The dos and don'ts of self-care

The Dos and Don’ts of Self-Care and Fitness

by Shelia Olson

If you’re a fitness junkie, you relate to the high that comes from a long run or finally being able to lift heavier weights. Plenty of studies have shown how good exercise is for emotional health. However, fitness isn’t the whole package of self-care. Taking care of yourself with fitness includes recovery before, during and after your workout. Here’s what you can be doing with your fitness routine to get stronger emotionally and physically.

Do get enough sleep

According to the American Psychological Association, more sleep makes you happier. Not only that, it helps you recover better from workouts.

Easier said than done, right? If sleep evades you, try some relaxation methods before bed. Make sure you have quality pillows and sleep in a dark room. Utilize white noise machines to block out disruptive sounds. Practice breathing patterns that relax you.

Don’t overtrain

In addition to sleeping more, it’s important that you don’t obsessively exercise to the point of overtraining yourself. If the intensity of your exercise exceeds how much you recover in response, you’re likely overtraining. Some symptoms of overtraining include irritability, insomnia, persistent muscle soreness, and increased incidents of injuries.

Make sure you rest or reduce the intensity of your workout. Get your vitamins from real foods and not just supplements. Try to split up your training so you work on different sets of muscles each day.

Do eat fruits and veggies

According to Live Science, people who switched from eating almost no fruits and vegetables to eating around eight fruits and vegetables daily experienced an increase in life satisfaction. In fact, the life satisfaction was similar to how an unemployed person feels when finding a job. Try to add more fruits and vegetables into your life. Start with produce you already enjoy eating and move on from there.

Don’t deprive yourself of food you love

Sometimes in a quest for health and weight loss, people will often cut out the unhealthy (and tragically delicious) foods they label as “bad.” Conventional dieting—that is, restrictive dieting that often requires you to cut out food groups such as carbohydrates—does not work in the long run. If you find yourself jumping from fad diet to fad diet, it’s better to eat more healthy food and eat your desserts in moderation.

Do reduce the stress in your life

Identify sources of stress in your life. Is it possible to eliminate any of those things? Reduce your commitments. You may feel a need to prove yourself by saying “yes” to every task that’s thrown your way, but learn how to set boundaries and work at a healthy capacity. Dedicate a private, quiet room in your house for yoga and meditation. By doing activities that slow your breathing and allow you to focus your attentions, you give yourself the chance to manage everyday stresses that can add up. Yoga is moving meditation that also works the body, which can further lower your stress levels.

Don’t neglect your loved ones

Spend time with people you care about. Hug them and show them affection. Do little acts of service for them, whether it’s being a good listener or opening up a part of yourself to them. Being with people we love can reduce excessive stress and positively impact our emotional health.

Do be patient with yourself

If you’re exercising but not seeing the results you’d like, take a deep breath and remind yourself wellness is a long-term process. It can be hard when you read stories about people who lost a lot of weight over a short period of time, or to see other people experience a hectic lifestyle without any negative repercussions.

Instead, pay attention to the progress you’ve already made. Recognize how far you’ve come. It’s okay to take breaks. If you’re skipping too many workouts, reduce the intensity or change your workout. Keep exercising, but take care of yourself, too. It all balances out with your physical and emotional health.

Sheila Olson has been a personal trainer for five years. She believes the best way to achieve physical fitness and good health is to set and tackle small goals. She encourages her clients to stay positive and incorporates mindfulness and practices for reducing negative talk into her sessions. She created FitSheila.com to spread the word about her fitness philosophy.