The pandemic has brought on a new wave of health concerns for Americans. Our stress levels have increased, leading to a decline in physical and mental health. We are experiencing more problems sleeping, less physical activity, and increased alcohol intake.
According to the American Psychological Association, over half of Americans have delayed or canceled their healthcare services during the pandemic, further exacerbating the detrimental effects of stress.
So, how can we get back to living healthier lifestyles? We must address all aspects of our health to get back on track to be our best selves.
First, get into the right mindset. A healthy lifestyle is not something you do just on the weekends or days off.
Ask: “What would I like to accomplish with a healthy lifestyle?” “What are my mental health goals?” How about emotional health? Spiritual health? Social health?
Define each of these areas for yourself so you can plan and take steps to get to where you want to be.
Being physically healthy and mentally miserable doesn’t make you healthy. Eating well but feeling isolated from your friends can still lead to depression.
We are more than the sum of our parts. Taking care of your health requires that you take care of the all parts of your health.
Over 1/3 of US citizens suffer from chronic disease. To manage, or prevent, these issues, every adult should get regular physical checkups, including blood work. Additionally, this can help you decide which diet and exercise changes you need to make.
How you get and stay active is up to you. But here are some ideas to get started:
- Join a gym
- Attend classes (e.g., Zumba, aerobics)
- Hire a trainer
- Get outside (biking, tennis, running, walking)
- Join an intramural sports team
- Watch YouTube videos for at-home exercises
Successful diets require sustainable changes. Don’t deprive yourself and stick to what works. In addition, be forgiving. A cheat day, or a day where you stray from your meal plan, doesn’t mean your entire fitness goes out the window. Don’t let one bad day continue into a bad week. Just jump back onto the bandwagon and continue on.
As mentioned above, mental health issues in our communities are at an all-time high. Here are some ways you can nurture your mental health:
- Journaling – you don’t have to do this every day to reap the benefits.
- Regularly check in with a trusted friend or family member.
- Meditate – create mental space to sort through your thoughts, destress & re-focus
- Take regular breaks to reset and avoid burnout
- Prioritize your sleep schedule and develop good sleep hygiene
- See a professional – there are many benefits and options for engaging.
If you are religious, are you making time for your faith? Sometimes the act of praying can be very meditative and cleansing.
Individuals who are not religious interpret spiritual well-being as ‘understanding your own spirit.’ Over time, life changes, and we realize that we too have changed. Therefore, evaluate yourself regularly and make sure that your lifestyle aligns with your evolving values.
According to Harvard Business Review, employee burnout costs approximately $125 billion to $190 billion a year in healthcare spending in the United States.
It’s up to us as individuals to prioritize creating a healthy balance between work and relationships. However, it’s also important to understand that not all relationships are beneficial. Nurturing your social health includes spending time with the types of people that fulfill and support you. Spending quality time with friends and family can be the very thing that helps you truly unwind and counteract burnout.
Take these steps when planning for lifestyle changes!
Visit your primary care physician first. If you don’t have one, find one and get started. Get blood work and recommended testing done to establish a baseline of care. Create a relationship so that you can easily ask questions when they arise.
Find friends or family members with similar health goals. We are often better at moving forward when we move together. Plan physical or social activities together, be each other’s confidant, cook healthy meals and see how much more progress you make!
Sometimes the only way to get motivated is to pay for it. Pay for healthy meals to be delivered, hire a trainer or coach, or buy the equipment you need.
Give yourself no choice. For instance, create a no-spend month on takeout and buy only healthy ingredients and snacks. Then, when the only options you have are healthy ones, you’ll easily choose well.
Pro Tip: Do some prep work first. Look up recipes that appeal to you and start buying ingredients for those. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
Cut down or eliminate alcohol and sugary drinks and reduce your caffeine intake. The first two will decrease your calorie counts, and reducing caffeine can improve sleep.
Even small changes over time can have significant results.
The benefits of physical exercise include reducing the onset of chronic disease, improved sleep, and increased energy. Eating a healthy diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can reduce inflammation and treat or diminish chronic pain.
Consistent, restful sleep can reduce stress, improve focus, and increase productivity. Taking breaks and spending time with loved ones can leave you fulfilled. Improving your spiritual and mental health can center you, help you be more mindful, and improve your mood.
The best way to empower yourself is by taking care of your whole self. If you’re healthy on all fronts, you’ll be in a place where you can try new things, take chances, and can grow to meet your true potential in life.
Take the opportunities and resources you have and make your health: physical, mental, spiritual, and social, a priority. Once you’ve obtained your balance, you’ll be able to maintain the lifestyle you want.
Featured Image Credit: Pexels.