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I accidentally went on a health kick

That headline is 100% serious. I am (for myself) firmly against diets and not really into New Year’s resolutions. But somehow over the last month, a variety of small choices and practices have developed into a fairly holistic health focus — probably the best I’ve done in that area a while. This was all spurred by a variety of motivations that all center on the idea of health: for my body, for my head/heart, and for the planet.

This post should probably start with a disclaimer that this post is a lot more “me-focused” than I usually go for here. None of these things are meant to be prescriptive, but hopefully they spark ideas regarding how you can prioritize health in your own life.

Physical

  • Going to yoga class with my best friend (almost) every week. That’s tonight (yay)! I’m not big on group exercise, but attending yoga classes has been sooooo beneficial for my muscles, stress, and overall well-being.
  • Trying to walk and generally move around more. Especially since winter weather restricts most of the exercise I like to do, this one has proven challenging. But I’m doing alright with it, and it will get easier as the weather warms.
  • Paying attention to my muscles and the ridiculous levels of tension they build up. I carry stress in my neck and shoulders, and boy does it stack up. A few at-home tools to help get knots and tension out — as well as stretching throughout the day and occasional massages — have really helped. Oh, and lowering my dang shoulders whenever I notice they’re up by my ears.
  • Getting enough sleep. This is one to be careful about because oversleeping can be harmful, but if I’ve done everything I need to do and feel really tired or sleepy, I just let myself rest.

Mental and emotional

  • Engaging more intentionally in conversations, and bringing extra kindness to interactions. Especially as an introvert, I’d sometimes like to ignore the existence of the outside world instead of putting in the effort to engage with it. But I know how much small kindnesses from other people brighten my day, and I’m trying to get better about doing the same thing.
  • Listening to a poem on my morning commute as a meditation of sorts. There are also apps and other methods of doing this, but I’ve found this is the easiest one for me to be consistent with.
  • Reading anything I want. Sometimes it’s an article or Twitter thread, but I’ve actually blown through several books in the last few weeks (much faster than my rate the last few years) because I stopped bothering with what I should be reading and just started reading stuff I felt like reading. (Surrendering to the idea of reading two books at once also helped this.)
  • Noticing when I feel anxious or drained, and responding to that. Sometimes life or my brain or who knows what other factors get to me more than I’d like. This is less of a recent thing, and more another step in the long process of learning to identify how I’m feeling and what’s behind that, to talk myself through it and reach out for help as needed, and to be patient with the reminder that it will get better and I’ve got what it takes to keep going.

Nutrition

  • Drinking more water. I really can’t emphasize how big of a difference this one makes for me. Seriously, my skin is clearer, I get fewer headaches, and I have more energy. My body needs way more water than I used to give it, and making sure I always have a cup or my reusable water bottle on hand means I don’t have excuses not to.
  • Eating more vegetables and less junk food. I like dessert. I still eat it when I want to. But making sure I toss veggies into at least 1-2 meals a day and switching to a healthier breakfast (a grainy bread, toasted with almond butter) have made it easier to over-processed foods and junk I don’t need to be eating.
  • I gave up meat one day a week. This is less for personal health reasons than environmental ones — meat production takes a big toll on the environment, which humanity has done a pretty crap job taking care of the last 200 years. I love steak and burgers and bacon, and haven’t given them up completely. But intentionally not eating meat 1 day a week (it’s really only in about half my meals anyway), and swapping in more sustainable options when possible — like turkey tacos instead of ground beef — is a step I know I can do to help protect the planet we can’t afford to lose.

These are small things, but they add up to a big difference. I know what it’s like to work to the bone and to not take care of myself, and I’ve let that pull me down too many times. What works for you might be a mix of these things, or involve something totally different. The most important thing is to make sure it’s a healthy practice for where you’re at, and to remind yourself that it doesn’t have to happen all at once.

What small things have you done to take better care of yourself and your surroundings? Let me know in a comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up! Thanks for reading, and happy adulting!

(Photo is a free stock photo because this is the kind of stuff that motivates me to stick with the whole health thing.)

