To Feel Less Restless, We Need to Rest More

I’ve been excessively restless this winter. Always daydreaming about the next person or place to go adventure to.

Within a few days of my last trip to the states I was already looking at flights for my next trip. And don’t get me wrong I love travel and trying new things, but I don’t want to confuse enjoying those experiences for running away from the discomfort of stillness.

It is almost comical that I’ve been feeling this degree of stir-crazy wanderlust because in the summer I was craving stability like nobody’s business. All I wanted was a 9-5 job and weekends at the beach and some much needed consistency in my life. A schedule that I could count on and plan my life around.

So how does that so quickly turn into unease?

Discomfort with stillness can be perceived as boredom, but I don’t think it is. I think that stillness I was craving is something I still really need. Restlessness is a symptom of being so used to bouncing around like I was living inside a pinball machine since I started university in 2013 that stillness is uncomfortable.

It’s a huge adjustment to have your life stand still and not have a turn around every four months.

A theme for me in the last few months has been trying to learn to rest more. But it only recently occured to me that feeling stir crazy or restless and the need to cultivate stillness and practice self-care could be connected.

If you know anything about the enneagram, it won’t surprise you that I am a very typical two and as I was reading about personal growth recommendations for twos this week I came across this quote:

“If you are not addressing your own needs, it is highly unlikely that you will be able to meet anyone else’s needs without problems, underlying resentments, and continual frustration. Further, you will be less able to respond to people in a balanced way if you have not gotten adequate rest, and taken care of yourself properly.”

Rest is great. I think of it as a mature step to allow you to love and care for yourself, it’s necessary and it fights against the idea that we need to constantly be productive. Engaging in intentional rest allows you to recover from the things life throws your way and to build resilience for whatever is next.

But the thing that is hard about rest is it means you have to slow down. You have to let yourself be still and when you exchange restlessness for and stillness you sometimes have to deal with the shit in your head you’d rather ignore. The stress, the worries, the lingering questions or reality that you have no clue what you’re doing.

It would be a heck of a lot easier in the moment to not be still, to keep moving, to ignore those fears or insecurities or questions or hurts or whatever it is in your life. But when we do that we don’t stop and rest. And when you don’t give yourself the space to rest you burn out. You aren’t able to rebuild your spiritual, mental, emotional or physical energy.

My personal Queen, Dr. Brene Brown said in her TED Talk The Price of Invulnerability :

“We are the most addicted, the most medicated, the most obese and in-debt adult cohort in human history.

We’re numbing. And this doesn’t even include busyness. I didn’t even put the “Busy” slide up. You know, when they start having “busy” recovery meetings, you know “busy” 12-step meetings, they’ll have to rent out football stadiums. Because we just stay so busy that the truth of our lives can’t catch up.

You cannot selectively numb emotion. When we numb the dark emotion, when we numb vulnerability and fear, and the shame of not being good enough, we by default numb joy.”

The solution to restlessness isn’t more busyness and traveling and disarray but figuring out how to rest more and be okay with being still. And I’m still working on how to be okay with that.

Each season has a different purpose and a different pace. I believe deep down that God uses each moment and experience to teach and grow and stretch me.

My favourite Irish Proverb says:

A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures for anything

If you don’t know where to start; have a night in with yourself, watch the funniest thing you can find on Netflix (might I suggest Brooklyn99 or Schitt’s Creek?), create space for stillness, relaxation and do your best to go to bed an extra hour early.

Don’t let the impulse of busyness or the feeling of stir-crazy restlessness keep you from resting. We are our happiest and best selves when we give ourselves the space to rest.

 

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A Heart Of Glass Turns One

This time last year I got the courage up to share some writing on this platform. If you’ve been reading along, thank you!

This blog was named A Heart Of Glass, after a John Mayer lyric. I explained in my first post ever that I named it after a line in the song War of My Life, that goes, “I’ve got a hammer/  And a heart of glass/ I got to know right now/ Which walls to smash”. I’m the type of person who likes the idea of embracing vulnerability and opening my heart up to people. And this year I tried to do that here, exploring ideas about how to navigate life and balance a healthy heart, mind, sprit and relationships. I found myself asking the question “what does it mean to be healthy?” quite a bit.

