About a year into practicing as a family medicine PA I started asking people this question as part of a physical – ‘what are ways you care for yourself in times of stress?’ And I find this to be a better barometer of health than simply asking someone what kind of foods they eat and how much they exercise.
When you have a plethora of ways to care for yourself, you have more resources to make those choices during hard and busy times. And when you’re making those choices that help make you feel better, you’re more apt to continue making health promoting choices – spiraling up, per se. Whereas when you’re exhausted, tired, sad, sleep deprived, and/or from a place of restriction, it’s hard to have access to cognitive resources to make those choices.
It ultimately comes down to making choices from a place of abundance rather than restriction.
I always want to encourage my peers and patients to think about things to add into your life to make you feel better. Health at times can feel really hard and really unattainable, so here are some small ways to take care to decrease stress.
- Start small, with a “for the most part” state of mind. Any goal feels insurmountable if it’s too big. Break it down into smaller parts, i.e. instead of saying I’m going to go to the gym every day this week, think: when I’m feeling well and awake enough, I’m going to do a form of movement that brings me joy. This could be going for a 2 minute walk, putting on your favorite song and jamming out, gardening, doing a few household chores. And when things aren’t perfect – great! Take that opportunity to practice your self-compassion muscle. If you greet the imperfections with kindness, it’s so much easier to pick back up the next day rather than calling it quits entirely.
- Do something once a week that excites you or that you’re looking forward to. For me, this was making a new recipe! I love putting music on, putting my phone on do-not-disturb, and having a kitchen experience rooted in mindfulness – paying attention to the sounds, smells, sights, textures of everything around me. This brings so much joy back to cooking rather than viewing it as something I ‘have’ to do. The colors and flavors of this California Prunes acai smoothie bowl was tantalizing. It was such a nice deviation to my tried-and-true (and sometimes boring) morning toast.
- Make a decision today that benefits future-you. Sometimes it’s easy to get bogged down in the present, and thinking about making choices that will make my life easier a little later on can be super helpful. For example, did you know eating just 4-5 prunes a day supports digestive health, bone health, and packs tons of extra fiber? Such an easy habit to incorporate into daily life!
- Ask for help! Recent studies agree that loneliness and social isolation are harmful to your health. The World Health Organization, in fact, states, “they both shorten the lives of older people, harm physical and mental health and diminish quality of life.” Relying on community can incite that sense of belonging, which is hugely beneficial for stress levels.
- Romanticize your life. Okay I know this sounds silly, but sometimes creating that dramatic, aesthetic experience can make you feel oh so special. I set up my favorite California Prunes smoothie bowl with a steaming mug of coffee, my current read, a few gorgeous stems, and a new candle, then climbed back into bed for a lovely little morning. After a stressful week, it was just the thing to soothe the nervous system.
- Do something that reminds you of a relaxing past experience. I’ve been reminiscing lately on a vacation I took with my sister. We went to Hawaii and explored the island, swam in the crystal-clear ocean, and ate nourishing food. We started most days with an acai bowl, and my breakfast day was made in honor of that. Though this smoothie bowl had a bit of a remix using California Prunes juice and prunes on top – added in some extra fiber and earthy sweetness!
California Prunes Acai Bowl:
- 2 packets frozen acai mix
- 2 frozen bananas
- ¼ cup California Prune juice
- ¼ cup California Prunes, chopped
- ¼ cup blackberries
- ¼ cup raspberries
- ¼ cup golden berries
- ½ banana, sliced
- Granola of choice sprinkled on top
I am brimming with gratitude that California Prunes sponsored this post and allowed me the above reflection about taking care of myself. Thank you so very much, California Prunes!