The moment we get busy, taking care of ourselves is usually the first thing to go as we put caring for others and job responsibilities first. Many of us take our bodies for granted, pushing ourselves to the limit, basically ignoring our physical and emotional needs until the body screams out and demands attention.
Healthy habits begin with physical care: boosting the quality and quantity of your sleep, building exercise into your weekly routine and eating nutritious food that is right for your body and fits your lifestyle. Although these activities take time, people who invest in their physical care are usually able to get more done over the long haul than those who push themselves on five hours sleep, too busy working or caring for others to take care of themselves.
Sleep. Do you think of sleep as the end of one day, or the beginning of another? I’ve found that people who get too little sleep think of it as the end of the day (which they don’t want to end), while good sleepers think of it as the beginning of the next. Good sleepers plug themselves in like a cell phone to recharge for tomorrow. Create a bedtime routine that starts 45 minutes before you want to be asleep, to help yourself wind down listen to music instead of watching TV; read novels or poetry instead of nonfiction or the newspaper; drink a cup of soothing herbal tea and dim the lights.
Exercise. Get the oxygen flowing. Find a form of exercise you enjoy and start slow, aiming for 20 minutes or less a few times per week: walking, dancing, running, cycling, pilates, it doesn’t matter. If you haven’t exercised in a while, it’s hard to get past the inertia to get started. But after a week or two, you’ll be feeling so good, it becomes hard to not exercise. The idea is to connect you to your muscles and get the oxygen flowing, which boosts your mood and thinking (in addition to all the great things exercise does for your body).
Eat Healthy. Automate meal planning with 10 go-to recipes and a standard shopping list. We can have the best intentions when it comes to eating healthy--but fall short when busy schedules make it too hard to come up with new recipes and ideas each week. Keep it really simple, by choosing recipes for 6 simple, fast, super healthy dinners you enjoy, and 4 quick, healthy breakfasts, and create a standard shopping list, to keep those ingredients on hand. If you have extra time...feel free to get more creative.
Beyond the basics of physical care, having healthy habits means listening to your body, knowing when it needs to recharge and honoring the need. If you’ve worked a long, hard week and need a day to yourself just to unwind – people who take good care of themselves take it, knowing it will pay off on the other end. And they take vacations too. Play your body like an instrument, knowing when it needs to work, think, rest, and play. With practice, you’ll be able to care for yourself in the ways that bring out your very best self. The payoff? Energy that you can use to do what you love.