I’ve had the chance to embrace failures by redefining success for myself, think about the ways to let people know our authentic selves in relationships and how to fight for meaningful friendships when things get tough. I’ve talked about my own spirituality and invited others to write and share their perspectives on life as well.

 


As I find my footing in this next chapter of my life I find myself asking new questions. Less about the general “what does it mean to be healthy?” and more specifically “what does it look like for me to be healthy and how do I get myself there?”.

There is a very wide range of what health looks like for everyone; there isn’t any one right way to do things. Healthy people don’t eat the same diet or work out the same ways, we don’t express our emotions or creativity the same either, and our best, happiest and healthiest selves is something we decide on our own.

There are a lot of opinions out in the world, I know I’ve handed out a few here or there over the last year, but what I’m working on these days is figuring out what feels right for me. I trust facts about healthy eating and what healthy relationships look like, and I trust my counsellor who gives me strategies to handle my emotional health – but ultimately I need to feel out the healthiest balance in my life.

I believe this is something we really all must to do. We can be given 101 opinions – but the best thing to do is feel things out for yourself and figure out the right fit for you.

The older I get the more I’m aware of myself. I can tell when I’m anxious or projecting stress. I can identify conflicts when they are small, and still easily manageable. I know I shouldn’t eat all junk food if I want to feel okay the next day (and generally live according to that). I think the longer we live and the better we get to know ourselves the better we can feel out what is best for us.

 


A key to finding a healthy balance in our lives is identifying when things feel wrong. If you’re running and your legs are a little sore you’re probably fine – but if there is a sharp pain you need to stop. The same goes for spicy food and heart burn – know your limits, friend. Sometimes on the path to figuring out what’s right you have to figure out what feels wrong.

If there is an area of wellness you’re not familiar with, doing research and getting facts before making assumptions is important, but keep in mind that there are a lot of possibilities of what a healthy you can look like, so it is up to you to find your best fit.

When relationships feel honest and supportive, when you find a type of exercise you really enjoy doing, when you learn to talk about feelings in a productive way, when you know what these things look and feel like of you – then you can find your own unique answer to the questions “what does it look like for me to be healthy and how do I get myself there?”.

As I’ve been working on this blog I’ve been keeping in mind that all the areas I’ve written about are connected. Our physical health impacts our mental health (and vice versa), the health of our relationships is impacted by our emotional health which is impacted by our spiritual health (and vice versa etc, you get the picture). It’s all connected.

If one area is feeling off, it can shake your whole life up quite a bit. Don’t underestimate how taking care of little issues in your life can make a big positive impact in many areas.

Finally, don’t shy away from trusting yourself to know what is right for you. I’ve learned a lot in the past year, but maybe nothing more empowering than learning to trust my own choices and feelings.

 


 

The blog and I are going to take a bit of a hiatus for this next month- but keep your eyes open for new posts coming your way in July!

Post Christmas Pudge

Everywhere I look I see things that say to enjoy Christmas all you want, indulge in the holidays, but once January 1st hits we need to do the opposite and start diets and going to the gym and doing crazy ab workouts to feel better about the lil holiday pudge we may or may not (definitely have) adopted throughout the Christmas parties, the eggnog flowing and Christmas cookies running wild.

If you’re feeling stress to start a new year’s diet, please take a quick read of this post and evaluate if you still want to (spoiler: I’ll encourage you not to).

 

Body Positivity

Today’s post is the first one where I am writing about body positivity. If you’re not familiar with this here a quick definition;

“The Body Positive Movement is a movement that encourages people to adopt more forgiving and affirming attitudes towards their bodies, with the goal of improving overall health and well-being. Whether people are nurturing their bodies and maintaining their weight, or finding a place in life where they are comfortable through working out, or changing their lifestyles to find a better attitude, the body positive movement focuses on building self-esteem through improving one’s self-image”.

