Caring for your body so that your mind will follow
At times we can feel as though our emotional reactions take control of us and we have no choice but to follow in their destructive path. The truth is that everyone has the ability to be in control during difficult times and that it takes work to get there. Part of that work is reducing your vulnerabilities so that you can feel stronger and more able to face life.
When we don’t care for ourselves physically we leave ourselves vulnerable to emotional triggers. Take a look at these areas and try to think about an area you can improve so that you are better equipped to meet the demands of your life.
Eat balanced, regular meals. This is a tall order for many people in this time of fast food, long work hours and multiple time consuming obligations. Your body is a machine. Would you expect your car to operate at its best with bad fuel or no fuel? No. So think of your body the same way. Maybe you can’t change your eating habits every day this week, but could you do it 4 days out of the week? Do you need to start with one day or one meal and work your way up to more? Do you need to add a good food like a vegetable or a fruit before you can think about taking away your daily donut?
Find a solution that makes sense to you. You can take control of your life and insist upon prioritizing yourself through setting aside time for good food.
Get exercise of some sort. This does not mean you have to start going to the gym every day. Always keep in mind that just because your best friend works out every day does not mean that is the plan that works for you.
Set yourself up for success by knowing yourself – do you do best in the morning, afternoon or evening? How long can you stay focused? Do you need to rotate your exercise so as not to get bored? Are there forms of exercise that you despise and therefore will never follow through on them? Can you think outside the box for creative ways to get movement into your day? Do not set yourself up for failure before you even begin.
Be realistic and set small goals. You can always increase once your meet a goal or you become comfortable with your current plan.
Get the right amount of sleep for you. If you know that you are someone who operates best with seven and a half hours of sleep, then make that happen. It may mean that you have to sacrifice something, because we each have to decide what is most important to us. If getting the right amount of sleep makes it so that you can function better in your life, it needs to be prioritized.
Keep in mind that different people’s bodies work differently and therefore the amount of sleep one person needs may be different from another. Listen to your body and try not to make it fit into someone else’s mold.
Take your prescribed medications. If you have prescriptions the assumption is that there is something in your body or mind that needs a little help. Sometimes we get frustrated with having to take meds and choose to stop taking them either permanently or temporarily to feel in control of them. The problem is that there are often consequences that come with stopping medications without a plan which can even be life threatening.
If you are having a hard time coping with today, check to see if you took your medication, if you didn’t it may help to explain why you are having such difficulty. Our minds and bodies are more connected than you might believe.
Avoid unhealthy coping like alcohol or illicit drugs. Sure, we might say this one goes without saying, but there are enough people who do use these coping mechanisms that it does bear saying. Substances are about impulse. They are about instant gratification. And they have side effects. From actual physical side effects to the idea that whatever you may be trying to avoid will still be there when you come down. There is always a down side.
It takes a lot more work to use healthier coping strategies and they are not as immediate often as a substance, but they will last a lot longer and help get rid of the core issue instead of avoiding it.
Give yourself down time or mental health breaks whenever you can. You may see strength in powering through being tired or stressed, but eventually it will catch up with you. Our minds are like muscles. If you keep a muscle tense without reprieve it will eventually fail – try holding your arm out in front of you all day with no option to put it down and see what happens. If your mind is constantly on the go it never gets a chance to recover, which then makes it less capable of doing the work that you need it to do.
Taking a day off is actually the sign of strength because it shows that you are willing to care for yourself, which is sometimes much harder than focusing your attention on everything else.
When you care for your body your mind will feel cared for, too. You will have greater control, greater strength, faster thinking, increased insight, more patience and so much more. All of this will make life more do-able, and isn’t that what we are all looking for? It’s not easy to change or to make better choices for yourself if you are used to making poor ones. Start out small and let yourself acknowledge each little victory until you notice one day that you really did manage to make those changes and are now feeling better than ever.