Many of us are wondering in these arguably dark times what we can do, how we can make a difference, how we can offer support, and how we can take care of ourselves / other people / the planet under current conditions. I have some thoughts.
There are probably many things we can each do, that we will be called to do, certainly on more than one level. I have been thinking about what I’m currently doing for work + contribution—one of the main things—and how it relates to all this.
At times recently, I wondered if it does relate. Does supporting, helping, teaching, inspiring people to be healthier, fitter, stronger and more energetic make a difference at times like this? When there is so much to do politically, environmentally, and in other ways?
In some darker moments, I’ve felt a bit like it’s rearranging the proverbial deck chairs on the Titanic. And I could certainly see somebody mocking the wellness industry in this context—especially if it’s treated myopically. I mean, if it’s just about green smoothies and elite wellness “sprinkle magic moon dust herbs in your special coconut oil/macadamia milk concoction in your crystal chalice” recipes…(which is NOT me, as you may know)…
But I’ve come to the conclusion that on several levels it’s not at all like that, and not in the least bit irrelevant. In fact, wellness is directly relevant, ESPECIALLY the way I approach it. Which is hardly at all about appearance. (Although I have nothing against being interested in one’s appearance. I believe loving your appearance is the natural outcome of higher health goals. If you do the truly healthy things that make you strong, energetic, resilient, and lean, you’ll naturally get bennies in the appearance department.)
But putting some effort and attention into nourishment is super-germane to making your impact. And that is my context, my approach: conscious self-care, feeding, fueling and nurturing yourself in all the ways you need. Consciously choosing what you put in and on around you. So that you can be strong and energized and HERE for as long as possible.
If I support, inspire and teach people how to do that, it helps them give their gifts. So that is my way of giving mine. And we all need to give all our gifts, more than ever. If we do—if we don’t sit back, but rather truly put effort into serving, in all the ways we are best suited to serve, every day—it will surely make a difference.
With that in mind, I wanted to offer my take on some helpful nurturing stuff I think it’s important for all of us to do in these times. Not the only things we need to do—not at all. But some things I think we would all do well to pay extra special attention to right now—even AS we do all the other things we need to do. SO we can do all the things we need to do, at our best.
Because I see people suffering more from depression right now. I see people getting sick more often, as our immune systems are affected by our discouragement and weariness. And from not sleeping and by the downward cycle of sometimes crappy self-care we sometimes do when we feel like there’s no point. This is not the time to give up and just let it all go, and eat whatever or do whatever because “what difference does it make.” It actually makes a great difference. More than ever.
Because we need the writers; we need the teachers; we need the firefighters; we need the scientists; we need the artists and musicians and poets. We need the astrologers, we need the entrepreneurs, we need the ecologists, we need the doctors, we need the lawyers, we need the activists, we need the analysts, we need the therapists, we need the shamans. We need the publishers and the chemists and the researchers and the inventors and the programmers and the social workers and the policymakers.
We need us ALL. So yes, therefore, we need health coaches and fitness trainers too. Because all those others need to optimize their well-being and be fueled for all the work ahead. (And not to discount medicine, but medicine doesn’t generally teach people how to stay well and energized. It generally seeks to fix them when they’ve gone pretty far into a deep hole of not well. A topic for another day…)
So here are some thoughts, from a health coach/fitness trainer/natural healing author/nourishment instigator, for ALL of us. All in the context of treating ourselves well, as optimally as possible, so we can be in great shape to do our piece and our part.
And in these sometimes overwhelming, confusing, even shocking times, this is for me as much as for you. I’m speaking. I’m also listening.
Now more than ever:
EAT GOOD FOOD. Fuel yourself smart and well. Not to finagle how you look. Think of it as nourishing yourself for the athlete you are—in an event, this game of life, that just became possibly a very challenging ultramarathon. Eat the best, cleanest, healthiest food you can afford. Go organic when you can—not only for your own health but because you’ll be investing in something better for the planet.
As much as possible, walk away from sugar and highly-processed foods and stuff you know makes you feel crappy. Eat for pleasure, yes, but use all the knowledge and wisdom you have (or can find) about what makes you feel good and strong and energized. Try not to do yourself harm. We need you not harmed. There are bigger reasons to think of now than JUST convenience or momentary indulgence. Comforting treats have their place, but choose wisely, and consider that the bigger “reward” is strength, resilience, energy.
