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Taking care of yourself is essential to living the best life possible. And it's not just about the physical body, but also your inner being, or your soul, if you like. How you feel mentally has a huge impact on how you feel physically. And that's not just something I'm saying. It's been scientifically proven.
Stress in all forms and shapes affects our body. That's something I've experienced personally. I've been fighting a silent battle with PCS (Post Concussion Syndrome) for almost 20 years (you can read all about that in an article I've written). Stress is something I should avoid at all cost, but I haven't always managed to keep it away from my life.
But I've learned a lot over the last decade or so, and I've found techniques that have helped me live a better life in so many ways. Not only with PCS, but I've also gained wisdom that have made me look at life itself in a different way than before.
Like I said at the beginning, health and wellbeing is about more than the physical body, but physical activity does definitly also have an effect on your mental health. They're mutually important. Actually, I don't think you can have one without the other.
One year ago, I often woke up feeling completely exhausted, even after a whole night's sleep. So I tried not to have too many plans for the day, but take things more as they came.
My one determination, though, was to do my Yoga Burn Total Body Challenge routine. I had come across it on the internet, and ordered the program because yoga seemed to be a form of exercise that I would be able to do even though I had some health issues. So I started doing it every second day.
(I wrote an article about this back in May 2019. The article is called Why I Love To Do Yoga As Exercise, Even When I Have Zero Motivation, and is about my experience with The Yoga Burn Total Body Challenge, a great program created by Zoe Bray-Cotton. Please note that the link to the program is my personal affiliate link, so I may earn a small commission if you sign up for the program through my link, but at no extra cost to you, of course.)
In my first week, I found it invigorating and not too hard to commit to, so I actually believed that this was something I was going to stick with. (Unlike any other work-out or exercise routine that I'd tried in the past.)
The Yoga Burn Total Body Challenge is a 12 weeks' program, and I seriously thought I'd be able to see it through. The benefits were obvious: Better over-all physical condition, better health, better ME!
Hopefully, I'd even lose some weight and get a more toned, lean and strong body, which was very high up on my list of short- (and long-) term goals, and still is.
It was something I definitely considered to be a part of my Freedom Journey, because to me, freedom is also feeling free in my body. Feeling comfortable in my own skin. Even though I know my body is quite satisfactory the way it is, I still have a strong desire to lose some weight and get a leaner and stronger body, like the one I used to have before. Simply because the way I am now, doesn't feel like me.
I was always lean and strong in my younger days, even after 2 child-births, - but then 20 years ago I had an accident. I got a head injury which then caused PCS (Post Concussion Syndrome) as I mentioned at the beginning of this article. It set me back physically and got me into a downward spiral with less exercise and gain of weight.
When I slowly started to come back to normal, I decided to try and find some kind of exercise that I could do. It wasn't easy, though.
I tried jogging for a while, and I'd always liked running, so I was very motivated when I soon experienced some positive results. But I did my jogging mainly in the streets, on hard surfaces, and this eventually took a toll on my knees, so I had to stop.
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Then I tried following a work-out program with Jillian Michaels, the "30 Day Shred" program, and I really enjoyed that and quickly saw results. To this day, I actually do parts of that program now and then, but not on a consistent basis.
Then I tried the Yoga Burn Total Body Challenge, which I actually followed for quite a long time ... and then I quit that, too. But mind you: That had nothing to do with the program itself, because to this day I truly believe that it's a great program and that anybody who is able to stick with it, will benefit from it!
Problems with following routines
That's just been the story of my life ever since I gained weight. I've had a tendency to fall back into old habits after a few weeks and haven't been able to stick to any program long-term. As much as I enjoy them - and I do, really! - I just can't seem to stick with them.
This has frustrated me immensly and has made me mad at myself more often than I care to think about. Why the heck has it been so hard for me to follow through?
I've been thinking about this a lot, and my conclusion is that I'm just the kind of person who doesn't like to follow routines. I need variation, and I need exercising to not feel like an obligation or some extra task that I have to fit into my schedule. I need it to come naturally.
That's why the solution for me has been to not follow one specific program or routine, but go back to the lifestyle I had when I was in my twenties, which was the French lifestyle.
