by Julia M. Bruce
“For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church.” Ephesians 5:29 (HCSB)
Ways to Practice Physical Self-Care
Practicing Physical Self-Care requires consistency and work. However, the benefits it yields is the quality of life you live. Even small changes can bring about significant improvements in your health, mood, and life. It can be as simple as tweaking the way you live. Other time, it calls for a total lifestyle change. Start by taking an inventory of how you already practice physical self-care. Answer the questions below to see where you currently stand in practicing physical self-care.
- How many times a week do you exercise?
- How many days a week do you eat a healthy breakfast?
- How many days a week do you eat a healthy lunch?
- How many days a week do you eat a healthy dinner?
- How much water do you drink in a day?
- On average, how much sleep do you get each night?
- When was the last time you played a sport?
- If you have a step counter, how many steps do you average in a day?
- Do you get regular preventative checkups with your doctor?
- Do you get medical care when needed?
- Do you take time off from work when you’re sick?
- What type of fun physical activities to you participate in regularly, such as dance, swim, walk, run, play a sport, etc.)?
- How often are you able to take a vacation?
- How often do you take a day trip or minivacation?
- How often do you unplug from technology?
- How much time do you spend grooming and caring for your body?
- How often do you see an eye doctor?
- How often do you see your dentist?
- What is your current weight?
- What known medical conditions do you have, and how well are you controlling them?
What did the physical self-care inventory teach you about your physical self? What areas do you need to make improvements? What is the one improvement you could make that would make the biggest difference in your physical self-care?
Let’s look at some ways you can practice physical self-care. (Just remember, you don’t have to do all of them. Start with the one that will make the biggest impact to improving your physical self-care.
Change the way you think
The biggest tweak you can make to your physical self-care is simply changing the way you think. Attitudes we have about physical self-care are simply feelings that are influenced by what we believe. This will predispose us to respond either negatively or positively. If you think eating healthy is boring and will taste bad, then it will. If you tell yourself you’ll start exercising tomorrow, you will – only tomorrow never gets here. If you feel that giving up your favorite food so you can lose some weight is just awful, then it will be. What we feed our thoughts is generally how we can expect to behave. When our attitudes don’t fit with the action we are attempting to do, a dissonance occurs. Turn your negative thoughts into positive ones and you’ll have a much better outlook as you work on tweaking the other areas of physical self-care. Instead of telling yourself “Exercise is hard and I don’t have time for it,” try saying “Exercise will help me improve the Holy Spirit’s temple and give me better health. Let’s get started!” Negative thoughts breed negative actions. Positive thoughts will result in positive action.
Start today with some simple tweaks
Let’s face it. Life happens and sometimes it seems to happen faster than the speed of light and before you know it the day is done and there isn’t time for exercise. There are many ways to add some exercise into your busy day. In a world full of apps, you can find apps that will suggest specific exercises for specific areas of your body you want to target and for how much time you have available to invest in it. The important thing is to start somewhere – even if it’s just five minutes. You can start slowly but find ways to bring more physical activity into your daily routines.
For some quick and easy tweaks, try parking at the back of the parking lot at work or the grocery store so that you have further to walk. Try taking the stairs instead of the elevator. You can start here and do these things today. But don’t stop here. Work up to getting the recommended amount of exercise for your age and health as recommended by your doctor.
Benefits of exercise
If you struggle with seeing the benefits of regular exercise, Mayo Clinic lists the following benefits:
- Losing or controlling your weight. To control your weight, your calorie intake must equal the energy you burn. If you want to lose weight, you must burn more energy than your calorie intake.
- Reduce your risk for heart disease. Exercise gets your heart muscle pumping. It makes your heart stronger and improves your circulation. This will then raise the oxygen levels in your body. At the same time, it can lower your blood pressure and triglyceride levels.
- Helps to manage blood sugar and insulin levels. Exercise can help you lower your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes. If you already have it, exercise can help you manage it better.
- Can help you quit a bad habit. Habits can be hard to break. But if each time you have a desire to do the negative habit, trade it for some exercise.
- Can improve your mental health and mood. As you exercise, your body releases chemicals that improve mood, help you feel relaxed, helps you manage stress levels, and lowers your risk of depression.
