Life never goes according to the perfect storybook version in our heads, does it?
In fact, it is full of unexpected twists and turns, requiring constant adaptation.
Dealing with the unexpected creates enough stress. Then there is the additional stress that we create when we fret about how things "SHOULD be".
There are lots of shoulds when it comes to self-care. We KNOW what we SHOULD do to be healthy, right?
In a perfect world, we would all eat home-cooked, healthy meals with plenty of vegetables. We would get plenty of exercise, sleep soundly, and have joyful, meaningful relationships. We would avoid risky behaviors, and environmental toxins. We would manage our stress effectively, achieve work-life balance, and be in-tune with our sense of purpose.
Clearly, this is not a perfect world.
The good news is, a journey to wellness is not about perfection. It is about committing ourselves to a path that fosters ongoing growth. It is about nurturing the forces that enliven us, rather than succumbing to the forces that tear us down.
None of us can do it all — at least not all at once.
In fact, most of us are probably doing far less for our well-being than we'd like to admit. A recent study showed that less than 3% of U.S. adults are meeting all four of these basic self-care meaures:
- Maintaining a healthy diet (defined as being at the top 40% of the Healthy Eating Index)
- Getting moderate exercise (defined as 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise a week)
- Maintaining a recommended body fat percentage
- Being a non-smoker
While this information may be startling, it is important that we use it in a wise way. Rather than shame ourselves (or maybe blame someone else), such findings provide an opportunity to reassess and recommit. What is working or not working about the way we are living our lives?
Since there is lots of room for improvement, we have to prioritize. If we can't do everything, what are the MOST important things that we can do? Here are four great places to start:
Eat Smart — Choose more whole, unprocessed foods (more vegetables, less sugar, and more fiber) and manage portion sizes. Healthy nutrition has a major impact on reducing the imbalances in our bodies that lead to chronic disease.
Move More — Aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity a week — but if you can't make that, work on increasing your activity gradually. If you tend to sit a lot, get up and move around at regular intervals. Meet a friend for a walk or schedule walking meetings. Little changes add up!
Stop Smoking — Although smoking has declined it is still the leading cause of preventable disease and death in the United States. Need I say more?
Get Enough Sleep — Without sufficient sleep, the body's healing powers are reduced. When we are well-rested, we function better and make better choices. Perhaps that is why insufficient sleep is linked to many chronic diseases.
If you are working on making better choices, but sometimes fall short, there are other important things you can do.
- Be Kind to Yourself — Self-criticism usually makes things worse! Instead of focusing on what you aren't doing, commit to taking small, realistic steps forward.
- Ask for help when you need it — We all get stuck. Often a conversation with a friend, an accountability partner, or a coach can help us move forward. If unresolved questions continue to hold you back, find a professional who can help you get the answers that you need. (If you're curious about how I could support your journey, please schedule a complimentary clarity call so we can have a conversation!)
- Consider supplements that support your goals — Scientific breakthroughs now allow us to support better health at the cellular level, even when our lifestyle choices aren't optimal. One of them is Protandim - Nrf2 Synergizer (offered by LifeVantage, a wellness company with whom I am affiliated). This blend of herbs is clinically proven to reduce the cellular imbalance (oxidative stress) that is aggravated by lifestyle factors like poor nutrition, smoking, and insufficient sleep. For those open to nutritional supplements, Protandim is a easy way to improve health while working towards healthier lifestyle choices.
What about you? What simple steps are you taking to move yourself in a healthier direction? Please share your wisdom with us in the comments below!