We live in a world that puts overwhelming responsibilities on us. We have financial, work-related, relationship, familial, household and social obligations that we struggle to manage day after day. On top of all of this, a new trend (which really isn’t new) emerges: self-care. Now, we also have to fit in time to take care of ourselves; to start taking responsibility for our own health. This “new” message is that we can no longer blame the fact we get sick on our genetic coding. There are preventable factors that are in our control. “Great!”, you are probably thinking, “How am I supposed to squeak that into my already overlapping schedule?!” Here are a few pointers that I learned through my own journey into living a healthy lifestyle.
The first thing I learned is that self-care is not an event. It’s not going out getting your nails done, going out to a movie with a friend, getting a massage or sleeping in on Sunday. It’s building an environment around you that promotes health and the rest will take care of itself. Sounds like a lot of work doesn’t it? I thought so too in the beginning. But it only involves building three little sub-environments that involve knowledge you already have, and a few minutes a day to execute your new plan.
The first healthy sub-environment is your food environment. The world offers us an abundance of choices. Unfortunately, many of these options are harmful to our health. Food is central to our health and well-being but we tend to make our decisions around taste and calories. The issue with being influenced by taste and calories is that those foods may not sufficiently contain the nutrients we need. The 50 trillion cells that make up our bodies need these nutrients to reproduce and function efficiently; if they don’t get them and deficiency gaps start to develop, our health declines in some form or another. Symptoms start to appear. It’s that simple. Start today by filling your shopping cart with cell-building foods that are full of nutrients and you are on your way to better health.
The second sub-environment is your social environment. Our bodies (and minds) respond to our social environment. If we are part of a healthy social environment, we are prone to be healthy and feel good. If we live in a chaotic, toxic environment we are vulnerable to illness and disorders. Our interactions impact our stress responses therefore our immune system. It’s important to surround yourself with positive supportive people who uplift you. Hanging out with negative people can poison your thoughts and drain your energy. Our families and workplaces can contain toxic negative people who can drag us down by manipulating, guilting or criticizing you. No matter the circumstances, spending time with these people is not in your best interest. If you cannot drop them from your life (which I recommend) at the very least spend as little time with them as you can. Balance this by spending more time with positive people who encourage, praise and support you. This will add value to your life making you feel good improving your health and well-being.
The last sub-environment is the quiet environment. Thank goodness our brains drown out 90 percent of the noise around us. However, saying that it can still cause stress on the body that we are not aware of. Add on the constant chatter that goes on in your mind that doesn’t seem to quell until we finally fall into some sort of unconscious state. With this internal and external racket going on it’s no wonder our shoulders are up to our ears. All this noise can disrupt our sleep, make us anxious, and cause tension in our muscles. The long-term effects of this are not good. Our bodies and minds start to break down. We need to take a few minutes a day to unplug…from everything. The hardest part about this is not feeling guilty. Not feeling guilty about having a nap, a bath, a walk, meditating or whatever that involves with just being with yourself. We require this in order to lower our blood pressure, allow systems to re-stabilize and feed positive thoughts. The pay-offs of spending time in solitude and putting your mind on “sleep mode” are astronomical. This can be the most rewarding time of your day.
I would like to leave you with definition of self-care, by Steven Covey, author of The Seven Essential Habits of Highly-Effective People: “Look at the word responsibility – ‘response-ability’, the ability to choose your response. Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility. They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning of their behavior.”
Taking care of yourself is not a responsibility in the idea that it is a burden or an event. It means acknowledging that you have a role in determining your health. If you want to feel better, you know you have the power to make that happen and you start taking responsibility for it. Now seriously, how awesome is that?