I've always been a Francophile, and when I was in my teens and early twenties, I was highly influenced by my French friend, whom I met when I was 14 years old. After watching her and her mom and the way they lived, and also visiting France and really get a first-hand experience with the French lifestyle, - I started following the same routines when I came back home. (I've written an article about this before: Why I swear by the French lifestyle.)
Just to recap a little: Back then, I was physically active all the time, without even thinking about it. I had fun with friends. I ate everything I wanted to without putting on weight. I enjoyed food. I walked a lot, played with my young nieces and nephews, played badminton with family and friends in the summer, and I went everywhere on my bike, because I didn't have a car (or even a driving licence) at the time.
I was lean, strong and fit. Life was more or less stress-free. I had no heavy responsibilities in my life. Well, I had my concerns, but they were mostly manageable. I had a good life, most of the time.
But then things started to happen, and everything changed, slowly but surely. I eventually found myself in a situation where keeping up my former lifestyle became more and more difficult. So much so that over the years, I slowly fell into habits that were not at all healthy for me, and it became more and more difficult to turn things around.
I've written at length about that in earlier articles, so I won't repeat any of that here. Let me just say that after a few decades where I've been struggling with PCS (Post Concussion Syndrome) and PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), which lead to less physical activity and resulted in me putting on weight and slowly experiencing more and more health issues because of that, - well, it's fair to say that I've learned a lot about the connection between mental and physical health.
Well, I've known for many years now that I had to reverse this situation, and I've tried so many things in order to do just that, - like some of the activities I've mentioned above. But the results have not been significant enough to really change my life for the better. I mean: The results haven't been visible. At least not as visible as I'd like them to be. Mainly because I haven't been able to stick with the routines.
That's why I've returned to the French lifestyle, and now, very slowly, I'm beginning to see results. I've lost a few pounds and a few inches around my waist, and - best of all: I'm feeling less stressed out.
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So what have I done?
# 1) I've gone back to incorporating exercise into my daily routines, rather than making it an extra task that I have to do, which (as mentioned above) I've never been able to stick to for more than a few weeks at the most.
# 2) I do follow some of the programs I mentioned now and then, because I really love them, and they're perfect for the kind of variation I need in my life to keep things from getting boring, - but I no longer beat myself up about not being able to stick with one program over many weeks.
# 3) I've started to enjoy my meals more, to sit down and eat and not just grab a bite "on the go".
# 4) I eat smaller portions and stop when I'm full, instead of over-eating.
# 5) I try to get enough sleep.
# 6) I drink more water.
# 7) I make sure that I take time to do things that I enjoy, like reading,
watching a movie, spend quality time with family and friends.
# 8) I listen to motivational podcasts, talk nicely to myself and remind myself that I'm good enough just the way I am.
# 9) I take time to think about the things I'm grateful for in my life.
# 10) I try to savor each moment and not constantly rush to some new thing on my "to do" list.
# 11) In fact, I try not to have a long "to do list"! Just a few things each day that I want to get done.
# 12) I have (more or less) stopped being a people-pleaser and have started
making ME a priority.
# 13) I have started to declutter my life, physically and mentally, and make more room for the things I really want.
Less attachement to things.
Less house-work and constant tidying up, which means less on my "to do" list.
More purpose to my days.
Visible (positive) changes to my body (mostly to myself so far, but I know others will notice them, too, in a little while).
The list goes on.
This has been transformational for me in so many ways.
That's why I'm on a mission to share my experiences with the French lifestyle with as many women as possible.
That's why I want to impress on you the importance of taking care of yourself first, before taking care of everyone else.
Taking care of your health is so important. And your mental health is actually the most important thing, because it will have a direct influence on your physical health as well.
So tell yourself that you are enough.
Tell yourself that you are just as important as anybody else in your life, and that you need to put YOU time on your schedule and not just make everybody else's "needs" a priority.
Tell yourself that your dreams are important.
Tell yourself that there is nothing you can't do, be or have.
Tell yourself that there's nothing you have to do. You have a choice, every single minute of every day. Do what's important to you, right there and then.
And do things that make you happy. Every single day.