If you’re anything like me, you’ve likely found the past couple of years to be challenging to both your physical and emotional self. Let’s go back to the beginning of 2020. At that time, I was still living and teaching abroad in Colombia. I started the year 2020 with lofty goals for my health and fitness. By the end of January, I was doing CrossFit workouts 3-4 times per week and had started a very gradual running training plan with the plan of running a marathon in Medellin that September and was running 20-25 miles per week. I felt strong, confident, and motivated.
Flash forward to March. The whole country shut down with the arrival of COVID-19 and we were stuck indoors on strict lockdown and all of those fitness goals were thrown out the window. In addition, the feeling of uncertainty about the world, what would happen next, what we could and couldn’t do moving forward, when I could travel home to see my family, especially my sick mother, all contributed to immense mental health challenges, especially anxiety. I was drinking more often than I should, I wasn’t sleeping well, and my body was noticing the changes.
At the end of 2020, I was finally able to make it home to visit my family for about 6 weeks when my mother nearly died due to an increase in cancer cells that were attacking her digestive organs. I had feelings of guilt for not being closer and made the swift decision to move back to the U.S. after the 2020-2021 school year. My mom’s health thankfully improved after my visit and I was looking forward to being able to spend time with her when I moved closer, even though my heart was breaking at the idea of leaving a city, country, job, and friends I loved in Colombia.
In the summer of 2021, I moved back to the U.S. and really struggled with the transition to living in the United Sates and teaching in its public school system again. The huge shift in cost of living and lifestyle affordability, the pressure and stress put on teachers’ shoulders, and the stress of knowing my mother was dying was almost unbearable. I felt I had made a terrible mistake in leaving Colombia but I had already picked up my entire life, moved myself, my dog, and most of my belongings, and made a huge financial investment in refurnishing a home for myself. Going back to Colombia didn’t make sense anymore to me. But I was unhappy. Deeply unhappy.
I did my best to take care of myself despite all of these challenges and my physical health went up and down throughout this difficult time. In April of 2022, my mother passed away and, as a result, I felt I completely lost touch with myself emotionally and physically. I gained 15 pounds during that time, was unhappy, unhealthy, unmotivated, and just felt like I was going through the motions of life. It wasn’t until late 2022 that I feel that I truly started to find myself again.
I’ve decided to prioritize myself going forward, while at the same time showing myself the necessary grace as I continue to navigate grief and uncertainty about what’s in store for me in the coming months and years.
Since December, I’ve made some huge lifestyle and wellness shifts that are proving to have immense benefits to my overall health; I’ve already noticed some major changes in my body composition, I’ve improved my sleep quality, my skin is clearer, and my overall mood and energy has improved. I’ve gone on a wellness learning journey and have started a holistic wellness coaching and nutritionist certificate program, which teaches me more every day and empowers me to want to help others find improved health and healing like I have. I’m not too sure yet where this journey will take me, but I’m hoping you’ll join me.
The following tips are the changes I’ve taken on for myself and I hope you’ll find them helpful as well.
- Prioritize yourself. That means not prioritizing your job or others over yourself. The bottom line is, you can’t care for others or perform at work if you’re not first taking care of yourself. Now, prioritizing yourself can look like a lot of different things. It can be making sure you take time to cook healthy meals for yourself and your family, it can mean you take time to exercise, go for a walk, or just have some self care time where you take a bubble bath, put on a face mask, paint your nails, and just give your body and soul a little “me time,” even if it’s just for a few minutes.
- Get out of bed first thing in the morning. Whether that’s just getting out of bed when the alarm goes off, starting a new workout routine, doing some gentle stretching, it doesn’t matter. Trust me that it’ll help wake you up, it’ll improve your mood, and you’ll feel better all day as a result.
- Nourish your body. Prioritize eating healthy, colorful, whole foods. Avoid eating processed foods, refined sugars, and preservatives. Make most of your food from scratch and be conscious of the ingredients you’re putting into your body. Avoid eating saturated fats (keep it to 10% or less of daily caloric intake), don’t smoke, and avoid or limit alcohol consumption.
- Get outside daily. Breathing in fresh air and taking in sunlight daily is necessary for your overall health, inside and out. *Add info about Vitamin D and how it’s beneficial to body and mind.
- Get enough sleep. Getting at least 7 hours of sleep is life changing. It helps you function at your full capacity each day. Prioritize this.
- Maintain healthy interpersonal connections. Interact regularly with people who you care about and who care about you. Everyone needs to maintain a sense of connection and community in order to live a healthful, fulfilled life.
- Keep your mind and spirit calm and healthy. Try out practices such as meditation, yoga, prayer, exercise, or dance.
- Create goals for yourself and check in with them regularly. Be sure to write them down and tell others about them, which will help you with accountability. Goals can be health and fitness related (i.e. getting in 10,000 or more steps per day, making recipes from scratch several times a week, etc.), positive habit forming (i.e. journaling once a day or taking time to stretch each day), or related to a passion or interest (i.e. spending time each day to practice playing an instrument, learning a language, etc.).
- Practice positive self talk. You can achieve what you believe. Telling yourself “I can do this” will make you much more likely to actually follow through and accomplish your goals; you’ll feel better about yourself and have a better sense of well-being. These positive self thoughts promote healing and contribute to healing. Believe that everything can and will get better, even if you’re going through a challenging time.
- Take time for self reflection. This can look like journaling time, alone time in nature where you have time to reflect, therapy, or reflecting while practicing a creative hobby or interest.
Let me know what you think about these tips and subscribe to my page for more health and wellness-related posts and recipes!