Today I take take a break from recipes and bring you a post about my real life wellness journey. In fact, not really talking about for at all today but more about exercise and where I’m currently standing with it. — My relationship with exercise has undulated over the years. I’ve gone from not doing it at all, to doing it too frequently, then back to nothing and then to running 30 miles a week then deciding I hate running, then to cramming as many cardio strength classes into 1 week as possible to then being totally burnt out—I think you get the picture. It wasn’t until this year that I fully came to terms with some of the bad habits I’ve had in the name of “health.”
Like many females my age, I’ve had my own battle with diet culture: the disguised diets, the #NORESTDAYS, the fad protein foods, terribly worded magazine headlines about losing that last 5 lbs — you catch the drift. Anyways, I bought in; always trying to beat my pace every time I went on a run. Over analyzing myself in the mirror. Working out in the name of caloric burn; doing cardio for an hour, thinking I needed to exercise to justify eating things that weren’t salads or lean protein. I’ve been the 5-6 day/weeker and have forced myself to work out when I didn’t feel like it, or have made my workout extra difficult after a weekend of “heavy” foods. For what though?
Ironically enough, when I’ve been my “fittest” is also when I’ve had terrible bouts of acne and some of the worst self-esteem. Its when I’ve felt most mentally unstable, and will wake up feeling extremely fatigued and sore and foggy. As I write this I’m cringing. Why do we do this? I’m in this place where I realize this isn’t a sustainable or healthy way to live. I want to break the old cycle and habits of over-exercising, and while I think I’m on my way to that fully free feeling, I’m only human and I still have days where the unhealthy habits are reaching to be let out.
I recently started working towards living, moving and eating intuitively — I decided to take a break from strenuous exercise and just practice yoga, walk, and do very light/slow resistance training. To not only reset my body physically, but also mentally. Its been challenging yet gratifying to be doing this through the holiday season, a time when historically I would up my workouts due to knowing I would indulge in holiday foods and treats. But you now what actually happens when you enjoy those foods and live in the moment and then go about life as normal? Nothing. Your body metabolizes the food like it would other food and your pants still fit and you’re still the same person. Its so much more enjoyable to savor holiday treats when you don’t think about having to go burn it off the next day. Its taken me a long while to see that exercise is not the be all, end all to wellness. While movement and exercise are important, it is not everything; and taking time off from exercise is not going to obliterate your health or make you gain a ton of weight. I cant stress enough the importance of listening to your body cues. When it’s stressed and over worked and deprived, it wants rest and nourishment because it needs rest and nourishment.
Taking some time off from intense exercise has made me start to really appreciate and understand how many other things are important to our health and well-being aside from our eating and movement habits. So on the days I chose to not workout, I fill the time with other things that bring wellness into my life. So Ive brought to you three things crucial to wellness that aren’t healthy eating or exercise. I’ve gone into detail about how I’ve incorporated them into my life, and why they’re important.
I don’t know for how many years post-college when asked “what do you like to do?” I often said “well besides work I like to workout — running and yoga and stuff. and I like to go out with friends on the weekends. but other than that I don’t have a lot of time for other things because of work.” Looking back on that I wish someone would have been like “GIRL; get yourself some real hobbies.” Shortly after I started dating my now fiancé in 2016, I realized he had so many things he liked to do that weren’t work or exercise, while I had none. It sparked a desire in myself to A) find a hobby and B) make time for that hobby. Enter: Guitar playing. I’d tried playing the guitar when I was much younger, and in the age before youtube, but was pretty challenging to try and teach yourself. I’d always wanted to be able to play an instrument and someday write my own songs, so I took the plunge. I found a guitar on amazon and started watching youtube tutorials. It was so incredibly stress-reliving to come home from a busy day and just play the guitar for an hour or so. It forced me to focus my attention solely on something that wasn’t work, or exercise, or food. It was also so incredibly gratifying to see progression in my ability to play. — So in conjunction with hobbies, teaching yourself something new is another great thing you can do for your wellness.
Learning the guitar then ignited an interest in finding other creative outlets: So I decided to start a blog, which turned into an interest in food photography. — Starting this blog has since taken me down a whole wellness journey: there will be a future blog post on this soon. — Then I started to find time for craft projects, and decided to open an Etsy store, because why not? I feel like I’m bursting with personal hobbies these days, and the girl that I was 3 years ago would be in complete disbelief over all of this. Its crazy because I don’t work any less hours or have a shorter commute than I used to — there was always time for myself to do these things — It had just become so engrained in my head to go to work, then workout for 1.5-2 hours, then make dinner, then bed.
