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5 Simple Yet Powerful Ways to Take Care of Your Body

Stretching

“Your body is precious. It is our vehicle for awakening. Treat it with care.” ~Buddha

Our bodies are not indestructible, and there is only so far we can push them before they start to fail. I should know.

Roughly three years have passed since my body became unwell, for whatever reasons. Despite suffering from extreme exhaustion and constant joint and muscle pains, like those you get when you have the flu, I’ve only just started to listen.

I guess the reason it’s taken me so long to do this is because I’m still holding onto the life I had before my usual activities began putting me in bed for days at a time. (I finished my degree at university and then went on to another part-time course for two years, while holding down two part-time jobs and running a student newspaper.)

After a year, I swapped being an editor for being a teacher and took up my teaching qualification. Amidst all of that, I moved onto a wreck of a boat, was without a bedroom for around four months, suffered a bereavement, and struggled to skim the edges of a mental breakdown as my depression reached critical mass.

My mental health has always been open to interpretation and discussion, but in my many years of happy insanity, my physical health has never suffered like it does now.

I’ve spent nearly a year improving my mental health by changing my attitudes, being more mindful, and practicing compassion and happiness. These things are ongoing, but I’ve given very little time to my body in the process.

When we’re stressed, we take time out to breathe and think happy thoughts, but what do we do for our bodies? Maybe we sometimes forget about that part. I know I do. So what can we do for our bodies alone when things are getting tough?

1. Take time for exercise.

I have to admit that I’m not a huge fan of this one because physical activity actually compounds the problems I experience with my body. But occasionally, when my joints aren’t screaming, I make sure that I keep my limbs limber by going for a gentle walk.

I’m slowly working my way towards practicing some basic yoga, too, but I’m having to take my time with that ambition.

This is the point of exercising your body–only do what your body can manage if you’re struggling, as there’s no point in making things harder. Even a little activity can have a huge impact.

2. Make sleep a priority.

If you’re tired, even if you feel that you need to get more done, give yourself permission to sleep. I ignored this simple notion for nearly a year when I first started feeling unwell. Now that I embrace it, my body thanks me for it. (You can read 9 tips to get better sleep here).

Admittedly, my condition keeps rest and sleep from being as refreshing as they might be for other people, but it still makes a difference. It stops me from doing further damage.

3. Eat well and savor it.

We’re encouraged to be increasingly mindful of what we eat nowadays, and for good reason considering the state of the food we consume. I’d like to encourage you, however, to turn your attention inward for a moment and think about eating as more than a bland necessity or ethical conundrum. Food is fuel, and we need it to function optimally

Eating well means feeding your body what it needs, in the most natural way you can manage and afford. Changing how you eat doesn’t need to be an all-or-nothing thing. Maybe you could add just an extra bit of fruit a day or swap a cup of coffee for a glass of water instead.

Relish the food you eat too, and take your time. Paying attention to flavors, textures, and smells, even the mechanical act of eating can soothe our bodies and reawaken us to the sensations of being alive. How long has it been since you’ve recognized your body like this?

4. Listen to pain.

When something hurts, something somewhere has gone wrong, and your body is trying to tell you that. We often pay no attention to pain unless it becomes unbearable: that tooth ache isn’t so bad, it can wait for a while; the sharp tugging in my shoulder is a result of repetitive strain but it usually goes by the time I’m home, so no need to worry.

These things, no matter how small, shouldn’t be brushed aside because they represent damage to our bodies. Ignore them and they could come back to haunt you later.

5. Slow down.

Because I’m still clinging on to the self that existed before I was feeling so rubbish, I tend to think I’m untouchable. I end up taking on way too much and then running around like a maniac. I can probably manage about two days of this sort of activity before I collapse and end up in bed.

If you’re likely to do the same as me, then I won’t be surprised if you scoff at the suggestion that you slow down. We all have so much to do and so little time to do it in and you want me to slow down? Who has time for that?

Rephrase the question: who doesn’t have time for that? The answer: our bodies.

If we squeeze every second out of our day at record speed, our flesh, bones, muscles, organs—the whole lot—will eventually suffer.

Since accepting my physical condition, I’ve become a slow life advocate. I have to live slowly for the sake of my body, and you know what? I quite like it!

