The way I see it, there are 4 pillars to health, and only when these are all balanced and harmonious, will you be able to live your very best, most upBEat life. No matter what the circumstance - whether the world is falling apart or things are fantastic - there are practical ways for you to ensure that your health is balanced by turning the focus inward, and assessing what you are doing day to day. I know we have definitely discussed these before, but I think that right now it is the perfect time to critically assess our own pillars of health and how we can change and adapt in the current climate.
Now, more than ever, it’s imperative to turn your gaze inward and do inventory on your body and mind. It’s more than likely that the rise of COVID-19 has seen a pretty big disruption in your routine - maybe you are working from home, maybe you aren’t working at the moment, and it’s likely that your shopping, exercise and other leisure activities have been changed or cancelled.
Guess what guys? It’s all going to be OKAY! It’s just time to adapt and change - and that’s what life is all about. Creating new routines, schedules and ways of doing things is just part of life - and who knows, your new routine could be even bigger and better than ever!
Now, I’m sure you’re all wondering what these pillars are and HOW to integrate them into your life ASAP.
This is such an integral part of your health and wellness. Nourishing your body with whole foods (and fun foods!) ensures that your body and mind are working optimally through proper nutrition - and of course a bit of fun!
In the current climate, it’s important to make sure that your environment supports your goals. What do I mean by that? Well, if you find that everytime there are chips and chocolate in the house that you go crazy - it’s probably best to not keep them around the house. Your environment dictates your success, whether it’s weight loss or maintenance, make sure that your pantry and your fridge support you!
Adapting an approach that works for you will determine your long term success in weight loss and management. I firmly stand by the 80/20 approach to nutrition where 80% of the time I nourish my body with whole foods, and 20% of the time I indulge in fun foods.
Of course, when I say ‘indulge’, I don’t mean eat it all - portion control is another crucial part of the 80/20 approach - but making sure that I don’t restrict myself from certain foods, or classify certain foods as ‘good’ or ‘bad’. This can lead to an unbalanced relationship with food and can wreak havoc on your mind.
The 80/20 approach ensures that you are giving your body all of the nutrition that it requires, and allowing yourself to eat foods without restriction, enabling you to have a healthy relationship with food.
Daily movement is more important than you can even imagine. It ensures that our bodies are working optimally, prevents disease, keeps our minds balanced, helps manage our weight and so much more. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins - ‘feel good’ hormones - which helps to boost your mood and let’s be honest, keep you sane!
I always recommend at least 30 minutes of daily movement every single day - this will look different for EVERYONE, so don’t worry about comparing yourself to others. Some days you will have more time, some days you will have to break up that 30 minutes into 5 or 10 minute segments, and some days you might just NOT have 30 minutes.
What’s important here is that you choose movement that you love, that you can stick to and create habits around. Stretching, yoga, walking, power walks, dancing, strength training - whatever works for you. Schedule time within your day to work out and get your blood pumping. I know that at this particular moment in time, the movement you love may not be available to you (group exercise, gym, outside, etc) but it’s important to focus on the positives and find new movement that you love for the interim, at the very least. Daily movement is another key element to ensuring mind/body harmony.
Sleep can have such a massive impact on us - whether we get too little or too much - we need to always aim for the right amount. Even in a situation like we are in now, with COVID-19, and many of us are stuck at home, it’s important to still stick to a schedule.
Well, too much sleep can make you drowsy, unproductive, and give you brain fog - while too little can cause irritability, sleepiness, weaken your immune system and lead to weight gain. The current situation will not always be the case (you probably won’t be stuck in your house for the rest of your life), so why drop the ball and make things more difficult for yourself in a few month’s time?
Resist the urge to nap during the day, determine how many hours of sleep your body requires (experts recommend between 7-9 hours per night) and set a reasonable sleep schedule for yourself. Decide when you should go to bed every night, and begin the process of switching off an hour or half hour before that time. Set an alarm to wake up the same time every day in the morning. Maintaining a schedule is imperative for your body to stay on track as well as keep a balanced mentality.
And this is a big one! Stress and anxiety can really run us right off track, far away from our health and fitness goals. Keeping stress at bay is critical to maintaining a healthy, balanced mind and body. When left to its own devices, stress can actually increase the likelihood of weight gain (EEK!) and also torment your poor mind! Worrying and anxiety are often products of the mind wandering into “what ifs’ and spiralling from there. Instead of setting these worries aside and focusing on a plan of action, we are often paralysed by the anxiety and do nothing but fret, causing stress to mount.
Stress left unchecked can result in heaps of physical manifestations as well - from stomach ulcers to migraines to depression. Finding a way to keep stress at bay will be a saving grace for your body and mind.
Keeping stress to a minimum is never as easy as it sounds, and comes with practice. It’s about letting go of the things you can’t control and focussing on what you CAN control. Practising mindfulness regularly, and scheduling in at least 5 minutes of meditation each day to clear your mind and reset can be extremely helpful in managing your stress levels. Yoga and stretching can also be very helpful in managing stress and anxiety - connecting the mind and body is a therapeutic way to keep your stress in check as well as move your body. Two birds, one stone!’
Leaning on friends, family and your community is important in times like these as well. Sometimes, all we need is a sounding board or a [virtual] helping hand to support us and get through. Discussing your feelings and communicating can alleviate a lot of stress and tension - knowing you have the support of friends and family can be extremely powerful.
When these 4 pillars of health are all balanced, your body will function optimally and you will be more likely to have a healthy relationship with yourself. Often, if one of these pillars is a little off kilter, it spills over into another one, and so on - it’s important to keep checking in with yourself and asking yourself “Am I OK? What do I need right now to reset/rebalance?” This is a form of self-care in itself.
In the current global crisis situation, it can be hard to be ‘stuck inside’ but try and see the positives at the moment. You have a roof over your head, food to eat, and the ability to take time and check in with yourself to make sure that you are OK. Eat nourishing food, get enough sleep, manage your stress, move daily and be kind. Check in with your community and lean on friends and family. If we all band together, and stay strong, we will get through this in no time.