As we battle the current global pandemic, physical self-care seems to have become a “buzz word” among individuals and with health care workers. While people often associate physical self-care with having a massage on a regular basis or treating themselves to a movie regularly or buying new outfits on a regular basis, there is much more to itthan this.
In my private practice, I often walk clients through what I call the four pillars of physical self-care. These are:
Eating nutritious foods consistently
It appears that the busier we are, the more easily we skip meals or place other things above our need for food as a source of sustenance. The tendency to skip meals, or to “wolf down” food, leads to a poor relationship with food. I often remind my clients that if they had a treasured guest in their home, they would make sure the individual received breakfast in the morning and would think nothing of preparing a nice meal to serve them at the end of the day. Treating ourselves as people that we value demands the same care. By taking a look at our relationship with food, the types of meals we feed ourselves, and the way we eat is a good way to begin an assessment of our physical self- care journey.
Getting 7 – 8 hours of sleep
Almost everyone knows the benefits of sleep to overall health, and yet we are living in a generation where an abundance of night-time activities (from surfing the web to late- night shows) can easily keep us engaged till early hours of the morning. In his book “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less”, Greg McKeown has a chapter titled “Sleep: Protect the Asset,” in which he talks about how the greatest leaders of all time deeply value sleep. Research shows that sleep deprivation has the same effect on performance and cognition as alcohol intoxication and that when we do not get enough rest, our body creates a sleep debt that makes it hard for us to catch up on missed sleep. Sleep studies also show that an hour of sleep before midnight is the equivalent of two hours after midnight in terms of the body’s ability to fully relax. The obvious conclusion is that we cannot skip on much-needed sleep and expect our bodies to function properly.
Engaging in Rest and Relaxation
Some of my clients are surprised when I tell them that sleep is different from rest. I define rest as “any activity brings you joy and results in relaxation of your body and mind.” Rest is not simply the act of doing nothing, it is an intentional activity just for the fun of it, not because of any other value attached to it. If I go walking with the goal of being physically active, although it relaxes me, the dual nature of the activity means that, by my definition, it loses the quality of rest. Such a walk is different from when I walk through the woods simply to enjoy the nature scene before me. Taking care of my physical self requires that I regularly and intentionally do things that bring me joy. I encourage my clients to have a “joy basket” filled with things that bring them joy and to participate in at least one of the options in thebasket regularly and intentionally.
Being physically active
While physical activity is just one of the pillars of physical self-care, it is a pillar that ensures that we are wellbalanced. It does not necessarily involve going to the gym or hiring a fitness trainer. A simple walk around the block on a consistent basis ensures that our bones and muscles are strengthened and our heart muscles are engaged. The present sedentary lifestyle that is centered around electronics and TV screens makes this a struggle and is the cause for the high mortality rate in this country and beyond. By incorporating just 30 minutes of physical activity into our regular routines, we can reverse this trend in our lives and in our homes.
Physical self-care goes beyond simply knowing what we need to do. It comprises of intentional acts that center around the belief that I am a person of value and worth, and that my physical body deserves to be taken care of. God has given us physical bodies that allow us to live on this physical earth. The way we take care of those bodies is our way of showing Him appreciation.
I hope the above pillars serve as a guide.
Dr. Uduak Afangideh, originally from Nigeria, is a licensed Mental Health Health Counselor in Montgomery. She teaches biology, genetics, and nutrition at Faulkner University. She is an author and speaker on Mental Wholeness for churches and organizations.