So why are hobbies good for your wellness? When you engage in creative outlets or hobbies that are different from your daily grind, you’re tapping into and stimulating other parts of your brain. When you engage in an activity that brings you happiness, you help your body balance out that pesky stress hormone, cortisol. One study showed a correlation between engaging in hobbies and having a lower cortisol level, lower blood pressure, decreased feelings of depression/anxiety, and a better perception of your personal health. It helps stimulate your parasympathetic nervous system bring you into more of a state of relaxation.
If you’re someone who is trying to heal yourself from overexercising, taking up a hobby is an excellent way to preoccupy your mind, and to help guide your body out its constant state of stress. Aside from just the rest of not working out, doing something that brings you happiness will help quell your cortisol levels and calm down your sympathetic nervous system.
Hobbies are also great for wellness, because they can add to your sense of identity. —Exercise can become a part of our identity, and so when you start to exercise less frequently or less intensely, it may feel like you have a loss of identity. Thats a normal thing that happens; in sports psychology the same thing is observed in athletes who get injured and feel a loss of identity due to not being able to perform their sport. — When you fill your cup with other activities that make you happy, they become who you are. I am not just Megan, the athletic trainer who likes to workout and eat healthy, I am now Megan, DIY-er, crafter, guitar player, blogger, cook, and yogi who currently works as an athletic trainer — You can create your own identity from your hobbies and the things you enjoy. I feel like my cup is so much more full now that I have other things I identify as other than just someone who works and works out. So moral of the story: hobbies are important and I really encourage you to find the time to engage in activities that bring you true happiness and relaxation.
Clutter can you really bring you and your vibe down; both mental clutter and physical clutter. When your home or work place are in disarray, that can translate to how you feel inside. When it comes to physical clutter, taking the time to organize your cupboards, to go through old clothing to donate, or to shred and sort old papers/mail can result in a feeling of literal weight being taken off your shoulders. Having clean counters and looking into a cabinet where everything is cleanly placed and divided can bring such mental ease. That being said, life happens and it inevitably (if you’re me) won’t stay that way forever— that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still take the time every so often to get everything back in line. There is something so gratifying about “resetting” your home. Organization also doesn’t have to be done in the form of a total house reorg. Sometimes I like to just pic an organizational idea/project from pinterest and finish it in less than an hour. Recently I bought the giant mason jars for dried goods so that I could start buying those foods from the bulk section and not keep buying plastic bags/containers. It felt so nice to just see the giant jars of dried legumes and flour, and sugar clearly so that they could easily be found and the cabinets looked less cluttered.
In terms of mental clutter: sometimes our to-do lists get out of control, and we lose our focus of what we are trying to accomplish and the greater picture of things. Make it a habit to mentally de-clutter. Make a list that prioritizes your goals and just focus on tackling one at a time. Or start journaling to try and free your brain from the emotions and thoughts that might be weighing it down. When your mind feels more free and spacious, its easier for you to be present and well.
Do you ever wake up and still feel like you could sleep for 10 hours, or just don’t feel like working out, or maybe feel totally overwhelmed by the to-do list you’ve compiled for the day. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your wellness is to just stop, and not do anything. Listen, I’m all for making my days as productive as possible and I know that working hard is important; but sometimes we wake up tired and just don’t feel like tackling the to-do list or going to that 6 am fitness class. In those moments, sometimes the most refreshing thing you can do for yourself is to make a cup of tea and just relax under a blanket, even for just like 10 minutes. Barring that you have an actual important commitment to tend to immediately, there is nothing wrong with just stopping. Sometimes I wake up feeling bogged down, and try to go about business as usual — those end up being the days that I have a mental breakdown about something at work, or start feeling down on myself about my body/health because I forced myself to push through when I didn’t have the mental capacity to do so. Often times when I give myself the courtesy of enjoying a cup of tea , curled up on the couch, I have a flood of productivity afterwards. This often happens on the days that I don’t feel like working out, and happens quite frequently in the winter months. Taking some time to just exist and not worry about working out or finishing a chore is important to your mental health: which is so crucial —and often under appreciated —to your overall wellness.
I cant stress enough that we should not feel bad about listening to our bodies when they’re trying to tell us to slow down. Our bodies are highly sophisticated biological machines full of nerves, and hormones, and cells with specific functions, and signals and receptors. Your body is always in search of homeostasis, or equilibrium. When things are occurring to bring you outside of homeostasis, your body is going to do what it needs to do to bring it back there. SO if you over exercising and undernourishing, your body will hold on to what it has and slow your metabolism, and feel fatigued because its trying to tell you to slow down.
I could go on for hours about things that are essential to wellness outside of our diet and exercise. There truly are so many different things. What are some of your favorite wellness habits? If you enjoyed this blog post please let me know, I’d like to start sharing more personal posts that aren’t just recipes and would love to know what kind of topics you are interested in. Thanks for reading, friends!