I think this is hugely important in a world full of photoshopped ads and men and women feeling increasingly dissatisfied with how they look to work towards a body positive culture.

There is an Aerie model I really admire named Iskra Lawrence who has become a pretty big spokesperson for body positivity, self-care and self-love in the past few years. She has a fantastic TED Talk I’m linking here where she talks about the importance of dropping the need for perfection and be more gentle with ourselves. In the TED Talk Lawrence talks about how marketing and branding are meant to sell us products. And that to do so marking is meant to make us feel insecure so we will buy the products being sold to us; “If we are insecure, we are a motivated consumer. We can be sold anti-wrinkle cream by 13 years old”.

Lawrence also tracks down the roots of these insecurities and then aims to challenge these insecurities with practicing self-care. “Why is it that we feel these insecurities in the first place? Because from a young age we have been conditioned to believe that our success, and our happiness is highly dependent on our attractiveness”. She encourages her audience to recognize feelings and pressures we face to look a certain way and think about our bodies differently.

 

Balancing Act

There is a lot of research that shows dieting can be harmful, and it’s more important to have an overall healthy life style than to stick to a crash diet or cleanse. So as we enter into the new year when so many people are swearing off carbs or sugar or whatever is trendy – remember that a healthy life style is more important than a quick fix diet. Diets are hugely psychological and can make you feel worse about your self, being on diets makes you lose more muscle than fat and over time diets can make you gain more weight and develop unhealthy psychological patterns and eating habits.

Rather than swinging in the opposite direction from the holiday treats to losing the holiday pudge, it’s better to stick to a balanced life style that is more sustainable. Trying to maintain an overall healthy lifestyle of sleeping right, exercising, drinking lots of water, and eating right (including treats every now and then) is much better for you than dieting. What do I mean by ‘healthy food’ or ‘eating right’? Well, my resident nutrition wizard/ kin student/ cherished friend Emilia says that “sticking to mostly whole foods, incorporating lots of vegetables, homemade foods – enough treats and junk food to keep you sane” is a good start.

I will just say this – please don’t stress. Healthy life styles are better and more effective than crash dieting, and healthy life styles include letting ourselves indulge in treats every once in a while. For more tips on living finding the right balance for you, for life in general, I found this article helpful!

Don’t Turn Christmas Into A Lifestyle

(But don’t forget to indulge either)

The biggest thing I can encourage you to do is not to feel guilty for treating yourself over the holidays and reacting by feeling the need to work it all off at the gym next week. It’s important to remember that we don’t have to feel bad about indulging over the holidays, we should be grateful that we get to.  Yes maybe we went a little overboard on the amount cinnamon coffee cake and hot chocolate but that’s a blessing to be able to enjoy that.

It’s okay if you’ve got a little post-Christmas pudge because your body will balance out, but even more than that, because you aren’t defined by your body. There is no ideal way we should look, perfection is unattainable and the cost of trying to attain perfection is detrimental to both our mental and physical health. A line I love from Iskra’s TED Talk when she is emphasizing the importance of redefining beauty to celebrate personality, morals, values, achievements rather than a person’s appearance is: “We need to stop trying to attain perfection because we are good enough already”. 

So, on top of trying to find a healthy balanced life style (because as much I would like  eggnog and cookies to be my breakfast everyday I know my lactose intolerant body couldn’t deal) I think remembering to practice self-care is important, especially if you’re feeling self-conscious about the way you look. Iskra suggests two activities that can help with this:

  1. Mirror challenge: pick our 5 things you love about yourself. 5 things that you love about your body for what it does for you (rather than what you look like).
  2. Gratitude list: knowledge of what you are lucky for in your life. Refuse to let things like clothes/ looks ruin your day or challenge the knowledge that you have about how great your life is.

 

As we move through holiday celebration remember that it’s a priviliege to have time with family and indulge in holiday treats, and if you have adopted a lil holiday pudge in the last few weeks (or if you’re still wokring on it, because we still have a week of holidays ahead of us) that’s okay and it doesn’t make you less beautiful. We don’t need to buy into pressures to look a certain way, and if you’re focus is on being balanced, caring for yourself and practicing self-love you’re on the right track to a healthy new year.

