Sept. 13, 2020

Committing to Wellness in Hard Times

As we all continue to navigate these ever-changing times, it can be incredibly challenging to prioritize wellness. Gyms, yoga studios, and pools are closed or almost impossible to access. Meanwhile, many of us have children at home draining time and energy. This makes it increasingly hard to say, I WILL work out today.

We’re now easing into fall and recognizing not only the changing season but the unknowns facing us. Looking forward, I think there is no better time to make wellness your top priority. I know I’m a broken record here. But if you are not well, you cannot effectively care for anyone else. For me, the most important aspect of my well-being is my physical health. Exercise not only helps me feel physically well, it also relieves my anxiety, boosts my mood giving me more energy.

Through summer, it was easy to find outdoor fitness opportunities. Walking, biking and tennis have been keeping us all happy and healthy. As the weather cools, I want to dig deeper into continuing the journey that’s kept my fitness at the forefront. I’m hoping that some of my own strategies will be helpful to you as well as you read this.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to spend some time thinking about what motivates you. One method that I have found helpful is by using Gretchen Rubin’s Four Tendency Framework. The book is super helpful, but even just taking the quiz can give you a lot of insight. I am a Questioner with Upholder tendencies.

What does that mean? I will do things if they make sense to me for reasons that make sense to me. I will honor the commitments that I make to myself. Accordingly, I will not commit to or continue with a workout, routine, etc. unless it helps me reach my goals.

I do well with inner accountability, but I like to use tools to help keep me accountable to myself. An Obliger, on the other hand, may need more outer accountability. A friend, group, team, etc. can keep them showing up. I recommend digging into this as you build routines and habits that will help you. What works for me may not work as well for you. However, I’ll give you my tips to see if they need to be adjusted for your own tendency and lifestyle.

I’ve discussed this before, but I love StepBet. You pay $40 to join a “game.” The app sets step goals for you and if you hit them during the period of the game (4 to 6 weeks), you get your $40 back. Additionally, and you split the pot of those that don’t win. I love this because, while there are no other people tracking me or seeing whether I succeed or not, I am not willing to throw away $40 just because I couldn’t move my feet enough. This may not be a fitness life-changer, but if it gets you to take the time to add a walk to your day, you will thank yourself for participating. This is another way that I have found to make myself be accountable.

I also need fitness to be easy. This is ESPECIALLY true right now. While we are in a minority with our kids in physical school full-time, we expect this will be temporary and, at any moment, we may be back to having three kids home with us full-time while working and doing remote school. This is one of the reasons that we have invested in having exercise equipment in our home.

A few years ago, my husband bought me a treadmill as a surprise gift. That allowed me to cancel my gym membership since that was primarily all I used there anyway, and it allows me to run to our basement at any moment and get a quick workout in any time of day or night. This summer with COVID, we stepped it up a bit and invested in a Peloton. I’m a little bit obsessed and love the metrics and tracking that encourage me to ride it often and do more of the workouts. This is obviously not something that is going to be the right fit for every family, but if you can set anything up in your home, that will give you fewer excuses.

I don’t care what I’m wearing or what I look like when I’m working out at home. I can do a quick ten-minute jog between calls, or an evening workout right after the kids go to sleep. As I lamented in the past, I’m not a morning person, but if you are, this can also allow you to get your workout in before the kids are up. One awesome feature that I’ve found on the Peloton app (which you can get even if you don’t have the bike) is the many different workouts, including outdoor, yoga, and strength. You can use the app and stream it to a TV in your home and then you’re able to work out in any room that has space.

None of these is a good fit for you? How about walking? There is a Norwegian saying that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing. If you live in a less temperate climate, work on investing in clothes that allow you to spend time outdoors comfortably. Online retailers such as Poshmark and ThredUp offer great second-hand items at reasonable prices. Plan for the weather and commit to going out, even if it isn’t perfect. Find a friend or neighbor who likes to walk too. Can you meet a friend at a set time every day to walk together?

Conversation makes the time go by and you’re getting a twofer: physical exercise and a mental health boost by seeing a friend. You also have external accountability, as someone is counting on you. If this isn’t a good fit, do you have a dog? Make a date with your pup and you can both get the benefits! If you want additional suggestions, I love to brainstorm and would be thrilled to help motivate you. Reach out!

In addition to physical health, mental health is affecting us all more than ever with the many stresses we are under. This can be a bit trickier on advising others. My brain works differently than yours and yours works differently than the next person. My anxiety and depression show up in ways that may look different than yours. We all are dealing with different issues at various severity levels. Personally, my anxiety was actually lower when we were in full lockdown. I felt in control. We were safe in our home.

Now, we are doing things. The kids have sports and school. Meetings are happening in person. This caused my anxiety to start spiking. I’ve noticed my own tells- quick to anger, short with my kids, impatience, etc. To combat this, I have been working on making sure I engage in at least one self-care activity every day. Sometimes, it is waking up early to enjoy a cup of coffee in peace. Other days, it’s a charcoal face mask and some Netflix.

If you feel like anxiety, depression, or other feelings are overwhelming, please open up to someone (or even me). Talk to someone and share your feelings.  Accept the help that may be offered and consider seeing your doctor or a therapist. Many virtual and phone options are available. It’s so important to tackle this in a healthy way before spiraling to a place that is harder to escape. Depression can be a sneaky little parasite. There is no shame in seeing it for what it is. It may be something that you need help conquering to feel like yourself again. I also encourage you to listen again to this Fit Mess episode as well as this one.

As every commercial is reminding us, we are all in this together. I am committed to continuing my wellness journey despite the hard times we are in. Join me.

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