Putting health on track this summer

The pandemic has caused a new wave of health problems for Americans. Our stress levels have increased, leading to deterioration in physical and mental health. We experience more sleep problems, less physical activity and increased alcohol consumption.

According to the American Psychological Association, more than half of Americans have delayed or canceled healthcare services during the pandemic, further compounding the damaging effects of stress.

So how can we get back to healthier lifestyles? We need to address all aspects of our health to get back on track and be our best selves.


Set goals

First, get the right mindset. A healthy lifestyle isn’t something you only do on weekends or days off.

Ask, “What would I like to accomplish with a healthy lifestyle?” “What are my mental health goals? What about emotional health? Spiritual health? Social health?

Define each of these areas for yourself so you can plan and take action to get where you want to be.

Focus

Being physically healthy and mentally miserable does not make you healthy. Eating well but feeling isolated from friends can still lead to depression.

We are more than the sum of our parts. Taking care of your health requires you to take care of all aspects of your health.

Physical health

More than a third of American citizens suffer from chronic diseases. To manage or prevent these problems, every adult should have regular physical exams, including blood tests. Plus, it can help you decide what diet and exercise changes you need to make.

How you get and stay active is up to you. But here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Join a gym
  • Attend classes (e.g. Zumba, aerobics)
  • Yoga
  • Hire a trainer
  • Get out (bike, tennis, run, walk)
  • Join an intramural sports team
  • Watch YouTube videos for home exercises

Successful diets require lasting changes. Do not deprive yourself and stick to what works. Also, be forgiving. A cheat day, or a day when you deviate from your meal plan, does not mean that all your fitness is lost. Don’t let a bad day turn into a bad week. Just hop back on the bandwagon and keep going.

Mental Health

As mentioned above, mental health issues in our communities are at an all time high. Here are some ways to take care of your mental health:

  • Journaling – you don’t have to do it every day to reap the benefits
  • Check in with a trusted friend or family member regularly
  • Meditate – create mental space to sort your thoughts, relax and refocus
  • Take regular breaks to recharge your batteries and avoid burnout
  • Prioritize your sleep schedule and develop good sleep hygiene
  • Consult a professional – there are many benefits and options for getting involved

spiritual health

If you are religious, do you devote time to your faith? Sometimes the act of praying can be very meditative and cleansing.

People who are not religious interpret spiritual well-being as “understanding one’s own mind”. Over time, life changes, and we realize that we too have changed. Therefore, assess yourself regularly and ensure that your lifestyle matches the evolution of your values.

Social health

According to Harvard Business Review, employee burnout costs an estimated $125 billion to $190 billion a year in healthcare costs in the United States.

It’s up to us as individuals to prioritize creating a healthy balance between work and relationships. However, it is also important to understand that not all relationships are beneficial. Nurturing your social health involves spending time with the kinds of people who make you happy and supportive. Spending quality time with friends and family can be the very thing that really helps you relax and fight burnout.

Follow these steps when planning lifestyle changes:

See a doctor

Consult your doctor first. If you don’t have one, find one and get started. Get recommended blood work and tests to establish a baseline of care. Build a rapport so you can easily ask questions when they arise.

Use the buddy system

Find friends or family members with similar health goals. We often move forward better when we move forward together. Plan physical or social activities together, be each other’s confidants, cook healthy meals and see how well you progress!

Remember to pay

Sometimes the only way to get motivated is to pay for it. Pay to have healthy meals delivered, hire a coach or trainer, or buy the equipment you need.

Force your hand

Don’t give yourself a choice. For example, create a zero-spend month for takeout and only buy healthy ingredients and snacks. Then, when the only options you have are healthy, you can easily choose well.

Pro Tip: Do some prep work first. Find recipes you like and start buying ingredients for them. The more you do it, the easier it gets.

choose the water

Reduce or eliminate alcohol and sugary drinks and reduce your caffeine intake. The first two will lower your calorie count, and reducing caffeine can improve sleep.

Reap the benefits

Even small changes over time can have significant results.

The benefits of physical exercise include reducing the occurrence of chronic diseases, improving sleep, and increasing energy. A healthy diet with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can reduce inflammation and treat or decrease chronic pain.

Regular, restful sleep can reduce stress, improve concentration and increase productivity. Taking breaks and spending time with loved ones can fill you. Improving your spiritual and mental health can refocus you, help you be more mindful, and improve your mood.

The best way to empower yourself is to take care of yourself. If you are healthy on all fronts, you will be in a place where you can try new things, take risks, and grow to reach your true potential in life.

Seize the opportunities and resources available to you and make your health – physical, mental, spiritual and social – a priority. Once you achieve balance, you will be able to maintain the lifestyle you want.

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