Self- Care is a buzzword in the health and fitness industry. My Pinterest feed keeps preaching self-care to me, but at least there, it seems to look like candle-lit hot baths. Or online shopping. Turns out that a subscription box filled with beauty samples is all I really need to take care of my body? Or maybe self-care is sexy?
But really, self-care is kind of the opposite of sexy. It, more often than not, means focusing on the basics of body care while setting aside some easier/more convenient/more fun things in order to get healthy enough to do what you really want to do. The industry is doing all of us a disservice by stopping the conversation at bath time and binge-watching Netflix.
My body is giving me a hard time lately– which echoes exactly what I tell my clients: the body can be a three-year old with a vile temper tantrum. For the love of all that’s pure and holy, figure out what it wants and make sure your body gets it. Because unlike a tantrum-throwing three year old, your body will not give up and “cry itself to sleep.” It will will drop you right on your sitter until you give it what it needs. I don’t know what mine needs. I eat very well, I rest adequate amounts, I supplement vitamins and minerals that could possibly be deficient–or not being absorbed by my body. I exercise regularly, but not more than is appropriate for my body. And I do things that make my spirit happy. But still, my body is dropping me with some sort of unnamable but awful fatigue. (Annnnnnnd there are a lot of causes for it, but not a lot of great answers as to how to fix it. Adrenal fatigue, Chronic fatigue, Fibromyalgia, etc. Most of the symptoms could be caused by a ton of things!) This isn’t the first time this has happened. But it’s on my plate right now.
Which of course means that the notion of self-care is back on my radar in a more pressing sort of way. Ever notice that the times we need to practice genuine self-care the most are the times when we want to do it least? I told my trainer the other day that I just really wanted some GFS (Greasy Fried S#!+), which I don’t ever want any more. But it was what former me (the 250lb pound one that ate her feelings) would have wanted. My body was reverting to old patterns that made it feel good for a minute or two. What did not sound particularly good to me was vegetables. Or eggs. Also on the list of things that are not particularly appealing: slowing down, saying no, and resting.
But that’s where the completely unsexy aspects of genuine self-care have to come into play. Because I (and you, I know!) have a whole, glorious life to live– and I don’t want to feel like this for any longer than I have to.
Here’s what I’m doing right now, that’s more than candlit bath time with smelly salts. (Though I’m a big fan of baths– so definitely not knocking it… I’m just making the argument that a bath or a walk or reading a good book aren’t nearly enough.) The things are the nitty-gritty of self-care, and are important any time the body is in crisis mode– whether from sickness, injury, stress, grief, hormonal imbalances, etc. If “it” (whatever “it” is for you, right then) is impacting your life and ability to function in a significant way, your body is probably in crisis mode, and it’s worth going back to the basics of real, genuine self-care.
- Increasing Calories and Important Nutrients: My body is fighting hard. Just because I haven’t been able to name its
- attacker yet, doesn’t mean it’s not fighting. If properly fueling your body is important under “normal” circumstances, it’s super duper important when your body is having a temper tantrum, or is under a lot of stress, or is trying to recover from an injury, etc. My body is doing extra work right now, so it needs the resources to be able to do that work. Accordingly, I’ve increased my calories about 200-300 per day. BUT… I’m making sure the calories are coming from protein, and extra vegetables to ensure that I’m getting my vitamins and minerals. What I’m not doing is eating extra calories in the form of “crap food” that just makes me feel good for a few minutes. I’m turning down dinner invitations, even from close friends, not just because I’m exhausted, but because I need to be extra careful about what I’m eating right now. I wanted a waffle this morning (a gluten free, but still delicious waffle!) What I ate was an egg-white, chicken sausage, and spinach scramble with sautéed peppers, onions, and mushrooms, and a half of a grapefruit.
- Quit thinking about Weight Loss: I have another 15-20 pounds that I’d really like gone, and most of the time I work pretty diligently at making it vamoooose! But right now, when my body is in crisis mode, I’m not even thinking about it. My job right now is to get well and healthy, so I can go back to doing all the things I normally do (and love!)
- Resting when I need to: I get 8+ hours of sleep most nights, and have long based my choices on making that a priority. (Yeah– further proof that real self-care is pretty unsexy. I’d choose sleep getting to sleep on time over anything else.) But right now, I realize that I can go, go, go, and do, do, do. Instead of the whole world of things I should be doing, right now, I’m taking that time for me. Maybe it means sitting down for a few minutes when I would otherwise be standing. Maybe it means cancelling some things (including paying clients– which is never something I do lightly!). Maybe it means making the time to rest instead of trying to find time. Yes, it’s aggravating.