 

Sick Day

Do you remember how exciting it was to stay home sick from school when you were little? Getting to be pampered, stay home to watch movies and drink soup. But now that I’m older it’s a little less fun. Maybe because being in university there was never a ‘good time’ to be sick and you had to push through to keep up with assignments. And now that I’m out of school getting sick means missing work vs. missing a day or two of class.

Why am I writing about getting sick? Well, I have had a cold for the last week so it has been on my mind and I have some tips about getting over a cold. It’s also important to be mindful of wellness and taking care of yourself (even when you’re not sick), and because not everyone has the same access to healthcare and I think we should not only be grateful but maybe even proactive – to help others.

Recommendations for Sick Days

Everyone has their own tricks for getting over colds, and I love hearing how they vary from person to person. I once knew an actor who swore by apples and chips as being a perfect combination to get over a sore throat. I don’t know if it really works but I often find myself reaching for apples when I feel a cold coming on.

So in the spirit of tips to get over feeling sick, here are a few things I know really do work:

  • Herbal Teas (with lots and lots of honey) to sooth a sore throat, I especially like Teavana’s Peach Tranquility
  • Oil of Oregano, it tastes brutal but is a tried and true treatment for colds
  • Taking lots of vitamins – EmergenC is great to drink vitamin C and stay hydrated
  • Neti Pot is the love of my life when it comes to being sick – I’m not even embarrassed and if you have sinus issues this is incredible (yes you put a small tea pot up your nose but it’s worth it to breathe clearly)
  • Using melatonin spray to help me fall asleep and have restful sleeps
  • The Norwex Timeless Rescue Gel rollerball is my go to for headaches, if you get sinus headaches when you have colds this is magic
  • Speaking of rollerballs – I use a bunch of essential oils to help clear up congestion and fight colds, both in an essential oil diffuser and rollerball formtumblr_m9vvf5qcbq1qhdlk5o1_r1_250
  • Finally, comfort food! My favourite sick food is chicken noodle soup and I always crave it when I’m sick – just ask my mom who heard me plea for soup on Saturday, with a theatrical Mean Girls cough and everything (she made me homemade chicken noodle soup which was even better, shout out to amazing moms!)

 

 

Sick Days & Self Care

Every time I get I think about self-care, about how much more gentle I am with myself when I’m sick and mindful of putting good things in my body. It is a good reminder that you’re not indestructible and it’s good to take things slow, rest, and be intentional about taking care of yourself.

Just like each person has their own personal remedies for getting over being sick, self-care also varies from person to person. I have another self-care post coming soon, and all the forms it takes, but for now I’ll leave you with this brilliant article about self-care that my friend recently sent me; This Is What ‘Self-Care’ REALLY Means, Because It’s Not All Salt Baths And Chocolate Cake. I highly recommend checking it out because it does a fantastic job of explaining the different forms self-care takes and contains wisdom like:

“If you find yourself having to regularly indulge in consumer self-care, it’s because you are disconnected from actual self-care, which has very little to do with “treating yourself” and a whole lot do with parenting yourself and making choices for your long-term wellness.”

Grateful for Health

There is nothing that makes me feel more grateful for my health than getting sick, and being reminded how frustrating it is not to be able to function the way you usually do. Recently, however, I’ve also been thinking about how grateful I am to have access to the health care I do, because I know that many people don’t. As someone who believes in the importance of intersectional feminism, it feels wrong to write a post about wellness without acknowledging my privilege.

I’ve been thinking about people, here in my community and around the world, that don’t have the same resources. Not everyone can afford to take time off work to rest, or buy the things I find comforting when I’m sick, and many people don’t have health insurance to take care of their needs. It is a privilege to wake up and feel a tickle in my throat and know I can go downstairs and find vitamins and tea and essential oils and other naturopathic medicine. Those are all expensive things and I’m very lucky to have them.

