4 Self-Care Habits to Boost Your Fitness and Your Mental Health
Let’s be real, for a majority of it can be quite challenging to make space in life for a consistent and progressive training load and volume, while juggling many of the daily tasks such as growing our careers, taking care of family, demands of relationships, etc. To truly encourage the growth of our body, whether it be physical performance, aesthetic, function, or all of the above, we need to take care of our mind and monitor our ability to adapt to stress. These are four habits you can utilize if you want to feel, perform, and be your very best.
Eat Your Micronutrients
Healthy eating is the key to feeling better on a daily basis. “We feel today what we ate yesterday” holds true to the function of one very specific system that is responsible for much of how we feel, act, and react to certain situations. The area responsible for such potential mayhem, or the shining act of grace and public servitude is that of the enteric nervous system. The enteric nervous system is a part of our autonomic nervous system, a set of mesh-like neurons that line the Gastrointestinal tract. This “second brain” influences much of how to go about our day to day activities, energy levels, recovery, and even sleep or sexual performance. What is often overlooked is that the quality of the food you eat and where it is sourced matters just as much, if not, even more, than it’s respective macronutrient profile.
Eating a variety of fresh, and locally sourced foods ensures you get not just the macronutrients you need but also the micronutrients. Micronutrients. are what keep your body operating at peak performance by allowing many of the body’s complex chemical processes to occur in order to function most efficiently. They are vital to a strong mind and to support your mental health. If you’re opting for packaged, processed foods over fresh food, you might not be getting the micronutrients you need, impeding the function of metabolic processes for the brain, gut, digestive tract and even the ability to recover properly from your last physical exertion.
If you tend to eat for convenience over health, find ways to simplify a highly nutritious diet. Planning ahead for meals, and having a low time cost go-to’s snacks or meals can be just as effective for those of you who find yourself at the foot of convenience often.
Hit the Hay for the Requisite Requirement per day
You wake up at the crack of dawn to hit the gym before work, but are you going to bed early to account for your early rise? An inability to allow the brain to go through its necessary R.E.M sleep (Rapid Eye Movement), you could be doing more harm to the ability to perform at work, in the gym, and to process and express information than you may think.
Poor sleep affects your ability to absorb new information, remember stored information, regulate your emotions, and exercise self-control. Brash decisions are more likely evident, and it can even be a leading reason as to why you haven’t been able to break your plateau or achieve much weight loss. While sleep needs often vary from person to person, most adults should be getting between seven and nine hours per night. It is important to note that not all sleep is equal. Interrupted sleep is quite prevalent in our age of information, and can keep our mind racing at 1,000 mph.
You can increase the quality of your hours by creating an evening routine, reading, meditating, as well as minimizing screen time and exposure to blue light. Turning your phone on airplane mode and unplugging your wifi router may help as well, as the high-frequency EMF’s (electromagnetic frequencies) operate at a very high Hertz level, that may potentially make it difficult for the brain waves to get into Delta Stage (Deep sleep).
Relax Your Muscles
You give your muscles a beating at the gym. If you don’t take time to relax them, tension may build to the point that you start experiencing muscular guarding and loss of mobility. Lucky for you, muscle relaxation often feels great, and the benefits may be reaped immediately, so it is quite simple to find the motivation to do so.
Professional massages are one way to release muscle tension, but you don’t have to shell out $80 every time you want to release. Foam rollers, self-massagers, and hot soaks in the tub are just a few ways you can relieve sore muscles. When your tension is arising from stress rather than a hard workout, myofascial release can be a great way to alleviate stress from building in a specific area. Not only will you loosen up physically, but it will also translate to a greater sense of ease within your mind. My personal favorite are utilizing the vibration devices, the Hypervolt and the Vyper 2.0
These devices provide a firm base plus vibration technology to create more local circulation, as well as to bypass our Golgi tendon organ (GTI) to help reduce the tonicity of muscles.
Watch Your Stress
A heart-pumping workout is a great way to relieve stress, but sometimes it’s not enough. In fact, sometimes your gym routine can be the source of your stress. If your fitness regimen is getting in the way of your enjoyment of life, you could have an exercise addiction. Read the signs at Men’s Journal. Health takes a different approach, and just because you are physically fit, does not necessarily equate to being “Healthy”.
If your gym routine is healthy but other things have you stressed, it may be worthwhile to explore various mechanisms to help keep your stress manageable. While we are all inevitably going to experience the stress of life, what makes one person less likely to collapse inwardly is their ability to adapt to it and use the energy in a new way, rather than expend it for minimal use. The Return on Energy with healthy and positive outcomes or reactions to stress can be one of the many such as, breathing techniques, having a relationship with the outdoors and nature, spending time alone to reflect or having a friend/ associate to converse with, practicing myofascial release, finding a new hobby, reading, etc. Veer clear of unhealthy coping mechanisms like drinking, or excessive smoking. While it may feel good at the moment, it’s not good for the long term and can short circuit our discipline and vision to crash.
If you’re reading this and still thinking that self-care sounds silly, consider this: It’s impossible to sustain a high level of performance if you’re not caring for all elements of you. Even if your mental health is solid today, life can change at any moment. The healthiest people in the world, the zip codes with the most active number of Centurians, are found in the “Blue Zones“. All share very similar qualities when it comes to their approach at this game of life. With positive self-care habits in place, you’ll be able to stay the course and maintain a healthy body and mind no matter what life throws at you.
Contributions by Brad Krause