I’ve shared a lot about my health lately (both physical and mental) and thought I’d share some of the things that I feel have made a noticeable difference for me, not just recently, but over the last several years.
It sounds cliche, but the science is there: getting enough sleep (for me, that’s 8 hours) is critical to optimize nearly every body and brain function. When I wasn’t sleeping enough, I was more stressed, had an insatiable appetite and felt run down. I wasn’t able to get any benefits from my workouts because my body and brain didn’t have adequate rest and recovery time. Once I started to prioritize sleep, I felt better, my appetite returned to normal and I was able to see and feel results from my workouts. We live in a society where busyness is put on a pedestal, but proper rest is the real thing that should be valued.
Something that has really helped me get a good night’s rest is using a silk sleep mask every night. I’m very sensitive to light, so this helps completely black out my vision so I can sleep more soundly.
A BEDTIME ROUTINE
This is a spinoff of getting adequate sleep – I’ve found having a consistent bedtime routine (yes, like a toddler, haha) is really beneficial. Every night, I go upstairs around the same time, shower, cleanse/do my skincare routine, etc. Once I’m in bed I try to read a little bit and then I scroll a bit (yes, I know it’s not ideal but it works for me). I end up falling asleep before 10:30 and usually sleep until 6:30 in the morning. Following the same routine helps me unwind and set myself up for a good night’s rest. In fact, I don’t set an alarm clock anymore. My body is on such a regular schedule that I tend to wake at the same time, give or take a few minutes, every morning.
This was a tough one, but I now drink just one latte in the morning and two cups of decaf tea (one after lunch and one after dinner). If I feel like having more than one latte on a random morning, I’ll make my second latte with a decaffeinated Nespresso pod. Reducing caffeine intake is good for those with anxiety (hi, it’s me) and I truly find myself satisfied with one latte each morning.
MEDICATION (AKA THE REAL MVP)
Starting an SSRI (prozac) for my anxiety has had a positive trickle down effect for nearly every aspect of my life. I’m finally able to live life outside of “fight or flight” mode and feel so much more emotionally regulated. I know so many women are afraid of starting medication for anxiety or depression (I was too!) but now I know that life is so much better when you’re not in a constant spiral of fear, panic and emotional disregulation. I’m sad I didn’t try this medication sooner, but I’m also proud I sought help and tried other medications before landing on the right one.
Even if it’s a walk around the block – daily movement really improves my mental and physical health. Until recently, I hadn’t exercised in about 7 months and now I try to exercise at least 3-4 days a week (I do a combo of walking, my Ergatta rower and Melissa Wood Health workouts). I’m seriously considering ordering a walking pad to use at home (like this one or this one) to walk on while I work (or scroll, TBH!)
Starting medication is what allowed me to have the energy, motivation and desire to exercise again, so I do want to acknowledge that.
NO (OR LESS) ALCOHOL
I never want my lack of drinking to come off as judgmental on those who do enjoy alcohol, so please don’t take it that way. I don’t really enjoy drinking and can count on one hand how many drinks I’ve had in the last 3 years. I don’t mind a mimosa or glass of wine every once in awhile, but I don’t purchase alcohol to have at home and rarely drink. I don’t love the taste of most alcohol and the way it makes me feel (plus, I have a really low tolerance now), so it’s just not something I really crave. I’m also not supposed to drink on my medication, so that makes it even easier. I think there are health benefits to consuming no or less alcohol and I feel those, especially as I get older. I don’t have the time or energy for hangovers and I prefer to consume my sugar in Reese’s cups, every time.
I highly recommend scheduling a well visit with your primary care provider ASAP – especially if it’s been a while! Getting standard bloodwork done annually is a great way to monitor your health and potentially catch issues that need addressing. For example, I’ve struggled with low vitamin D levels for a decade (even when I supplement). Low vitamin D (or iron, or a plethora of other things) can cause a lot of different symptoms, so it’s important to be aware so you can address these either nutritionally or with supplements.
READ (OR LISTEN)
When I had a long-ish commute into the office everyday, audiobooks really saved my sanity. I used to be a huge bookworm, but as life got busy and we started a family, I found myself never reading anymore. So I tried Audible one day and it was a game-changer (I’ve been a paying customer for years now). It allowed me to enjoy books again and made my commute so much more enjoyable. Even though I work from home now, I listen every chance I get – on walks, while I do my makeup, in the shower (I use a shower speaker), while I work (I can listen to books if I’m making graphics, but not while writing), while I sort laundry, etc.
I recently started to read before bed a few nights a week and that has been really nice too – even a chapter a night is a good way to get into reading (physical) books again.
ADVOCATE FOR YOURSELF
I’ve been pretty vocal about the various health concerns I’ve had over the last few years and my takeaway is to listen to your gut and continue to advocate for yourself until you find doctors who listen and are committed to finding answers. The body is complex and if you’re having recurring or alarming symptoms, insisting on testing is important. If a doctor denies running certain tests based on your symptoms, ask them to document in your chart/medical record so there is evidence that the tests were denied/deemed unnecessary.
I know this sounds like a broken record, but drink more water if you’re able! I like to use this 40oz tumbler. I drink at least 80oz of water per day not including the tea I drink and having this tumbler with me (and drinking through a straw) helps me hit those hydration goals.
You know all of the health benefits of staying hydrated so I won’t repeat them here, but if you struggle with hydration, you can always flavor your water. We use waterdrop in our family (as a disclosure, I have worked with waterdrop, but this blog mention is not part of our partnership). They have tons of flavors and are vegan, gluten-free, 100% sugar-free and 5 calories per serving. My favorite flavors are Youth and Love.
I hope this post was helpful & I’d love to know what habits or practices have benefitted your health!