So how do I wrap this post up without being a total killjoy? Well, I’m going to say that other than being grateful for being able have access to health care you can look into donating to organizations that work to provide health care to those without it. WE (formerly Free The Children) is an organization I strongly believe in and I have personally toured their health clinic in Kenya that provides health care to families who otherwise would be without it. They have a wide selection of Christmas gifts of which the proceeds support their health programs – and since Black Friday and Giving Tuesday are coming up this week and next, it’s a great chance to stock up for the holidays!

As cooler weather and the holidays approach remember to take it easy and take care of yourself!

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Moderation is Cool

So I love coffee. I love it so much I work at a coffee shop. I’m what you might call a “recreational” coffee drinker;  I drink it when I’m not tired or I don’t feel like I need it. There is something I just love about the aesthetic experience of going and hanging out in coffee shops and drinking a good latte.

However, this week I’m talking about why it’s important to be mindful of what we’re putting into our bodies and why it might be good to cut back on those lattes (or make them decaf). We sometimes think that moderation is important when we are thinking about substances that are regulated by governing bodies – and everything else is fair game right? Welll … this week I want to think about listening to and regulating our own bodies.


Coffee affects people in lots of different ways and as someone who is  very sensitive and self-aware of how things affect my body I wanted to write about this. Because your physical health and what you put in your body is so important.

I recently heard someone remark that coffee, though addictive, doesn’t change your mental state the way some things, such as alcohol, might. I know it’s not true for myself and decided to do a little research to find out if that was a common coffee myth.  I googled “does coffee make you anxious” because I’m not an expert and didn’t want to write a post that isn’t based on research (get ready for links to a whole heap of articles about coffee and stress) and what I found is, yes it sure does, it’s not just me.

Anxiety & Stress

Coffee is a stimulant which can be helpful sometimes but it can also increase anxiety and in some individuals even trigger anxiety attacks (according to this article and this blog post). It can help you be productive but if you have too much it can worsen feeling anxious or stressed. I often found during midterms I was extra, extra, extra stressed out and it is easy to attribute all of that to school assignments but being mindful of things like caffeine intake, and lessening it, helped lower my stress levels.

The description in this article about the relationship between caffeine and cortisol, often referred to as “the stress hormone”, is a helpful illustration of the dangers of too much coffee; “Because caffeine and stress can both elevate cortisol levels, high amounts of caffeine can lead to the negative health effects associated with prolonged elevated levels of cortisol. If you ingest high levels of caffeine, you may feel your mood soar and plummet, leaving you craving more caffeine to make it soar again, causing you to lose sleep, suffer health consequences and, of course, feel more stress.”

Depending on how your body processes coffee, it might not appear to have an impact on your stress levels, and it doesn’t always impact people in the same way. However, it is always important to be mindful of how much you are consuming and connecting the dots between how we are feeling and how the things we eat and drink might cause those physiological reactions.

Sleep

I’ve touched on the importance of sleep in posts before, and as someone who usually aims for 9 hours a night I’m a huuge advocate for a good night’s sleep. As much as we all know coffee gives you energy and its maybe “common sense” to say it can negatively impact your sleep I’m going to briefly mention it anyway.

This article talks about the importance of sleep, repercussions of not getting enough sleep and how coffee gets in the way of healthy sleep cycles,  “suggestions for good sleep include avoiding stimulants such as nicotine or coffee after midafternoon, especially if you have insomnia”, this sentiment of avoiding coffee in the later afternoon and evening was echoed many times in articles I read.
When we drink a lot of coffee we aren’t as well rested, and then we need to drink more coffee – which can turn into an unhealthy cycle and lead to caffeine dependence. This is yet another article I found that shared concerns about caffeine negatively impacting the quality of sleep we get Caffeine can affect your sleep by keeping you awake longer, thereby shortening the amount of sleep you get, and giving you less time in the restorative stages of sleep, which takes a toll on your level of alertness the next day and overall health.”

