Now, more than ever, it’s time we take good care of ourselves.
Responsibility is heavy, daily structure looks different than just weeks ago and the worry of COVID-19 finds its way into every corner of our lives.
In a time when our health is of utmost importance, we’re stressed beyond measure, making “essential food runs” for the tub of Ben & Jerry’s and finding ourselves binge watching everything from Tiger King to HGTV.
There’s a newness about this time, managing work needs remotely while guiding a child through their home-schooling program.
Or maybe it’s that there is no work for a bit and instead of feeling productive, we’re feeling lost, unable to navigate the clear slate of time and space.
On top of it all, we find ourselves longing to be with a family member or struggling with the desire to care for an ill friend when we’re required to stay away. It’s all real. And it can be overwhelming. That’s why we must consider how to care for ourselves as we care for so much more.
Every day provides new opportunity for us to grow, stretch, learn, advance, be still, explore and navigate. We have a choice in every matter. Whether we’re in the depths of crisis or experiencing the best day of our lives, we get to choose how we participate in all of it. Understanding this concept is vital to the success of taking care of yourself.
The biggest question to ask yourself is, “How will I choose to participate in all of it?” I’ve found myself working through this question time and time again. The day of my diagnosis, when I was told to “go home and prepare” for a rare neuromuscular disease to take my life. The day I almost missed my flight due to circumstances that were out of my control. The day I learned of my friend’s diagnosis of cancer. The day the awful accident left my son with broken vertebrae.
We’ve all had these difficult moments, and in addition to the big moments, we experience little things too that add up to big stress.
In order to take care of yourself, boost the immune system and find peace amid stress, it’s important to practice these five things:
1. See, practice and be … good
This practice reduces stress, creates peace and builds resiliency. There is good in every situation. Sometimes it’s easy to see it and other times it takes a while.
See the good. Remember the “Where’s Waldo” books? On occasion, you’d turn to the page and spot him immediately. Other times it would take so long to find him that you had to call in a reinforcement to help you! This is no different than seeing the good in a situation, it may take some time, but you’ve got to believe it is there.
Practice the good is about practicing gratitude. One negative thought easily spirals into 20 more and then replicates even faster from there. Decades of research suggest that positivity plays a powerful role in the body’s ability to reduce stress, increase productivity and heal. You can practice gratitude in a variety of ways: 1) keep a small journal on the nightstand and jot down 5-10 things you’re grateful for every morning and evening. 2) give thanks and gratitude through meditation or prayer. 3) Offer gratitude to others while in conversation or send them a note of thanks. Practice gratitude consistently, morning and evening to feel the powerful benefits of a positive mind.
Be the good. This is a choice we make every moment, every day. Be the good means show up in a positive, graceful, kind and loving manner regardless of how others may choose to show up for you. We cannot control the response of others, and in this challenging time many people are responding in emotionally fueled ways. Just hit the toilet paper aisle after it has been stocked and you may experience this response first-hand.
All joking aside, we can only control our personal response to any situation and if your goal is to be calm, reduce stress and increase health, you must Be the good in the situation. I’d like to be clear that if you need to share a challenge, address a need or stand up for yourself, you ABSOLUTELY need to do so. Even then, we should speak up in the most positive, kind, graceful and loving manner possible. In time, you’ll see those around you begin to do the same.
2. Get Ample Rest
You can do everything in the world to support your body but if you cheat it out of great rest you’ve missed the most vital step. The body needs time to rest, repair and rejuvenate. It needs ample opportunity to detoxify, balance out your hormones, reduce stress and get ready for a great day ahead. I’m guessing you push the body hard all day long, meeting the demands of work, caring for the needs of your family, exercising, cooking, cleaning and more. It gives a LOT to you. Please give back in return. A quick snapshot of things to do for a good night’s rest include:
- Cut caffeine by 2 p.m.
- Finish all food intake 2 hours before bed.
- Shut technology down 2 hours before bed.
- Relax with a good book, an Epsom salt bath, or meditate.
- Keep your room cool, dark and quiet.
- Aim for the same daily sleep schedule.
- Achieve 8 hours of sound sleep.
3. Eat well
Food builds the foundation for healthy cells, organs and body. By consuming colorful, plant-based foods you’ll boost the immune system, reduce stress, increase energy and mitigate inflammation that causes disease in the body. I encourage you to take small steps here, building your plate and palate one day at a time. Focus on incorporating more of the following foods in your diet, when you do so, you’ll naturally crowd out the sweets and packaged foods that are working against you.
Please consume these foods daily:
- 2 cups of leafy greens.
- 4 cups of vegetables.
- 1.5 cups of fruit.
- 1 cup whole grains.
- ½ cup of beans.
- 1-2 oz nuts/seeds.
- 15 oz of clean, organic animal protein or wild caught fish.
- 6 tbsp of healthy fat (salmon, avocado, flax meal, chia seed, coconut oil, avocado oil, extra virgin olive oil).
Identify one place to start, maybe it’s the vegetables category. Add one cup of vegetables into your daily diet for one week, then move to 2 cups per day for the second week, and 3 cups in week three, etc. until you meet your goal in each category. Building a little at a time.
Every process in the body depends on water. Fill your cup often to achieve 80 oz of water per day. That’s just 10 oz of water every hour in an 8-hour workday, you can do this! Here are some ways you can spruce up your water:
- Put fruit slices and herbs in your water:
- Watermelon, mint.
- Lemon, orange.
- Make hot or iced herbal tea.
- Anything with caffeine in it does not count!
- Add a Stevia-sweetened flavor packet to your water:
- True Lemon.
- As a treat, enjoy a carbonated, flavored water.
- Don’t enjoy too often, it’ll negatively impact your tooth enamel.
- If you find it difficult to drink all the water, use a reusable straw and see if it helps!
The body needs movement every 40-60 minutes to keep stress levels down, metabolism high and balance hormones in the body. Start incorporating 5-10 minutes of exercise at the top of every hour. Take a brisk walk and get fresh air, walk up/down the stairs, do sets of jumping jacks, planks and pushups in your office, or throw on your favorite tunes for a 5-minute dance off.
Whatever suits your fancy, just get it done! Sitting for hours on end is a big hazard to your health. Hit the daily goal of 10,000 steps with small bursts of movement all day long accompanied by a brisk morning and/or evening walk. Simple. Effective. Life changing.
We have a choice in every matter, and every choice we make, matters! You deserve the best of health and happiness, and it all begins with YOU. Take great care of yourself today and always. Choose one thing from this article to work on today and build from there. We’re not changing everything overnight, but rather making one high-quality choice at a time. These choices will soon build on one another, create transformation and soon it’ll become your healthy lifestyle.
If you found this helpful, and would like to explore additional resources for you and your team or discuss wellness programming, visit www.AngelaGaffney.com.