I like that I only ever sit and write for two, maybe three hours tops, for a day. I like that I take whole days off to give my body time to recover.

Our bodies are precious, so why do we neglect them on such basic levels so often? A serene mind really is nothing without a healthy body to carry it. So take an hour—yes an hour!—out of your day a few times a week to care for it. Sleep, eat, rest, get a massage. Wind things down. Pay attention.

Show your body the same compassion that you endeavor to show everyone. It needs it just as much.

Photo by Mark Donoher

Avatar of Sam Russell

About Sam Russell

Sam Russell is a young writer from the southeastern corner of the UK. He’s a cynic by nature trying to prove that cynics can be happy and positive, too. Visit his blog at http://cackhanded.wordpress.com/.

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  • donna

    beautifully written reminder that we neednt be so~ HARD ON OURSELVES, the old “no pain no gain ” mentality, is DEAD and along with it, countless subscribers to that very philosophy. Take heed friends…this is truth!

  • http://twitter.com/chutes2narrow88 Samantha N

    wonderful article. taking care of oneself is so important. I sometimes admire my friends who seem to only need 3 or 4 hours of sleep but I just don’t feel healthy or rested unless I get at least 8. I know I need to listen to my body!

  • http://thinkbirth.blogspot.com Thinkbirth

    An excellent post Sam and timely reminder for all of us. The slow down message is very very important. Most of us are trying to cram far too much into our day and night. I liked your comment about slowing down regarding ‘who doesn’t have time for this…. our bodies’ – so very true.

  • Pingback: 5 Simple Yet Powerful Ways to Take Care of Your Body | tinybuddha.com Body On Me

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    no pain, no gain! If that statement were true donna, I’d be very very wealthy indeed, in all aspects of life, mind and body, as would countless other people around the world!

    Thank you for reading

    Kudos

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    I’ve been taking a leaf out of my cat’s book: wake up, eat, roam for five minutes, sleep for around 10 hours, wake up, stare out the window, eat, sleep until morning.

    Now that’s a simple life!

    Thank you for taking a read :)

    Kudos

  • http://twitter.com/Sam_Russell_ Sam Russell

    3-4 hours! Sure that’s not enough? 8 sounds much better ;)

    Although I have heard the optimal is around 4-6 hours? Personally I reckon the optimal time is from when my eyes shut until they open again!

    Listen deeply :)

    Kudos

  • http://www.foodhealthlife.org Thea

    wonderful insightful thought! glad i found your site!

  • http://twitter.com/AlannahRose AlannahRose

    In the past, in times of great stress I have tended to let self-care be the thing I let go of first. This year for the first time I can ever remember, I have made absolutely sure I am taking care of myself even when it’s the last thing I want to think about. Coincidentally, I also had some medical issues this year that weren’t life-threatening but really made me think about my overall health. I tend to be the type of person who, when things get rough, totally loses my appetite and stops sleeping so I really have to focus on making sure I eat and get enough rest. I can function on 4-5 hours of sleep a night so it’s hard to get it through my head that I need more than that to live a healthy life.

    I am definitely taking these tips to heart… it never hurts to be reminded to look after my health and also insure that I don’t create even more stress and hardship for myself in the long run. Thanks for the great article!

  • Deartrot

    I need to take this more to heart as many of us should! Don’t run from what our bodies need and tell us!

  • Lulu

    good article sam – also remember that if we dont take care of ourselves nobody else is going to do it

  • Bex

    Great article Sam! I think its so interesting that when we are stressed, looking after ourselves seems to be the first thing to go to the bottom of our priority list when really it should be at the top. I started a new job last year which has been very stressful and for the first time was experiencing a real physical fall-out as a result, not sleeping, racing heart, stomach problems, etc etc… and yet still didn’t really take proper care of self. It is only in run up to wedding later this month that I’ve actually relaxed- I’m more busy than ever, but I’m so aware of not being sick on the day I’ve started to get to bed early, eat properly, take time out, etc, and its made such a difference. Ironically what should be an uber stressful time feels quite chilled. I definitely agree with your observation on taking a leaf out of our cat’s book- listen to your body, sleep sleep sleep and stare out of the window, eat bugs (ok not the last one). Here’s to taking the time for ourselves. :-)

  • Kate M

    People confuse “need 3 or 4 hours of sleep” with “am capable of surviving on 3 or 4 hours of sleep”. I can function on that little. Barely but I’m reasonably coherent. Most of the time. I’m also not my best, capable of making incredibly stupid decisions because I miss a detail etc.

