Ever since 2020, health has been at the forefront of all conversations. We are constantly informed of all the new ways we can prioritize our health. Personally, I find that the majority of these ways are through eating specific foods, movement, social distancing, and lots of vitamins. And while I know these suggestions are well intentioned, maybe right now isn’t the time to focus on health… or at least not in the manner we are sold.
Yes, obviously eating nutrient dense foods and getting in some degree of joyful movement is important. However, creating unrealistic standards or placing an immense amount of pressure on yourself to accomplish this, is not healthy or supportive of you. So, how do we actually find a health balance?
For starters, consider that health is multifaceted. It is not as simple as eating nutrient dense foods and exercising 3-5 days a week. Holistic health, or more specifically, wellness, considers finances, social life, mental health, and more. This means that creating a routine that is actually supportive of your overall well-being is much more expansive than we may think.
A holistic routine for health is one that is flexible, and aims to alleviate stressors, rather than add them on. So, here are some small ways you can incorporate some healthy habits, without adding stress.
- Meal prep – this doesn’t mean only eating cod, Brussel sprouts, and rice for the entire week. What it does mean, is making sure you have some food staples set aside for the nights where you may be too busy or too rushed to create a meal that is satisfying and offers some nutrients. For me, this means chicken, pasta, rice, and roasted vegetables, as well as having lots of condiments, dressings, or cheeses on hand. It can be a lot easier to make more mindful decisions about what you eat, when foods are readily available. Also, getting in enough food is most important. Nutrients come second.
- Don’t make movement complicated, mandatory, or brutal – for some people, the gym is a great option, but that isn’t realistic for all people. Just because you aren’t breaking a sweat or in extreme pain, doesn’t mean your movement isn’t effective for your mental and physical health. This often means picking one or two forms of movement that feel life-enhancing and are easily accessible. Maybe this means scheduling a twenty-minute walk two to three times a week or doing a fifteen-minute yoga video on Saturday and Sundays, or even following a free fifteen-minute workout on YouTube two-three days a week. Whatever you chose, make sure it feels realistic, holds flexibility, and is something that you actually enjoy doing.
- Set boundaries – whether it be with work, social media, or even relatives, give yourself the time and space to be unavailable to others, even if it’s only five minutes. Maybe this means taking a shower or waking up five minutes earlier to just sit in silence. If you can, find a moment of alone time to recharge.
- Prioritize rest over productivity – so many of us feel the pressure to constantly be “on,” that taking any time to rest or disconnect can cause a lot of anxiety. Sadly, the best way to work through this, is often to just sit through it. Adequate and regular rest allows for us to show up even better the next day and can help avoid burnout.
- Invest in things that bring you joy – I am always working on saving money; however, I never want it to make me feel as though I am missing out on things. Something I do is set aside a little bit of money each month to do things that bring me joy, like getting an iced coffee or going thrifting. I know this isn’t always possible for everyone, though.
- Remember, mental health is health – if you’re feeling overwhelmed by any of this, or by life in general, give yourself grace to compromise when possible. For me this can me ordering out because I’m too tired to worry about putting anything together or doing the bare minimum, rather than pressuring myself to be productive.
Before ending this, I do want to acknowledge that, sadly, many facets of health are a privilege. However, regardless of how health looks and feels for you, give yourself the time and space to figure it and for things to evolve as you go. Nothing, and no one, is perfect.