- Strengthens your bones and muscles. For kids and teens who are still growing, exercise is vital to developing strong bones and muscles. But as we age, we can run the risk of losing bone density. Exercise can slow that loss down while also help you maintain your muscle mass and strength.
- Reduces your risk for some cancers such as colon, breast, uterine, and lung cancer.
- Reduces your risk of falls. Exercises that build balance, such as yoga, not only improve your balance, it also strengthens muscles. When you combine yoga along with some aerobic activity can lower your risk of falls as you get older.
- Improves your sleep. Exercise can help you fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer so that you feel more rested.
- Improves your sexual health. For men, it can lower the risk of erectile dysfunction or for men who struggle with ED, it can improve your sexual function. For women, exercise has the potential of increasing your arousal.
- Likelihood of living longer. Because exercise can help prevent disease and help keep your body healthy, you have a higher chance of living longer.
Mayo Clinic also recommends that as you begin to get more active, start with small steps, especially if you’ve been inactive for a long time or if you have a chronic health condition. Start by seeing your doctor and finding out what exercise he or she would recommend and how much time you should spend doing it. As you start exercising, start slowly, such as walking five minutes in the morning and five minutes in the evening. Then each day, add a few minutes and begin to pick up your pace. Work up to a brisk, thirty-minute walk a day. Some other exercises you could try including cross-country skiing, aerobic dancing, swimming, stair climbing, bicycling, jogging, elliptical training or rowing. If your health or age would be a hindrance to these types of exercise, then talk to your doctor for some recommended alternatives.
Try Yoga or other exercise
Exercises, regardless of what it is, increases the levels of serotonin in our body. Serotonin is the hormone that affects mood and energy. As it increases, we will see an improvement in our mood and our energy levels while also lowering negative thoughts and reducing anxiety. It can help you lose weight and gain strength, flexibility, and balance that will give a boost in your confidence. The old saying is, “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” and that’s certainly true about our muscles. Exercising now will also ensure a greater independence in your senior adult years. Twenty to thirty minutes of exercise per day can lower your body’s physical reaction to stress by helping you relax muscle tension.
Yoga seems to be a very popular, but its actually been around for more than 5,000 years. My daughter enjoys yoga and she got me started in it and let me tell you, it’s much more difficult than it looks! Mostly we laugh together at how we look in some of those poses. But it is a great mom and daughter bonding time. So how is yoga good for physical self-care?
Yoga not only burns calories, it also tones your muscles as you follow a total mind-body workout. It uses both strengthening and stretching poses along with deep breathing, meditation, and relaxation. There are many different forms of yoga. You can select a routine that is fast-paced and intense or one that is gentle and relaxing. Hatha is the most common form of yoga and uses a series of basic movements with breathing. Vinyasa uses a series of poses that flow smoothly from one to another. Power yoga is a fast, high-intensity working that focuses on building muscle. Regardless of which one you choose, yoga will target your core, arms, legs, glutes and back. It will increase your flexibility, balance, and strength. If you have problems with joints, this type of exercise will give you a full-body workout without any impact on your joints.
If yoga is something you want to try, do a little internet research to find the form that is best for you. You can probably find some YouTube videos that will let you try out several to help you decide. Once you decide on one then you can either invest in an online, DVD, or gym class. The benefit to enrolling in a gym class is having a trained instructor to show you how to properly do the poses. My daughter and I have a set of DVDs so that we can do at home with no one else watching us.
Another good thing about yoga is it is good for all ages and any fitness level. If exercise is new, just about anyone can do the basic yoga poses and stretches and then build up from there.
Yoga also does not require any expensive equipment. Other than a yoga mat that will keep you from sliding around, there’s nothing to buy because yoga relies on you own body weight for resistance. There are some optional equipment that you can choose to utilize including a yoga ball for balance and a yoga block or two.
If yoga isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other exercises to try out. Most of us find one thing we enjoy doing and we stick with that one thing. However, there are four types of exercise and a variety of activities can help make sure we include all four types into our exercise routines. Including activities from each of the four types can also keep us from getting bored and quitting.