MOVE YOUR BODY. Again, not primarily to manipulate how it looks—you’ll look just fine if you treat yourself great, anyway. Move in ways that give you energy, build your strength, and support your brain chemistry, as well as give you pleasure. Bike, hike, run, walk, dance, stretch, do yoga or Pilates, play with kettle bells, Zumba…whatever intrigues you or interests you. If you truly can’t find one thing that does, just find something you can do for 10 or 15 minutes a day at least without hating it, and do that. Do it as an act of making yourself strong and resilient and lasting for the things you’re here to do. Do it as a gift to the world because you are needed.
On that note, also GET OUTSIDE. It’ll get easier as winter melts. Go into nature. BE there, breathe, look at the trees or mountains or sky or water, really feel yourself present in the moment, part of this vast ecosystem. Let the beauty touch you. Notice how nothing that’s happening can take that away from you. (Unless it becomes illegal to walk in the park or go for a hike. I don’t think that can happen…)
When you do get outside, PUT YOUR PHONE AWAY in your pocket except for emergencies or pictures. No social media, no text. Don’t let your nature time get mixed up with your technology time. Take breaks from that stuff as much as possible, in fact. Forget pricy juice cleanses—it’s more important to do media cleanses. Cleanse the mental and spiritual palate so that when you come back to the issues, the problems, the news, reality, you are somewhat refreshed and restored to take it on anew.
REST AND SLEEP. It’s hard with so much going on, and so much to do personally now, as well as perhaps in our communities and in the world. But we’re no good for any of it if we’re not rested. Being exhausted messes with our heads as well as our bodies. Being tired makes hard things harder, and it makes it hard to see clearly—which is something we really need to do right now. As much sleep as you can manage will pay big dividends right now. Naps too. And recovery time. Periodize, just like athletes do. (Remember, you ARE an athlete. In a big Life Event.) You can’t go go go all the time. You need to punctuate sustained effort with backing off. Take breaks. Take vacations. Can’t afford vacations? No problem. Take staycations. I just went and stayed with a friend across town for a week. It helped.
MEDITATE. Of course I could write pages about this or teach for hours or days (I could, and do, on any of these things). But the bottom line is that meditation prepares and trains and changes you in dozens of ways that support all the things were talking about here, all the things we’re up against. In mind, body, and spirit. The research is voluminous. It changes your brain in all kinds of really good ways. It prevents and mitigates all kinds of disease. It restores you mentally, emotionally, psychologically, spiritually and physically. Five to 10 minutes a day is good. If you can do more, great. Find a kind you can do, at least tolerate if not enjoy—like exercise, the best kind is the kind you’ll do. Ten minutes. You’ve got this.
There are OTHER KINDS OF NOURISHMENT too.
A lot of things we don’t think about when we think about nourishing ourselves, things beyond the obvious food and movement and rest and sleep and meditation.
Drink water. A gallon a day. Or so.
Take adaptogenic herbs. You can find them cheaply. These are tonics that help make you more resilient with stress. Tap me to learn more. Or just do a little research. Ones I like/trust most: ashwaghanda, rhodiola, shizandra, eleuthero, holy basil, fo-ti root (ho shou wu), astragalus, and mushrooms like reishi, chaga, shiitake and cordyceps. This article by functional medicine doc Dr Will Cole is a really nice short intro to them. My book Herbal Defense, written with foremost herbalist KP Khalsa, has a whole chapter.
As much as you can afford, use natural products; ditch the chemicals. There’s enough toxicity in the world. Don’t participate. Expose yourself to as little of it as possible. Use soap and water, vinegar and lemon and baking soda. If you can afford to and like to buy more sophisticated ones, get the natural versions of cleaners sold at natural-food stores instead of the artificially-colored, phthalate-ridden synthetic kind from big box stores.
Do the same thing with your health and personal care products as your household products. Check ingredients; I can give you a list of ones to avoid (just contact me), and you can do it pretty easily without spending a lot of money. It’s more about awareness than cost. Most fancy pricy department store creams are full of crap too.
Use aromatherapy and essential oils. Learn a little about which ones are good for the immune system, the nervous system; which ones are calming, inspiring, healing. Get a little diffuser, and keep it misting your space. And yes, if you cannot afford the premium ones, organically produced natural food store ones are better than nothing.
Eat dark chocolate. Really dark. Over 80%. Make it organic, make it low sugar, make it fair trade—don’t contribute to cruelty/slavery. But give yourself this “drug,” at least. As comfort treats go, it’s pretty darn nutritious and good for the brain.