Know Your Limit, Stay Within It

If you’re from Ontario you’ve probably heard commercials for the OLG with the slogan “Know Your Limit, Stay Within It”. I think the moral of this week’s post is the same, because I love coffee, but it’s important to set those limits. Coffee is a great energy boost and fun to grab with friends but I know, as someone who has worked in three different coffee/ tea shops and feels the anxious effects of coffee, that it’s not always worth the boost if it leaves you feeling stressed, anxious or overwhelmed.

It’s easy to forget to be mindful that stress or anxiety you feel can actually be amplified by consuming too much coffee. And of course everyone has different tolerance – so you might really relate to this post or you might not. But no matter what, it’s important to be a mindful consumer. Be conscious of the way the things you eat and drink make you feel, and know your limits about what you can and can’t handle (eg. if you’re lactose intolerant like me cutting yourself off before adding whipped cream to an eggnog latte is a good step). Keep it to one cup a day, try decaf, make sure you’re not drinking coffee on an empty stomach, or just make sure you’re cutting yourself off in the afternoon so the caffeine doesn’t impact your sleep.

This post might be a bit of a buzz kill (yes, of course the pun was intended) but I hope it encourages you to be mindful of what you put in your body and inspires you to enjoy your coffee ~in moderation~.

I cry when I’m Hungry

I celebrated Canada 150 in Ottawa this summer with one of my best friends, Emilia. On Canada Day we were wandering around downtown, desperately looking for a place to eat. Eventually, after an incredibly long search, we found a cute little pizza place with a precious courtyard that didn’t charge insane Canada Day prices. It was perfection.

When we sat down, completely relived to know food would be coming to our table any minute, I turned to her and said “You know sometimes when I’m really hungry I get extra emotional”. She laughed and said “OH I know. It’s my job to keep you fed so you don’t get like that.” I genuinely did almost tear up when the pizza came because it was 2 pm and we hadn’t had lunch yet and I was just overwhelmed with being so happy to be about to eat.

Overwhelmed is a key term in that sentence that I’m going to dive into because the moral of this week’s post is that  it’s important to take care of your body and read the signals that you’re in need of a little TLC.

Connecting Emotional and Physical Health

The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”. I think when discussing wellness it’s important to think about how nurturing ourselves physically improves our emotional wellbeing.

We don’t always give enough credit to the fact that managing our emotions or processing stress sometimes requires lots of energy. For myself, if I’m feeling stressed or overwhelmed I ask:

  • Did I get enough sleep the past few nights?
  • Have I been eating well lately?
  • Have I been drinking too much coffee? (Sometimes one cup a day is still too much for me – thank goodness for decaf)
  • What’s going on in my life to make me feel this way?

When we are feeling physically burnt out we have a harder time managing stress and other emotions. We don’t function at our highest levels or bring our best selves to our work, school, or relationships. Being in a place of exhaustion, hunger, burnout, or stress can make us more irritable and cause an increase in conflicts in our relationships – hanger is so real guys.

As much as it is funny to joke about crying when I’m hungry I think it really is important to take care of yourself and to pay attention to signs that you need to put more effort into taking care of yourself so you can function at your best.

Take Care

We should be mindful of taking care of ourselves and remember that refuelling your physical and emotional energy is super important. This article talks about the importance of sleep and what impacts it can have on you.

Sometimes it is seen as a badge of honour to be tried, to be so hard-working that you’re exhausted, chugging coffee to keep going.  Do you remember when you were a baby (of course not but just play along), and you got so over tired or hungry you would cry? And your parents we responsible for keeping you fed and well rested? Well if you’re reading this you’re probably a grown up and its your responsibility to care for yourself now.

An article from Everyday Health states that “Total health depends on a healthy mind and body. Take time to nurture both.” and encouraged readers that the best way to care for your overall emotional and physical wellbeing including :

  • “Eat right. A healthy, regular diet is good for the body and mind.
  • Go to bed on time. Losing sleep is hard on your heart, may increase weight, and definitely cranks up the crankiness meter.
  • Go out and play. Taking time out for relaxation and socializing is good for your emotional health and your physical health.
  • Exercise. Exercise is proven to improve your mood and has comprehensive benefits for your physical health.”