    There’s a difference between bare minimum function and being my best. The difference is about 4 hours of sleep.

  • http://www.notesfromthegardenspot.blogspot.com Jessica

    Thanks for sharing with us. I’ve been learning to live with autoimmune/inflammatory issues over the past few years, and like you I ignored things for a long time. A little achy? No big deal – I could move through it. Feverish and exhausted? Why go home and nap? – That would be admitting weakness and defeat.

    I’ve learned since then that those behaviors just complicate my symptoms, so i’m learning to do much like you do – the cat’s life. Sleep. Wake. Nibble. Do a little. Nap. Eat a little. Socialize with significant other. Eat dinner. Sleep again. It’s working so far, just a matter of adjusting the balance each day according to my needs and capabilities. :)

  • Anonymous

    i’ve been through a fair share over the past 3 years.  growing up, i was fortunate not to live through any real “problems”.  though my father passed away when i was 5, my mother did an incredible job, raising us with all the love, comforts and support.  never do i remember her struggling to be positive or feeling sorry for her situation.  but, after a life time of ease, grown up life kicked in.  i got into a bad marriage.  it was riddled with catty fighting over material matters (more gucci), aligning relations with friends and family (even my mother) and finally the cherry…lost my executive job 5 months after buying a brand new half million dollar mortgage and the birth of our new two week year old baby.  i’ll never forget the pain of that cold february day, driving home after being walked out of the office – didn’t ever see it coming – i was the youngest vp and an up-and-coming star!  crash.  my wife at the time faught long and hard to get me to leave my hometown and move the middle east.  she said “they’ll roll the red carpet for your out there”.  i was very hesistant, i didn’t like the idea of living in that part of the world, even though i had long romantized about life overseas. so after mounting pressure, we packed our bags and moved.  in many ways, i saw the move as a change to start fresh.  leave the arguments of the past and start a life with our new kid, in a new environment.  i knew the risks, but agreed to take it on.  but that new page didn’t turn out as expected.  i got he winning job, but the aggression and disrespect by my wife just got worse.  so, begings the hardship. i made the decision to leave her.  i was now in a new world, with out my son and working in a country on the brink of what now has been called the arab uprising.  i have thought long during the past few months about leaving again, but what would that mean for my son?  is it really time to uproot again?  in many ways i feel that my time, or what i was intended to learn has yet to be recongized.  i know that my “job” isn’t what i need.  i’ve been running corporate business for close to 10 years now, but what after a life of chasing monthly quarterly and annual targets.  what have i really accomplished?  am i brave enough to make the life decision to move into my passion?  i’ve read a lot lately (some of which has been article right here, to lift my spirit and provide focus).  in living through these pains, i’ve found that the only way to reach any sort of self-actualization is to ensure balance and clear focus on different levels – health (active living to ensure that you remain confident and release the good hormones), mind – (actively controling the weeds in your mind that uproot your nerves), heart (actively engaging in meaningful interactions with people that you care about) and finally spirtuality (trusting that there is something bigger at work that you can’t always put your figure on).  I’ve given up on the pursuit of happiness, but remain committed to finding meaning and purpose in everything that i do.  the struggle is part of the journey…

  • ella

    Thats good!!!!!!!!!

  • Dhanusha

    THIS IS GOOD WHILE READING BUT WE SHOULD FOLLOW THIS AND BE GOOD

  • kadi

    its a good study

  • kadi

    hi samantha

  • samz

    take care your health if you want to live more longer

  • http://www.alexfurukawa.com/ Alex

    Thank you thank you thank you for this!! I found this article by searching for “the best way for taking care of your body,” and it was the first result. :) As a young person lucky enough to be mostly healthy, I often take my health for granted. (This means I often eat terrible food!) Your advice is wise and very down-to-earth. So glad I found you!

  • ChicagoChick

    “Sam russell” really wouldn’t have coils in his hair like your avatar. fyi

  • Prince Joben Monicit Micosa

    hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah

  • http://www.checklistmag.com/ Smart Checklist e-Mag

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