Physical Wellness

Physical wellness, is it just exercise? No, there’s more to it. It’s an overall package of keeping active, making sure to get sufficient sleep and maintaining healthy(ish) eating habits.

A weak(er) physical wellbeing can affect all areas of our overall well-being. But keeping this physical wellness balanced isn’t always easy and it takes effort; too often we get off track, especially when life takes over – moving, kids, family issues…oh and yes pandemics…

I can only speak for myself but my physical wellness always takes a dip when I am sleep deprived by stress. This lack of sleep, it does affect all areas in my life. Not only do I feel bone tired, but then I start to eat unhealthily, a lot of snacking, prefer to stay on my own at home and drop my exercises. All this, leading to an emotional instability that allows smaller issues to become huge – adding on to the stress that I already feel around me. And leaving me with a “blah-“feeling.

Sounds familiar to you!? Yeah, always good to not be alone out there, isn’t it?
But how can we keep the physical wellness balanced in times of stress without putting additional pressure onto us? In moments for example when we have to deal with a move, relocation, kids and family, global pandemic or when we feel overwhelmed and misunderstood in general? In moments when it all feels too much already?

Unfortunately, there’s no one-person-fits-all solution. What works for one might not be working for the other. Some, for example, strive by exercise, the more they push the better they feel. It de-stresses them. Others feel overwhelmed and see it as an additional stress factor. They hibernate, get inactive. Some easily get into healthy eating, dieting, calorie counting, etc. others (me) freak out by that thought and feel stress and pressure building up by the sheer thought of it. As for sleep – some happily go to bed earlier, read, mediate or have a bath to unwind and find better sleep by just changing their routine a bit. For others it doesn’t come that easily.

And while I certainly agree – and I believe we all do know – that we have to be and stay active with exercise, and healthy(ish) eating and sleep habits it’s as well important to listen to our body and mind. There is only so much we can do if we feel pressure on us already.

Take a step back

At times, taking a step back will make us stronger and allow us to get our ease back. I am saying “taking a step back” though, not dropping it all! You know you need to take care of your physical wellness especially in moments of stress and hectic. But it’s ok to take a gentler approach. See how you can adjust, tweak and make some changes by considering the situation you find yourself in. Here a few suggestions:

• If cardio exercising feels too hard, if it adds stress, look for another, gentler, way to stay active. Try to get outside every day, go for a walk, a bike ride, dance. Practise gentle Yoga or Pilates at home, check for some exercise program on the internet that speaks to you at that moment. Just keep in mind – as we get older we should always include (gentle) strengthening & stretching and some weights!

Going for walks is often a good way to discover your neighbourhood, too. As long as it’s safe though. If you find yourself in a location with restricted access for outside activities, find a way to use your indoors. Not ideal but we have to learn to adjust ourselves to our surrounding. Being non-active should not be an option. But since we all meanwhile lived with the pandemic, I believe we all found our way around the home to stay active. (remark: the initial post was written prior to the pandemic!)

• Healthy eating habits can be adjusted too. They’re not my biggest strength though I admit that openly. I love chocolate and a glass of wine, often skipping lunch. But I still aim for regular fruit and veg intake. At times I play around with healthy muffins like these Banana Oats and Chocolate muffins! It’s a quick, super easy to bake and healthy treat.

Being an expat I noticed that some countries / locations have me struggle with healthy, fresh ingredients that I’ve been used to. Then it’s time to get creative and look for alternatives. The internet is always a good resource to find ways to use what we have available around us or join local cooking classes.

And looking for healthy snacks and recipes helps me to stay curious. And yes, I kind of fool myself with that approach as I get excited to try something new. So it’s a win-win. It takes my mind away from stress, gives me something else to do and provides me with a new recipe for a healthy snack or meal!

• Sleep deprivation is a big issue for me and I assume for a lot of you out there. My kids weren’t the best sleepers and stress does affect my sleep immediately. And let me add that peri-menopause doesn’t help me at the moment either. Geez, I can’t recall when I had several goodnight-sleeps in a row. But what helps me is to use mindful meditation techniques, especially the “body-scan” before bedtime. I do find that I have a more peaceful and deeper sleep then. If you want to try it here is a link to a guided body scan meditation. It’s about 15 min and great for beginners, too!

At the same time meditation does help to calm the mind and can support you in many other ways to handle stress. One of my older posts was about meditation. Feel free to have a look into it here.

And what if you find yourself running to the ground and you’re close to crashing? Then pull the plug! Do make sure to get some quiet time, go to bed really early if needed, take a short nap during the day if you can. Ask for help!
Sadly, if you don’t watch out then lack of sleep, prolonged unhealthy eating habits, being inactive and ignoring signs of crashing will catch up and drag you down in many other areas of your wellbeing. So, make sure to take action when it comes to your physical wellbeing!

Body and Mind can’t be seen separate – one affects the other!

What I noticed over the years was that I felt even more stressed when I thought I have “to do it all” no matter what. By that I mean, keeping my exercise routine, eating healthy, making sure to be rested, socialising, etc. All that, on top of having to deal with the other stressors around me.

This pressure that I put onto myself caused me to drop all the good habits and routines I had going. It all became too much, I couldn’t juggle it. I could not keep up and I could not select, it was an “all-or nothing” for me.

At that point, not only did the general stress that I was under cause me feeling low, no, on top I felt that let myself down too seeing that I lost my sports routine, ate crappy and withdrew from friends. And coming back from that low to a good balance was so much harder.

So now, when I notice that I am getting closer to my breaking point, before (!) it all get’s too much I do take a step back, I slow down, pull the plug earlier. That earlier step back helps me to release some of the stressors while I still feel ok about myself and regain my overall strength.

And by allowing that breather, but not dropping the ball completely, I come back to my exercises, healthier eating habit (especially not skipping lunch!) and a better sleep routine more easily.

There is no denying it, when the physical wellness is balanced it does have a huge positive impact on our overall well-being. We simply feel stronger from inside out and are be able to handle any stressors around us in a better way.

And seeing that physical and emotional wellbeing (body and mind) have such a big impact on one another, and in fact go hand in hand if you ask me, I will share my thoughts about emotional wellness next week!

See you back then – and take care of yourself!

Take care,

AK

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