I could list article after article here for you to get the point across, like this one that says  “To have good emotional health, it’s important to take care of your body by having a regular routine for eating healthy meals, getting enough sleep, and exercising” or this article which states that “good physical health supports good mental health.” There are so many resources I could keep going, but I think you get it, not taking care of your physical needs has a negative impact on you including your ability to manage your emotions.

Laugh & Sleep

The Irish proverb “A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything” feels pretty spot on and it is advice I really live by. I tend to get over tired and some days I just get to a point where I need to sleep. And we all know laugher, especially shared with friends, is the best medicine. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, maybe you’re so hungry you’re in tears – focus on the things you can do to make it better.

For the sake of full disclosure, I really need to take this advice. As you may have assumed from the anecdote I opened with, I cannot claim that I have perfected the whole “always being well fed and well rested” thing. There have been multiple days already this week (and it’s only Wednesday!) that I had too much coffee, not enough sleep, or I skipped a meal because I was running late for work.

I’m the first to admit that it’s hard to keep a normal sleep schedule or resist the urge to drink coffee when you know it’ll keep you up and fuel your stress. But what I want to emphasize this week is that it’s not about achieving perfect health, it’s about practicing self-awareness and recognizing that the way you care for your body has a direct connection with how you feel and are able to function.

Life is busy, unpredictable and we will not always be well rested, but we can strive to take the best care of our selves. Making sure you’re taking care of yourself means you will be able to handle life the best you can. You’ll function at a high level, be able to manage stress, and avoid crying in pizzeria courtyards. If you want to bring your best self to work, relationships, vacations, what have you – you’ve got to take care.

 

 

P.S. Thank you Em, for being a great friend, keeping me fed, and (almost always) preventing me from getting so hungry I cry.

Confessions of Someone with Zero Upper Body Strength 

The idea for this blog was that I wanted to write about holistic wellness – which includes physical wellness. To be well-rounded I didn’t want to neglect posts about physical wellness but I’m also not suuper qualified to write it, and I believe in asking for help when you need it, so this week I’ve persuaded one of my closest friends to write a guest post. Without further ado, here she is!


Hi, my name is Emilia and I hate cardio.

Really and truly, I do. And yet Kait asked me to write about physical health.

Let me explain…

As a kinesiology/nutrition student and an athlete-turned-couch-potato-turned-yogi, I think I have a pretty unique perspective on physical health. I’m going to focus in on exercise here (even though there are so so many more important components, some of which I may be covering in future blog posts) and what I’ve learned through my experience and my studies.

Scary Journal Articles & the Best Kind of Exercise

In university I found myself out of shape after swapping out competitive sports for intramurals. In high school, fitness was effortless, with the frequency and intensity of hockey and volleyball being easily enough to keep me in good physical condition. I was used to having games and practices at least 4 times per week, so my new weekly intermediate volleyball situation wasn’t cutting it. The occasional Zumba classes that I attended were only kind of hard and extremely contingent on having other people who were equally bad dancers beside me. I found myself inspired to go for a run about four times a year in the spring when it was finally warm enough to go outside in a t-shirt (and my motivation was getting a tan).

But then in class, I was assigned readings  about how lack of exercise impacts your body: essentially, it sets you up for disease – which is scary to constantly be reading about when you know your physical activity level isn’t where it should be.

So it’s taken a while, but this year I’ve found an exercise regime that I’ve been able to stick with more consistently than anything since high school sports: yoga. I look forward to going to yoga classes. I love the sense of accomplishment that comes with achieving new poses. I feel so much better now that I’m being regularly active. I experience some neck and back pain, and yoga has taught me to move mindfully throughout my daily activities in a way that promotes strength and stability in the spine. I like how yoga strengthens full-body movements rather than just a group of muscles (you would never EVER convince me to do “arm day”). I so appreciate the cultivation of stillness, awareness, and respect for the body. I love that yoga is referred to as a practice, because isn’t everything?

