What is health?
These days, there are so many people who think they know the best way to be healthy. Whether it’s a fitness routine, a way of eating, taking supplements, a way of looking at the world—you name it. There are always people telling you that they have the answer to all that has been troubling you, no matter the cause or manifestation. And while I love the increased awareness of physical and mental health we are experiencing through social media and other venues, I think it is important to realize that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to health. Not everyone has the same goals or conceptualization of what healthy looks like for them. Your version of healthy is likely drastically different than mine, and that’s completely fine.
I can’t tell you how many times people have asked my advice on how to look like me or be like me. While that can often be incredibly flattering, it’s also a bit concerning. I am always happy to be an inspiration for a healthy lifestyle and way of life, but we are all different. It might not be the best thing to do to try to live your life like me. While what you see most of the time may look healthy and happy, I have bad days just like everyone else. I also have my own struggles and have tried different methodologies of fitness, nutrition, and leisure activities to figure out what works best for me. That trial and error is critical for every person to experience for themselves. We are all different, with different goals, life experiences and abilities. Those differences are important in determining our own individual version of health. In addition, what I do today to achieve my personal version of healthy will probably not be the last combination of behaviors I choose to create my version of a healthy life.
At this time, my version of healthy means taking care of my physical and mental health in various ways. It means taking a day to myself when I am overwhelmed. It also means never skipping more than two days of exercise in a row. It means pushing my limits on social interaction in order to grow. It means challenging my fears, like speaking in front of audiences and answering questions in class, when I work up the courage. It means knowing that one meal out of my regular diet plan is not the end of the world. And above all, it means recognizing and paying attention to what I need each day and moment within those days.
Most of you know that working out has become my main way of managing stress. I know that even when I am busy, taking an hour out of my day to just think about my physical health and goals can make all the difference in terms of my productivity and overall stress levels. Through trial and error, I have noticed that if I take more than two days off in a row from exercising, I am more likely to fall into a slump. So I schedule my rest days appropriately, and keep track. I do decide to take more than 2 days off from working out, and I can truly tell a difference. The hardest part is then getting back into my regular routine, but I do it. Is this what I recommend for everyone? Absolutely not. Everyone has different thresholds of what is good for them, and it can vary at different times in their life. I am fortunate to have experimented enough to find what works for me.
So what does taking a day to myself when I am overwhelmed look like? If you have never been around me when I am feeling overwhelmed, you might think I’m someone who never has a bad day. If you have experienced it, my apologies, because I know it can be a lot to handle. Just like everyone else, I have my bad days. There are days when I can tell that working hard on a project is just not going to be productive, and I need to reset my mind. On these days, it’s important for me to schedule a workout. That;s the beginning of my re-set process. The rest of the day focuses on trying to relax, which can be harder than it sounds. If I am having a hard time relaxing, it can mean getting a massage, manicure or pedicure. It also likely includes doing home face masks and watching my favorite chick flick, or two. The goal of taking a day is to do activities that re-set my mind and body. Again, this looks different for everyone, so finding out what works for you is important.
Everyone and every single day is different. Being aware of our individual health goals—both physical and mental–should drive the decisions we make. Constantly obsessing about being healthy or the world’s view of healthy can be counterproductive to actual health. So how do we as individuals figure out what is best for us and what we need? By taking note of what we need, figuring out how best for us to reach these goals, doing what we need to do, and experimenting with what is best through trial and error.
Here’s a challenge to get you started. What are you going to focus on today? What part of your health is important to work on in this moment? Are there changes you need to make? How are you going to make those changes?
Here’s to your health!