Proactive Healthcare

As we all grapple with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic I think it’s important to address self-care when we are ill or in recovery. In years past it was always a rush to get back to a typical schedule, pushing ourselves and our bodies back into full activity and agendas. Now that we are all being forced to slow down, to choose to care for ourselves physically may be the key to our continued health or recovery should we become ill. The goal however it not to get back to regular activity but to determine how we wish to engage going forward. How will we tend to ourselves and help our minds and bodies to heal?

Food – One of my favorite pastimes is sharing a good meal with people I love. Friends, family and good food belong together in my mind. I also love how food bridges the gaps between cultures and gives us all something we can share. Flavors, recipes, and cooking techniques are wonderful common ground we all share no matter our background. It is also necessary for health. As you ease back into you regular routine and start adding your preferred foods back into your diet, choose foods that sustain and nourish your body. 

Body – Learn to honor your body’s needs. I am no longer one to push myself to accomplish the next goal or rush from one thing to another. There is no prize for pushing my body past its comfortable limits. I am realizing that for me to be my best self and operate at the level I wish to operate, I need to be well rested and comfortable. This includes making time to exercise and stretch – it feels good to get my body moving but also to let it rest when it is ready. I am being active without overextending myself beyond my body’s boundaries. Taking care of my physical self includes nurturing and noticing when my body is tired and needs more time to heal.

Sleep – Getting enough rest is always important – doctors recommend eight hours a night for most people. To learn more about the scientific impact of sleep less on your health check out this Ted Talk, Sleep is Your Super Power by Matt Walker. The most striking takeaway that stays with me, “The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life.”

Mental – Recovery from COVID, injury, or any illness requires mental investment. It is important to mentally prepare ourselves and create an environment for health and wellbeing. If we are hopeless, superstitious, or preemptively defeated we cannot face our challenges with the determination and grit they require. Mental endurance, recovery, and resolve are much like physical strength – we must train our muscles. This means visualizing ourselves well, remembering those that we are living and fighting for, and having hope that despite the challenges we face – illness like wellness is temporary. We are not going to be sick forever, though sometimes it does feel like it. We are going to get well and to do that we need to remember our mental health is part of our practice for healing. 

When we are worn down we are all more susceptible to illness and fatigue. The best way to combat illness and take care of ourselves is to practice everyday wellness so that if we should be confronted with an injury or ailment we are ready to face the challenge with grace, optimism, and strength. 

Preventative self-care may seem simple but as we’ve all been masked, socially distanced, and isolated for three years we can get tired of the routine and let our guard down. If you’re feeling worn out by the obligations of COVID and the proactive steps we’re all taking, just remember that you’ve made it this far and I’m proud of you. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Taking care of ourselves is our most important work, you’re important to the world, we need you well – keep up the great work! 

Give to Yourself First

We give so much of ourselves to the world – our families, friends, work, and extracurriculars. All of the obligations and opportunities we engage in demand our time, attention, and commitment. As we work to give the best of our capabilities and ourselves to these worthy projects and duties it is important to remember to give the best of yourself to yourself. 

In the trials of daily life – that may actually be trials, challenges and difficulties but may also be routines, opportunities, and responsibilities – we have the opportunity to give away all that we have to others and the world. Or we have the choice to intentionally nourish ourselves so that these regular or typical events do not drain us and leave us feeling winded or in need of a break.

When we rush to fulfill everyone else’s expectations first we can find ourself depleted and lacking energy because we have saved nothing for ourselves. However, when we serve ourselves first we create space and give ourselves room to be nurtured and supported. If we never stop for water we will die long before we finish the race. Like any trained marathoner we know that to pursue our goals, and show up in the world the way we want to, we have to feed ourselves and meet our needs first. This can include basic self-care like hydration or getting enough sleep. It can also look like taking a night off, giving yourself a weekend away, or a social media detox. 

Making time to care for yourself is not selfish, nor is it a luxury. Caring for yourself is your first responsibility – not to the world or your employer – but to yourself. The adage, you cannot pour from an empty cup, comes to mind. Or the idea that when you are spent you have nothing left to give. There is no sense in running yourself ragged. If you choose to overexert yourself you will be always operating on a deficit, which serves no one. In order to arrive each day excited and eager to engage with the world rather than exhausted and resentful we must take care of ourselves. I know this from experience and I suspect you do too. When we press ourselves beyond our abilities or function with less than what we need from others, ourselves, or without the basic nourishment and boundaries that keep us healthy, we are unhappy. We are short and frustrated and oftentimes we’re too tired to investigate why. 

Next time, instead of running yourself harder when you already feel tired, take a break. Get a sip of water and take some deep breaths. Give yourself the space and time you need to recalibrate and align yourself with your goals. Rather than running around in circles or showing up worse for the wear, take a break and stretch, focus on caring for yourself not because you wish to serve others but because you are worthy and deserving of love, care, and attention – all of those wonderful things you already give to the world.