Laugh. Whatever humor works on you, expose yourself to it. Comedians. Movies. Friends. All the better if they help you laugh about serious things and provide insight at the same time. I like Aziz Ansari and Stephen Colbert.
Hug people. Do little kindnesses. Make small donations even if you can’t make big ones.
Cultivate your friendships and relationships, whether with family or pals or colleagues or all of the above—those deepest truest realest ones, the ones you can count on no matter what, who know you and will not let you fall. Not only is friendship nourishing and healthy, but relationships will likely form the foundation of many future solutions in this world. The same is true for communities. Spend real time, whenever possible. But do use technology when face to face is not possible. Skype IS better than nothing.
If a friend seems troubled more than normal or usual, reach out and let them know they’re not alone. (Someone did that for me recently and it made all the difference in the world. With one voice mail.) This is a way we can take care of ourselves as well as each other, and we need to do that more than ever.
Support artists in whatever way you can. They are too often living at the margins economically and yet they offer so much to this world that often isn’t valued and we’re really going to need them. Nourish yourself with music and art and writing—and to the degree you’re able, pay something for it.
Limit alcohol and drugs. Escape in healthier ways. Try to sense that line been restorative pleasure and escape/bypass. (It’s not easy, I know.) When you back off, do it in the most nourishing way possible for body and mind. A litmus is “will the after-effect, once I’ve had it, be positive or negative to my body? Am I adding a plus or a minus?” That’s why I choose a hike over a cocktail.
Stop giving your time or money to anything that does not nourish you, or that you know is toxic to you or others or the planet. If you streamline, if you tighten your belt, don’t let it be for the things above. Instead, let it be for anything you know is causing harm, or even that just isn’t adding value. Get rid of the dead wood. That might be cable service. It might be soda. It might be a relationship.
It is OK to put on your own mask before assisting others. In fact, it’s the only thing that will work. Deplete yourself, and you will not be able to complete your purpose here. Self-care isn’t selfish. It will prepare you and sustain you to care for others. It’s selfish actually to deprive the rest of us of your healthiest best.
These are my thoughts on nourishment and its value in a sometimes scary and confusing time. And it’s the high level on everything I advocate and teach—in one post. This really is in a nutshell my approach to my work and life. It’s almost everything I am passionate about in this area.
I’m happy to share these things and help in every way I can. Part of my work right now is supporting people who need help putting some of this into place so they can get on with it. But I also want to freely give as much of this nourishing perspective as I can.
I am happy if people can do these things for themselves without support. If everyone does things for themselves without support, I have plenty of other things I can do. But I see so many people not doing this stuff—not informed, not inspired, and therefore suffering in some way or another.
So pick your issue, your species, your country, your ecosystem, and get to work. But get your nourishment house in order, so you can really go forward on whatever calls to you.
ONE MORE THING.
I believe is that it is important for us to put self-care and nourishment and healthy living—and all the practices that are included—into its place. Meaning, in my opinion, the whole context I’m talking about above.
It’s time now that healthy practices and self-care become NOT some kind of disconnected, picayune fussing over how our bodies look, or optimizing minutiae that doesn’t ultimately matter. It’s time that we get over all that crap and start taking care of ourselves because of the reasons I’m saying here.
And that we truly focus on strength and energy and resilience and longevity. Not some dumb number like “weight” that means nothing. Not even by how we look.
Because it’s not just about us. It’s about more than us. It’s about where we are needed. Not just for our own little vanities. I encourage everyone to allow bigger reasons and deeper “why” to truly fuel our self-care. I believe that when we do, we are so much more inspired. It won’t be so much a question of “getting people to” do healthy things.
If there are some silver linings and gifts in the threats and darkness of the day, this might be one of them. We need to get over ourselves. There is no more time to screw around with how we look in a pair of tights. If you look great—fun, lovely, nice. Enjoy it. I do. But it cannot be even close to the main reason. If it is, you won’t ultimately be doing (or sustaining) the things that really give you the greater well-being. You likely won’t be doing nourishing things at all. And you won’t be seeing it in a complete way. So you’ll be endlessly going in nearsighted circles.
And we need you for something more than that.
And anyway, in my opinion there is nothing more beautiful than a truly healthy, energetic, actualized person doing their work in the world.
Focus on healthy and for the bigger reasons, and the rest will follow.
These are the reasons I take care of myself. These are the reasons I try to help take care of other people, and help them take care of themselves. These are the reasons I teach, train, speak, and write.
Thanks for listening.
With love and in health,