- Switching my training time for stretching time. This girl loves weights! I also love great workouts where I give it my everything. I practice what I teach my clients: leave it in the gym. But right now, that’s not what my body needs– and that could actually be detrimental to me getting well. I’ve tried more “moderate” workouts, and my body said no. So, right now I’m focusing on stretching gently– which also helps lower stress, improves the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide, and improves mood– in addition to keeping my body from feeling so stiff.
- Saying No: This is not a great MO for normal life, but while my body is in crisis mode, I’ve adopted a mantra of “Do only what must be done”, and its friend “Do only what you truly enjoy.” The truth about the world (shocking though it may be!) is that most things will go on whether you are present or not. If it’s not adding something to your life right now, then either put it on hold until you have more resources at your disposal, or stop it all together. But do it without feeling guilty. Turns out, no matter how we try to convince ourselves otherwise, none of us are Superman or Wonder Woman.
- Limiting Caffeine: There’s nothing I’d love more right now than downing coffee by the bucketful. But I also know that caffeine is a stimulant, which causes elevated levels of the stress hormone, Cortisol. Cortisol in part of your fight or flight system, and gets you “ramped up” to deal with any impending emergency. Buuuut— most of us are staying so stressed out that our levels of cortisol are staying chronically elevated. You can read more about cortisol Here. When the body is in crisis mode, you do not want to complicate the situation by adding in extra stress to your body. So, slow your roll on the cup o’ joe! (I’m a poet, and didn’t know it!) Limit your caffeine intake, and be mindful of not consuming it late in the day. Consider adding in either green or herbal tea instead.
- Staying Extra Hydrated: The human body is 70-80% water, and proper hydration is absolutely essential for so many functions, including transporting water solvable vitamins, cell repair, energy metabolism, etc. But if you’re like most people, when you feel crappy, you forget to stay hydrated. It’s a struggle for me too. Don’t forget, though, your body is having to do extra work while its in crisis mode– and it needs extra resources!
- Meditating: I’ve mentioned this in several places, but I think this one practice provides a huge Return on Investment, even if you are only able to do it for a few minutes at a time. This isn’t a new agey, voodoo magic sort of thing, like I sort of always thought it was. It can be as simple as focusing on the breath or paying attention to what you’re thinking. Slowing down like this helps reduce stress, as it puts “space” between your cacophony of thoughts. If you’re not convinced, check out Dan Harris’ books 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduced Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works–A True Story and Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics. (Amazon Links below. FYI– They are affiliate links, and I receive a small commission from them, but the product doesn’t cost you any more!) Dan Harris is the news anchor that flipped out on National television as he was having an anxiety attack. His books are witty and ultimately helpful, and a good introduction to basic mediation. Something cool: I’m an avid “Audible” listener, and if you’ve never had an account before, I can send you a totally free audio book of anything that’s already in my Library– which all of these books in this post are. Drop me a line in the comments telling me which book you’d like and an email address. Or you can just download Audible yourself and create an account– they give you two books free just for signing up!
- Maintaining Good Habits: I’ve been doing a lot of listening (the Audible thing again! I spend a lot of time in the car or painting houses, so it’s a great way to multi-task.) about habits lately. The more I hear, the more I realize that habits can make or break us in terms of how we reach our goals, and this is especially true of health and fitness goals. But right now, while my body is in crisis mode, I’m being extra careful to not let my good habits slide just because I’m tired. Habits are intended to make life easier in a “more auto-pilot, less thinking and decision making” sort of way. For example, I never have to decide if I’m going to brush my teeth, because I long ago made that a habit. (You did too… right? ) Most of the action items in this post are already habits of mine, so during this time when my body is in a crisis mode, all I’m doing is 1)making sure they don’t slide and 2) stepping up the ones I need to. I’ve also made habits about how I choose healthy food, and prepare some at the start of each week. I’ve made habits about money (my favorite of which is that I don’t spend $5 bills. You wouldn’t believe how much I’ve saved since January 2017.) and budgeting, so that right now, it’s off my plate. The more that I can automate when I’m well, the less I have on my mind when my body is struggling. One of the most helpful books on habits I’ve listened to is Gretchen Rubin’s Better than Before.
I hope that you are well and healthy! But if you’re not, I hope that these suggestions help you take care of your body. All bodies go into crisis mode at some point, for a variety of reasons. One day, you may need more than a hot bath with essential oils to help get you back on track! 🙂
Do you have some great self-care tips? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!
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