Today we live in a society where we are constantly required to multitask. We are always trying to find a balance somewhere between managing our households, jobs, finances, and personal lives with all the other life stressors and pressures that are placed upon us. Unfortunately for many of us, in the midst of all this taking care of everything and everyone else, we somehow forget to take care of ourselves. This lack of self-care typically begins with inadequate rest, little or no physical activity and nutritionally imbalanced meals. It leads to fatigue, lack of concentration, headaches, stress and ultimately compromised immune systems leading to illness.
Just as we invest in property, stocks and bonds and expect a return on our investments; we must invest in self- care expecting a strong return. Indeed, self-care is one of the best investments that we can or will ever make in our lifetime. We all have heard the saying, “your health is your wealth.” Think about it, if we are broken down, lacking energy, and sickly, we cannot enjoy the fruit of our labors now or in our golden years. But, with a little planning and organization, we all can do better to enhance our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. Check out my top three picks for creating a better return on this most precious investment: you!
- Maximize your nutrition. By now we all know that the Standard American Diet (SAD) is comprised primarily of highly refined carbohydrates, processed foods, and empty liquid calories. This diet is also lacking in plant-based foods such as fruit and vegetables, which are packed with vitamins and fiber. Unfortunately, this way of eating does not support a healthy lifestyle.
One simple strategy that we can use to improve the nutrition of our body is to maximize our food choices. What exactly does this mean? Well we do this all the time when we shop for cars, homes, or even clothes. When it comes to food it means getting the best nutrition for the calories that we consume. So, let’s say we have two people and they each are given a budget of 500 calories. One individual decides that they will grab a Big and Tasty sandwich from the fast food drive thru. The other individual decides to prepare a light meal of baked fish, steamed vegetables, and brown rice.
Obviously the second individual maximized their nutrition because of their food choice. They were able to take in so much more nutrients including fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C with less total fat. On the other hand, the sandwich provided a processed meal high in salt, total fat and saturated fat. Here is another example. Using dark leafy green romaine lettuce in place of white iceberg lettuce is a maximizing food choice. Did you know that romaine lettuce has 100% of the daily requirement for vitamin A and C in comparison to iceberg, which has only 9% vitamin A and 4% vitamin C? Can you think of specific ways that you can maximize your food choices?
- Fit in physical activity. Many individuals are in the mindset that we only need to engage in physical fitness for weight reduction. This could not be further from the truth. I can’t tell you how many times someone shared with me how they were on a physical fitness kick to lose 30 pounds just in time for their high school reunion. Physical activity has many benefits including stress relief, strengthening the body and heart, and improving blood sugar levels in diabetics. Did you know that aerobic activity increases the levels of good cholesterol in the body and carries away the bad cholesterol that contributes to heart disease?
One common barrier that many people face in regards to fitting in physical activity is lack of time. We need to simply make it a priority. Planning our week ahead and selecting the days and times when we can fit activity in is a great way to start. Make an appointment with yourself and write it in your date book along with the other important appointments that you make.
In order to be successful we first must choose an activity that we enjoy and get moving. If you are unable to do 30 or 45 minutes at a time, fit in 15 minutes at a higher level of intensity or accumulate more minutes throughout day. Something as simple as putting some music on and dancing around the house is an opportunity to increase the heart rate, elevate mood, and burn a few hundred calories. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that we take 10,000 steps daily for physical fitness. That is the equivalent of about 5 miles of walking depending on the individual. How many steps did you take today?
- Make sure to get an adequate amount of rest.
Have you noticed a difference in your mood when you receive an adequate amount of sleep the night before? You get up early enough to have a healthy balanced breakfast, have 10 minutes to spare on your drive to work and your day goes smoothly. Rest is so essential for our health and well-being. It is the time when the body repairs itself. How much sleep is enough? Well, everyone is unique. We should listen to our body, as it will let us know if we are getting enough rest.
Here are a few tips to consider. Try to make it a point to complete your evening activities by a certain time. Start your pre-sleep ritual with a nice warm bath or shower by candlelight or sip on a cup of chamomile tea. Even playing some soothing nature sounds can be a part of the ritual. Try to keep your bedroom clutter-free and remove any forms of light. Did you know that to sleep in complete darkness is to ensure the best possible sleep? Light actually decreases production of the sleep hormone melatonin, which is responsible for the regulation of our circadian rhythms. In fact, some experts feel that even household appliances present in the bedroom disrupt our sleep cycle. They even suggest not turning on the light when going to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Think about ways that you can enhance your pre-sleep ritual and ultimately improve the quality of your sleep.
Remember, you are the key to your health and well-being. It all starts with you. When you start rattling off the excuses as to why you don’t eat properly, engage in regular physical fitness or get enough rest ach night, remember we either pay now or later. Make the investment in your health starting today and the returns will be well worth the effort.