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Perfection and other myths

Hey all! I know posts have been a little sparser lately; in addition to life being generally busy, it’s been a tougher season personally than I’d anticipated. Unsurprisingly, challenges cropping up means not everything works quite the way I want — including me. Being okay with mistakes and imperfection is the lesson I’ve been trying to get through my head the last 6 months.

In fact, I’ve actually been waiting to talk about it here because I wanted to feel like I had made significant progress first. Mistakes, or simply not being able to do and be everything you want, are realities we all have to come to terms with eventually. It’s not a strong suit of mine. If I make a mistake out of ignorance or some other factor I can’t control, that might be fine. But if I make a mistake out of an oversight, or anything for which I might have “known better,” it’s really hard to get over.

And frankly, it’s super unhealthy. It means I tend to be too rigid, am easily and often stressed, and have a hard time moving on and rolling with the punches. Unfortunately, it’s an issue that becomes even more painful and pointed for emerging adults. Many of us are feeling ridiculous pressure to perform perfectly in so many areas: work, school, family, social life, romantic relationships, even general adulting. The weight we often put on ourselves to be essentially perfect in all these areas can be crippling. It usually means we’re overworked and stressed, but can also lead to initiating or exacerbating mental health issues, physical illness, and strained relationships.

I’d love to offer some epiphany or magic formula for learning to not hold ourselves to such debilitating, difficult standards, but the truth is it’s a long often personal process. You’ve got to figure out what drives that feeling, and then how to combat it.

That being said, I have found a couple of things that help:

Talk yourself through it. I’m not a huge fan of the “what’s the worst that could happen?” trick because I can always imagine incredibly horrible things resulting from tiny mistakes. Instead, try asking “what’s likely to happen?” It brings a reality-check back into the thought process, and makes it easier to not feel like any tiny shortcoming will bring the whole castle down.

Reframe it. Instead of looking at the less-than-ideal thing and panicking that it went wrong, or focusing on what you should have done better, honestly assess whether there is a need to fix/address the thing or if it’s better to move on. If you can do something about it, do that. If not, tell yourself it’s just a small thing, that you’re allowed to make mistakes, that you don’t have to be perfect, and (try to) let it go.

Search your feelings. When you start to feel any of the negative emotions that can come with not meeting personal expectations of perfection (frustration, disappointment, stress, anxiety, etc.), acknowledge what you’re feeling. Name it, and analyze what’s making you feel that way. Think about how your body is expressing that emotion, through tension, cortisol, or some other thing, and instead of being in all those feelings, try to look at them from the outside. This perspective shift can work wonders.

Don’t project. I can’t stress this one enough. You feeling a need to be perfect is a you thing. Projecting that expectation onto other people and expecting them to live up to every mental standard you set is not only unrealistic, but unhealthy. It’s not good for you because you’ll be constantly disappointed, it’s not fair to the other person, and it can easily damage relationships.

No one cares. Being quite this blunt isn’t always helpful, but it is important to keep in mind that it’s very likely you care about this far more than anyone else. Things go wrong. People aren’t perfect. For the most part, other people won’t expect you to be. Remembering that can help make it easier to not expect yourself to be perfect either.

Find ways to relax. This looks different for everybody, so you’ve got to find what work best for you. Some of my favorite options that I can do often are spending time outside, cooking or baking, doing yoga, and meditation. Sometimes you might need a stronger emotional release like hard exercise or crying, and that’s okay too.

Use the buddy system. Have one or two people who you can talk to when you’re feeling this way, and who will remind you that it’s okay to not be perfect and to make mistakes. You’re still learning and growing and it’s a journey that none of us will ever fully reach the end of. And that’s completely okay.

Progress isn’t linear. You will have days or stretches where you’ll be doing a lot better, and days or months where you feel like you’ve backslid. That’s normal. Give yourself the grace to make progress at your own pace.

I hope that helps! If you have any ideas to add, feel free to comment below, on Twitter @ohgrowup, or Instagram @oh.grow.up. Thanks for reading, and good luck adulting!