But all of that is not to say that yoga is the best form of exercise for everyone and your fitness routine can’t possibly be complete without it. It is to say that yoga is a great form of exercise for me. You do not have to do yoga, just like you do not have to run or lift weights or play sports. The best form of exercise is the one that you enjoy. It really is that simple. I know the internet is full of “this exercise will give you a six-pack” and “high intensity interval training vs. aerobic exercise,” but when it comes down to it, if you like aerobic training and you can’t stand HIIT, aerobic is better for you because you will actually do it. Physical activity can complicated, and there’s a place for specialized knowledge, but it’s important to start at the beginning; you can uncomplicate fitness if you want to.

So give yoga a try. And if it doesn’t work for you, no worries – something else will.

Finding Physical Activity that Works for You: Motivation, Routine, and Using Your Friends

My biggest motivation to exercise is lifelong health. I don’t want to have to take medications or watch my blood pressure. I want to enjoy my life at every stage; I want to be independent and have the energy to go travelling and play with my grandchildren someday. And guess what: that’s a horrible motivator because I am 21 and that is all incredibly far away. I’m a last-minute person, and unfortunately, lifelong health is not a paper that you can hand in 2 minutes before the deadline. It takes dedication and consistent practice over years and years.

So what else motivates me? Feeling good. An excuse to watch guilt-free 20-minute Netflix episodes. Enjoyment. Having visible biceps. Stress management. Not needing to use both arms to open doors. An activity in common with friends. Seeing personal progress. The best motivators are not always the most meaningful or profound ones. And that’s okay. Find what inspires you and go with it.

I’ve struggled with sticking to workout plans; I did yoga sporadically for a few years before I started doing it consistently. Pro tip: going to “free for first-timer” classes at every single yoga studio in your city will not help you build a consistent practice. So what changed? I started attending classes in the morning, over lunch, or after work. This works because the yoga sessions are planned into my schedule and they’re part of my routine. These classes have also given me a baseline knowledge of yoga, which has allowed me to expand my practice beyond these sessions because I’m much more successful when I try to flow on my own.

Which brings me to my next point: you’re not alone! There’s no reason for you to walk into a gym, get intimidated, and leave because you don’t know how to lift weights. If anything, that’s harmful to your health because a) you won’t want to go back and b) if you do stick it out, you’ll probably be lifting with improper form. Bring an experienced friend. Hire a personal trainer. Go to a class with a qualified instructor. Follow along with a YouTube video. There are so many resources available to help you attain your physical health goals – use them!

‘No Pain No Gain’

As far as exercise principles and techniques go, I will just say that having learned all about exercise physiology, the biomechanics of movement, and being an athlete, I truly believe that the most important exercise principle is listening to your body. Learn the difference between pain and discomfort: discomfort pushes you and improves your athletic performance. It gets your heart rate up and uncovers weakness and stretches tight muscles. Pain is not helpful for your body. ‘Push through the pain’ is a misinformed, outdated concept: this attitude exists because before scientists had a proper understanding of injuries and rehabilitation, coaches encouraged their athletes to ‘be tough’ and ‘suck it up,’ pushing them to play through injuries. We now know that two of the best things you can do for an injury are resting and protecting it. Pain serves a purpose in the body: it is a warning. It tells us that we are putting too much strain on or even damaging tissues. Do not push through pain. It will cause injuries and worsen existing conditions.

Practice Makes Progress  

Finally, allow your physical activity regime to be a work in progress. I’m really proud of where I am right now, and there is also lots of room for improvement! It will be good to build some volleyball with my sister back into my routine when school starts in the fall. I’m also interested in trying kickboxing classes.

Fitness is dynamic: it can grow and change as needed. And this is the cool part: you can construct a program for yourself based around your goals. You get to choose the frequency and intensity. It’s up to you to say “screw arm day” or “I hate running so I’m not going to go for a run.” Your life can be set up to accommodate your exercise. And you can change your fitness as your schedule, goals, desire, and/or physical needs require.