Endurance exercises are usually called aerobic exercises because they increase your heart rate and breathing. They improve the health of your heart, lungs, and circulatory system while delaying the onset of or preventing diseases such as diabetes, colon and breast cancers, heart disease and more. These types of exercises include brisk walking, jogging, dancing, swimming, biking, climbing stairs, or playing a sport. Endurance exercises should include warm ups and cool down activities before and after the exercise. Also, pay attention to what your body is telling you. These exercises should not cause dizziness, chest pain or pressure, or a feeling like heartburn. Because these activities will work up a good sweat, be sure to drink plenty of water.
Strength exercises help you build your muscles, which will improve balance and prevent falls. These types of exercises include lifting weights and using a resistance band. When doing these types of exercise, don’t focus on the same muscle group twice in a row. If you’re just getting started, begin with only 1 or 2 pounds and allow your body to get used to strength exercises. Resistance bands can come is several strengths, so start with a light one and move to a stronger one when you can easily complete two sets of 10 to 15 repetitions. To avoid injuries, work with a trainer at a gym so you can learn how to do these exercises safely. When using heavy weights, always have someone close by in case you need help.
Balance exercises, such as Tai Chi, can also help prevent falls. They also improve your coordination and strength. Developing stability, mobility, and flexibility will make even your day-to-day tasks easier. These exercises focus on your core muscles, lower back, and legs. You can find simple balance exercises you can do at home with a quick internet search. Be sure you have someone close by in case you lose your balance.
The last type of exercise are those that improve your flexibility. If you find looking over your shoulder to change lanes or back out of the driveway, flexibility exercises can improve this. Or if you easily become uncomfortable when sitting through a long staff meeting, some flexibility exercise will help you. These types of exercises will stretch your muscles and give you more freedom of movement for you everyday activities. Stretches, yoga and Pilates are all types of exercises that improve flexibility.
When exercising for self-care, choose an activity you love. Not only will you be more likely to be persistent, even in the midst of a busy and demanding day, but you will find more fulfillment from doing what you love.
Make time for relaxation
Just as your body need exercise, it also needs moments to just relax so it can rejuvenate your mind and give your muscles a rest. Relaxation counteracts the effects of stress on your mind and body. It might mean a power nap, a calm stroll along the beach, taking a bubble bath, reading book, listening to calm, relaxing music, doing some deep breathing exercises, or meditating on God’s Word. Some of the benefits for making time to relax include, slowing your heart rate, lowering blood pressure, slowing your breathing rate, improving digestion, maintaining normal blood sugar levels, reducing muscle tension and chronic pain, improving concentration and mood, improving sleep quality, lowering fatigue, and reducing anger and frustration.
We also need some down time when we are sick and there are days when we just need to take a mental health day and practice self-care. Use your sick leave if you need it. Rest is vital to our bodies healing and restoration. Trying to “power through” often means spreading your illness to others. So keep it and you at home and take the time you need to recover.
Eat healthy and drink plenty of water
Most of us want to eat healthy, but when life moves fast, its hard to plan meals, shop for groceries, cook, and do the dishes. It’s easy to use your fast food delivery app or order pizza instead of cooking a healthy meal. And let’s be real – pizza is way better than any salad on any day at any moment! If you’re like me, then you attempt to make yourself feel better by eating a white sauce pizza with spinach – but that’s still not eating a healthy meal.
One of the benefits I have found of cooking is that I can cook a little more than what’s needed for dinner and then have left-overs lunch for tomorrow at the office. As I clean up after dinner, I put leftovers in a plastic container, pop it in the fridge and then the next morning as I’m rushing out the door, I just grab it and go.
Another tweak you can make to your eating habits is to just focus on one improvement. For example, if you want to eat less sugar, than cut down the amount of carbs you eat or eliminate soda from your diet. You can also tweak your eating habits by simply not buying junk food and replace the junk with fruit and veggies to snack on. Often choosing just one area of your diet to improve will generate better success than if you try to overhaul your entire diet at once. If health food seems like an enemy to you, consider what eating junk food does to your body and you will find the true enemy.
The World Health Organization recommends the follow for a healthy diet for adults:
- Fruit, vegetables, legumes (lentils and beans), nuts and whole grains such as unprocessed maize, millet oats, wheat and brown rice.)
- At least 400 grams of fruit and vegetables per day excluding potatoes, sweet potatoes, cassava and other starchy roots.
