3 Essential Life Hacks for Optimal Physical Well-Being

by Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC

www.careercounselortips.com

I just read an article that called "self-care" "self-kindness" instead. Does that resonate with you too? It caught my attention because I like the word kindness. I know a lot of us make a constant and consistent effort to be nice to others. Maybe you put your phone down and actually talk to the cashier at the grocery store. Maybe you let someone cut in front of you in traffic. Perhaps you are the person who organizes the office to sign-up for casserole duty for a co-worker who is out of the office due to family problems. Why is it so easy to take care of others and not as easy to take care of yourself? Let's change that and start taking better care of ourselves. 

Any kind of change is challenging, even when we want it and when we know it's good for us. Here are 3 important ways to take care of yourself physically. Try tackling them one at a time until they become part of your routine. The irony? The more you take care of yourself, the more you can take care of others. The more you give to yourself, the more you can give to others.

HEALTHY EATING

"Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food."-Hippocrates, 460 B.C.

Eating healthy food is one of the foundations for good physical health. So why is it so hard to do? Definitely, one reason is that we are all so busy. After a 10-12+ hour work day and/or, chauffeuring kids to several different activities in one evening, some cases more, it is not easy to think about coming home and making a meal too. You get one body so investing in yourself is something that will pay off in spades both long and short term.How can you make it easier on yourself? Good news! There are many wonderful options that can solve this problem for you pretty quickly, easily and on a budget.

Costco has many healthy meal options both fresh and frozen. If you are in the Houston area, HEB, Central Market, and Kroger also have many ready to go options for you too.  These are a little bit more expensive than frozen dinners but tend to be healthier options because they have fewer, if any, preservatives. Grab the container, heat and eat.Of course, there are also some pretty healthy frozen dinners on the market. Pair them with a soup and/or salad and you can have a quick, easy, healthy, filling meal in a snap.

If you are looking for some easy options DYI options, try picking up a rotisserie chicken and pair it with, fill in the blank. For example, rotisserie chicken, ready to go rice plus fresh, organic baby spinach and black beans. If you need something sweet, to round out your meal, try a square of dark Lindt chocolate. This is seriously the best chocolate in the world.But back to the chicken. Your imagination is the only limit. With just one rotisserie chicken, you can make chicken soup, a chef's salad with chicken, chicken salad sandwiches....the possibilities are endless. It is a quick and relatively inexpensive option to have a variety of meals throughout the week.

If you are unsure of where to begin as far as nutrition, portions, calories, etc., are concerned check out  USDA's free tool. It will walk you through healthy portions and food recommendations based on your age, height, and ideal weight. Speaking of ideal weight, if you need to lose weight, you may want to check out the American Diabetes Association's meal plan. Another wonderful free resource which can help you track food, exercise and your weight is MyFitnessPal. You can set up challenges with friends and it connects to many of the fitness trackers on the market.

Some employers offer a supported, online, 52-week weight loss coaching program that is included with your health insurance called Real Appeal. It includes weekly online meetings with a support group where you can discuss via chat and on the phone, weekly videos and, depending on the amount of weight you need to lose, one on one coaching. They send you a box to get you started with workout DVD's, a food scale, water bottle, measuring cups, measuring spoons, a water bottle, pedometer, measuring tape, a scale to track your weight, books with recipes and the lessons which you will review each week. Their food and weight tracker is available via computer and your mobile. 

EXERCISE

"You're only 1 workout away from a better mood."-Unknown

According to The American College of Sports Medicine, we need 20-30 minutes of cardio per day. That increases to 50-60 minutes for weight loss. They recommend resistance training 2x per week with 8-10 reps per exercise. If you have a pedometer or fitness tracker it may be easier to stay motivated because you will "get credit" for all the movement that you manage to squeeze into your everyday life. There are many wonderful and relatively affordable options these days. Perhaps you are looking for a fitness tracker that tracks your heart rate, alerts you to text messages and serves as a watch. It exists. You may want a fitness tracker that differentiates between different kinds of exercise. Done. Yes. That exists too. If you haven't researched these options, I think you will be happily surprised at all the choices available to you. 

SLEEP

"Exhaustion makes wimps out of all of us."-James Loehr

"Sleep is one of my favorite inventions."-Me

Sleep, glorious sleep. This too is an absolute pillar of physical health. The scientific community keeps discovering more and more reasons that adequate sleep is essential for brain function, learning/memory, losing weight and overall functioning. So how can you make sure you get enough sleep?

Bedtime routine

It is helpful to have a set bedtime. If you have a flexible schedule it may be harder to stick to a bedtime but getting into the habit can be very helpful long term. The first thing to do is figure out what time you need to get up and aim to get 6-10 hours of sleep depending on your needs. You may find that some days you need more sleep than other days but if you take into account how long it takes you to get ready for bed, you can adjust your routine even when you go to bed earlier than usual.

Here are some questions to ask as you are planning out your bedtime. Take all of these into account as you are trying to figure out what time you should start getting ready to go to bed

  • How long does it take you to brush, floss, and wash up before bed? 
  • Do you need to set aside some time to review your planner to see your schedule for tomorrow?
  • Do you want about 10-15 minutes to read before bed?

Now that you know what time you should start getting ready to go to bed, it is helpful to make sure that your bedroom is tidy and maybe even turn on just your nightstand table light rather than your overhead light to create a more relaxing and calming atmosphere. Some find relaxing music complementary to their bedtime routine. You may want to have a pad of paper and pen near your bed. We are so busy throughout the day that sometimes the only time our inner thoughts can get our attention is when we are trying to sleep. Instead of having your thoughts keep you up, take some time to think and process your thoughts before you try to go to sleep. Write down any items that you need to take care of on your paper. Ten minutes of contemplation can be some of the most productive time you can spend with yourself. Knowing that you won't forget your thoughts/ideas/chores because you wrote them down can help you relax as well.

FINAL THOUGHTS

"The greatest wealth is health." -Virgil

Healthy eating, exercise,  and sleep are 3 key pillars to your physical as well as your mental well-being. See how you can tackle them one at a time if these are new habits for you. Taking care of yourself helps you as well as those around you.

You may also like: 6 Life Hacks for Optimal Emotional Health


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