When you’re young, you don’t have to worry about a lot of big stuff, because that stuff is always taken care of. It often isn’t until you have someone else in your life to consider — maybe a spouse or a child — that you hang your head and realize once and for all that you are not invincible, and you need to plan for any and all emergencies.
This hit me one day when I was nannying and started to suddenly feel dizzy and shaky, like I was going to pass out. I put the baby down in his bouncer and got down on the floor to close my eyes for a few minutes. When I opened them, baby was happily watching over me, and I was feeling a bit better. The moment of dizziness passed, but I went home that day thinking about what might have happened if something bad had happened to me. Would the baby have been safe? If I called an ambulance for myself, who would take him? Was I putting him in danger by not having a plan in place for this type of scenario? After that, I wrote up a protocol for myself, and for any first responders that may have arrived if there actually was an emergency while I was with the baby. This included where his food was, emergency phone numbers, and what to do/who to contact if something happened to me.
When you grow up, you need to make these types of emergency plans in both small and big ways. Yes, have a protocol of emergency phone numbers to call, and leave first responders information about who your cat should go to if something happens to you. Yes, take basic measures to protect yourself when you’re alone (for instance, there are tons of cheap personal safety alarms online). But also plan for the really big things, like, um, your possible death. Life insurance is one of the easiest but most effective ways to make sure your loved ones will be safe and taken care of even in the event that something happens to you. With Quotacy — a life insurance brokerage agency that makes buying term life insurance ridiculously simple — making sure you’re covered is easier than ever. Keeping the people you love safe and cared for lifts a weight off your shoulders and allows you to be the best you can be at caring for yourself now.
2. Learn how to actually take care of your body.
It is easy, especially in our ~youth~, to absolutely trash our bodies. I’m 100% guilty of this. Heavy (and frequent) drinking, experimental smoking, eating garbage because your metabolism is still kind enough that it allows for the consumption of an entire pizza without any weight gain — we’ve all been there. When you first enter adulthood, you get this sense of freedom and control over all aspects of your life. Suddenly, you don’t have to eat grilled chicken with vegetables for dinner because that’s what your family is having; you can have fried chicken tenders and ice cream! Or, screw the tenders, just have ice cream! You can eat sugar-filled cereal every morning even though your mom never had it in the house while you were growing up. You can get just the bare-minimum amount of sleep necessary to not keel over and die. And it is fun, and sure, you take advantage of that for a little while. And then one morning you wake up hungover and you’re craving… broccoli? And you find yourself texting your friends to tell them you’re going to skip the bar because you want to go to sleep early. What you eventually realize is that when you were gifted all of that freedom at age 18, you were being given a choice: to be an idiot, or to take care of your body. For those of us who chose the former, we’re likely at the time in our lives when we need to get back on track.
I remember taking care of two toddlers once and offering up sliced fresh fruits and carrot sticks with hummus when they asked me for candy and cookies. I felt like such a bad guy — if I were fixing myself a snack, and I had a craving for some chocolate, I wouldn’t deny myself that pleasure. So why was I denying these kids? But then I remembered. It is because I am being given that same choice: to be an idiot, or to really, truly take care of their bodies. That’s when I realized that I need to protect my body the way I protect theirs. We’re so kind and gentle with children. They get special, fragrance-free lotions and bath products to keep their skin safe, and healthy, limited-ingredient snacks to keep their bodies healthy and strong. And of course, we bring them out for ice cream once in awhile, but it isn’t a mainstay in their diets because we as the adults know better than to let it be. We need to start doing this for ourselves. Have the treat sometimes, but remember that you’re eating to fuel yourself and make yourself stronger (which probably doesn’t mean eating 12 Oreos just because no one is around to tell you not to).
The good news is, it isn’t too hard to eat healthier. Just adding an hour or two of healthy snack and meal-prep into your week will make a huge difference in helping you reach for healthier options when your inner-child pulls you towards a bag of chips. To keep myself from eating fast food, I’ll prep simple faux-Chipotle “burrito bowls” on Sundays and separate them into Tupperware containers to grab for lunch every day. All it takes is well-seasoned ground turkey, a can of diced tomatoes, chipotle peppers with all of the glorious sauce they come in, veggies, and brown rice. Even picking up a simple healthy habit, like replacing sugary juices or soda with naturally flavored water, is a great way to be kind to your body. I toss frozen fruit into my water instead of ice, which keeps my drink cold and makes it delicious so I actually want to finish it.
3. Be smarter with your money.
This is an obvious one, because this is TFD here, and we’re all about being smarter with money. But Holly’s recent article proved even further that mothers just do money a little differently than everyone else. When there is a child in the picture, many people start to see money less as something that they exchange for things they want, and more as a tool that will help their babies have the lives they deserve. The desire to give their children the best lives possible inspires them to start saving for retirement to make sure they don’t burden anyone in the future, to diligently save for their children’s educations, and to keep their emergency funds filled to ensure that their families are safe from financial ruin. But you don’t need to have a kid to do all of these things. If you were your own child, wouldn’t you want to protect yourself from emergencies? Wouldn’t you want to save for your future, and know that you have the type of security that comes along with a retirement savings, a smart life insurance policy, and a healthy bank account? Of course. And it is possible, even if you aren’t rich. It’s all about making small, informed decisions (like these and these) that contribute positively to your overall financial goals. Even investing (which I know sounds totally scary, even for a certified Grown Up) doesn’t have to be difficult, and isn’t reserved for the already-super-rich. You can actually do it on basically any salary. As with eating well and planning for the worst, basic financial planning is something you should do — for you.
Photo via Unsplash