- Less than 10% of total calories from free sugars (the equivalency of 50 grams or 12 teaspoons) for a person of healthy body weight consuming about 2000 calories per day. However, the ideal is less than 5%. Free sugars are all sugars added to foods and drinks as well as natural sugars in honey, syrups, and fruit juices.
- Less than 30% of total calories from fats. Unsaturated fats that can be found in fish, avocado, nuts, and in sunflower, soybean, canola, and olive oils are preferable to saturated fats that are found in fatty meat, butter, palm and coconut oil, cream, cheese, and lard. Unsaturated fats are also preferred over tans-fats of all kinds that can be found in baked and fried foods, pre-packaged snacks and foods like pizza, pies, cookies, biscuits, wafers, and cooking oils and spread. Unsaturated fats should also be chosen over ruminant trans-fats that are found in meat and dairy foods that come from cows, sheep, goats, and camels. The suggested intake of saturated fats should be less than 10% of your total calories and trans-fats should be less than 1% of your total calories. Industrially produced trans-fats are not part of a healthy diet and should be avoided.
- Less than 5 grams of iodized salt (about one teaspoon) per day.
Other improvement you can made in your diet is to avoid caffeine and processed foods. Yes, caffeine can give you that energy boost you need during the day for first thing in the morning, but it can also interfere with sleep, raises your heart rate, can cause headache when you haven’t had any caffeine, causes you to urinate more frequently, raises your blood pressure. On average, about 400 milligrams of caffeine a day is acceptable for most healthy adults. If you go over 600 milligrams in a day, it’s probably too much. However, some people can be more or less sensitive to the effects of caffeine. If you notice any stomach problems, headaches, muscle twitches, or heart palpitations, you probably should lower your caffeine intake.
Processed foods are responsible for the high rates of obesity, as well as high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes. These are foods that have been cooked, canned, frozen, packaged or changed in nutritional composition, such as added preservatives. Lightly processed foods, such as pre-cut apple slices, hard-boiled eggs, and frozen veggies can be convenient, nutritious choices. However, heavily processed food such as potato chips, cracker, sodas, donuts, cookies, etc. should be avoided.
Water is also important in your diet. Sixty percent of your body is water and it depends on water for survival. Every cell, tissue and organ in your body needs water to function properly. Here is just a few ways that water impacts your bodily functions:
- Eliminates wastes through urination, perspiration, and bowel movements,
- Helps keep your temperature normal
- Provides lubrication and cushion for your joints
- Protects sensitive tissues.
Even when we are slightly dehydrated, we can feel tired. So, making sure we are getting enough water is important. Men typically need to drink more water than women. Things like exercise, environment, and overall health can potentially increase the amount of water we need to drink. Basically, if you rarely feel thirsty and your urine is almost clear in color than you are properly hydrated. Follow your doctor’s recommendation for the amount of water you should drink each day.
Proper nourishment and hydration can help you stay focused throughout the day and keep your body working at its best. An action you can take today to improve your diet is to replace fast-food with smaller healthy meals every 3-4 hours, drink more water (if needed), and be sure you take a lunch break every day.
Get 8 hours of sleep each night
The average adult needs approximately 7-8 hours of sleep every night to feel rested, refreshed, and ready for the day ahead. Not getting enough sleep can affect you work performance, mood, and health. Developing a regular sleep routine and sticking to it even on weekends, holidays, and vacations can greatly improve how you feel throughout the day. It only takes being off of your sleep schedule one day for your body to feel confused, tired, and irritable.
While you rest each night, your body is still hard at work healing damaged cells, boosting your immune system, recovering from all the activities you participated in while awake, and recharging your heart and cardiovascular system in preparation for tomorrow. A chronic lack of sleep results in high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. It also increases the risk of obesity, depression, impairment in brain function, lower immunity, lower sex drive, and even your appearance. Try tweaking your daily routines by adding 15 minutes to your sleep time.
See your doctor and dentist regularly
Believe it or not, doctors are not just for when we’re sick, injured or something isn’t working properly. Regular checkups with your doctor and dentist can go along way in finding problems before they start and detecting them early for the best possible outcomes, which can lead to you living longer and healthier. Follow through with all medical screenings your doctor orders and be sure you take any prescribed medications as ordered.
