Physical self-care is one of the more straight-forward ways to care for yourself. It’s making sure your body is well-nourished and happy. Here are some ways that will give you immediate (or almost immediate) results.
You don’t have to be a bodybuilder or run a marathon. Do what you can within your limits. If you’re already strolling each day, maybe just pick up the pace. If cardio is out of your reach, try stretching, even if it’s in bed. Everybody can do something. Just go a little outside of your comfort zone and reap the benefits.
Exercise can help you sleep better, improve your cardiovascular function, improve your glucose metabolism, reduce stress, lower your blood pressure and boost your immune system. So let’s make a commitment to moving a little bit each day and build up to 20 or 30 minutes. Starting with just 5 minutes is better than none and getting started is key.
Your body is 60% water, and it’s essential for many of our bodily functions. Drinking plenty of water should be second nature, but many of us are so used to sugary drinks, carbonated and caffeinated beverages, and alcohol, that we don’t realize how much better we’d feel if we drank water. Water helps lubricate your joints and deliver oxygen throughout your body. It keeps your skin looking good and your brain and spinal cord functioning. Water regulates your body temperature. (That’s reason enough for me to drink more!) It eases your digestive system, helps maintain your blood pressure, and helps eliminate waste. I wonder how many health issues would correct themselves if we all stayed hydrated without refined sugar.
I’m not going to promote the food groups, but I will encourage you to eat lots of veggies and lots of colors. One of the main ways you can improve your overall health is to reduce your sugar intake because refined sugar is addictive and can poison your body. It’s food for yeast, associated with hyperactivity and leads to energy crashes after your high. Get off the rollercoaster by reducing your sugar intake. If you eat a lot of sugar, you may have withdrawal symptoms if you go cold turkey, but they will disappear after a week or two, especially if you’re replacing the sugar with lots of water and healthy options. Eating well promotes heart health, strong bones and teeth, higher and more consistent energy levels, brain health and weight control. What’s not to love?
Sunlight does so much more than help your body create vitamin D. It helps your body regulate your sleep/wake cycle, lowers blood pressure, and improves brain function. Most of us have heard of Seasonal Affected Disorder where people get depressed due to lack of sunlight, so it’s no surprise that sun exposure can ease mild depression. The sun can help boost your immune system and may even affect a baby’s growth in the early months.
Sleep is not just a time for your body to shut down. It’s an active cycle for your body and essential for your health. Sleep affects your concentration, memory, and ability to learn. It affects your mood because you process emotions in your sleep. Regular restful sleep reduces your chances of having mood disorders like depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Your blood pressure goes down during sleep, allowing your heart to rest. Sleeping gives your body a chance to repair itself after exercise. Getting adequate sleep can even affect your blood sugar and reduce your chances of getting type 2 diabetes. It also keeps your immune system running well. Chronic lack of sleep takes all of these things to extreme. It’s hard to concentrate and get your work done. Things take longer. You get moody and irritable. Your blood pressure can go up along with your blood sugar, and you’re more at risk for getting sick.
This is all basic information, but I know sometimes the basics are the first things we forget to do when we get stressed. So think about how you're taking care of your physical health right now. Are you resting well? Drinking enough water? Eating to live a healthy life? Moving? Getting outside? If there are any areas where you know you could improve, just make one simple change and see how you feel. And remember to breathe deeply and fully. Make sure these basics are in your toolkit and that you go to them often.