The average person should see their doctor annually for a routine checkup. However, your own personal medical history, as well as your family history, may require visits more often. When there is a family history of heart disease, diabetes, or stroke, you are at great risk of developing these illnesses yourself. Obesity and smoking also raises your risk factors and require more visits and/or tests.
Now that you understand physical self-care and you’ve learned some of the ways you can practice physical self-care, identify one to three immediate changes you can make in your physical self-care that will have the biggest impact right now. In the space below, write a plan for how you will begin implementing these into your daily routine.
Now….get started working your plan. Sometimes you just have to get up and do it and there’s no time like the present. (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2020)  (World Health Organization, 2020)
Julia is author of God, Love, and Marshmallow Wars, a Christian public speaker and CEO of Wellspring Christian Ministries. She has bachelor’s in psychology and a masters in professional counseling.
Photo credit: Katie Morgan
at Hello Click Photography
No part of this article may be reprinted or reproduced in any capacity without written permission from the author.
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Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
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BOOKING NOW! Be a host site for the NEW God, Love & Marshmallow Wars Book Tour & Couples Conference:
This event helps couples understand why the daily activities found in the book will equip them to build a stronger marriage and the book provides them with 365 intentional activities to take what they learn at the event and apply it on a daily basis. Through the event, couples will discover the Biblical “why” behind the categories of activities found in the book and the “how” these activities are important to building a stronger marriage. Focus points of the event includes :
- How memorizing scripture together and studying God’s Word together as they study, meditate and apply scriptures related to marriage and life issues will help them develop marriages that honor God.
- Why utilizing fun conversation starters that spark meaningful conversations will keep interest alive as they continually learn new things about each other.
- Why keeping romance alive is essential to intimacy and connectivity.
- How making memories and working together builds relationship investment bonds and how these investment bonds can become the knots that keeps them together through the tough times.
- How they can understand what they are or are not contributing to the marriage as well as how they might be contributing to problems or potential problems within the relationship through the use of targeted, intentional personal reflections
- Why it is important that couples never stop dating and how group dates with Christian friends can be both an encouragement and accountability to their own relationship.
During the event, couples will be given an activity from each focus point to do together, making this event an interactive, fun, and engaging event with practical, hands-on learning. Unlike other couple events that are over when the event ends, couples who attend the GLMW event will be able to apply what they learn when utilizing the book on a daily basis for a year. Since the book is not dated, couples are able to reuse the activities year after year to continue being intentional in strengthening their relationship with each other and with God as they strive to live out God’s design for marriage every day.
Learn more about hosting this event at your church or conference site by clicking here.
About the book: The GLMW book contains 365 daily challenges for couples to strengthen their relationships to each other and with God. Couples will complete activities such as Scripture memory, conversation starters, relationship builders, learning about Biblical marriage, romance builders, personal reflections, and date ideas. Click here to purchase your copy. (This link will open a new widow and take you to Westbow Press’ bookstore.) It is also available at Christian Book Distributors, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble
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Julia is CEO of Wellspring Christian Ministries, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping people and couples develop a passionate relationship with God. A public speaker, conference trainer, event planner, and blog writer, Julia is a two-time graduate from Grand Canyon University with a bachelor in Psychology and a masters in Professional Counseling. Saved as a child and raised in church and in a Christian home and private Christian School as a Pastor’s kid, Julia has taught Sunday school, led music, played the piano, served as Children’s Director, and engaged her gifts in many other areas of church life. Previously employed with the Florida Baptist Convention, Julia organized events and led conferences for church ministry assistants. Today, Julia enjoys sharing her journey as a growing Christian with others looking for a deeper connection with God. Through Bible study and her own life experiences, God has given Julia a passion to help couples understand God’s design for marriage while they learn to place God first in their marriage, cultivate meaningful relationships, build intimacy, and address the tougher issues that come in every marriage so that they can experience a marriage that honors and glorifies God. Julia also loves mentoring, teaching, and working with women to help them learn to live as Godly women.
With her history and experience growing up in both small and large churches, Julia enjoys bringing top level quality events to churches of all sizes. Her father largely pastored small churches and therefore she understands that these vital parts of the believing community need to be good stewards of the resources God provides them with. This knowledge inspires her passion for being available with a fresh perspective for those who want to provide their congregations with meaningful spiritual growth opportunities, regardless of size.
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