Self-care series: As we enter the season of giving and a time of year when many people struggle not only with getting enough exercise, but also with keeping up with self-care, let’s take a deeper dive into how to make exercise a form of self-care. To do that, we need to look at self-care from all aspects of your ‘self’—mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual and how to design exercise as a way to recharge your whole person, so you can be well now.
Tina was ready to give up on any efforts to lose weight. She had been doing everything she should, but her weight didn’t budge. When she came to me, I asked her why she wanted to lose weight and she told me she was diagnosed with pre-diabetes and it scared her. She wanted to lose weight to be healthy and well, but she was ready to throw in the towel. She desperately needed energy and motivation to exercise.
What ultimately motivates us to do something or avoid it comes from the interplay of the four parts of our internal ‘self’. How something makes you feel mentally, physically, and emotionally are all clues about what is important to you. When you are highly motivated, all these parts of you are energized. When you are not motivated, all these parts of you feel a bit sluggish. What creates that energy?
At the heart of your motives, or the energy that moves you to take action, is your spiritual self. Whether you have a spiritual practice or not, you have a spirit that informs you about what is most important, at your core (literally and figuratively). The simplified word for this is your Why. Simon Sinek highlights how important it is for people and companies to know their Why. Let’s consider what happens when we apply it to exercise for health and well-being.
When the energy from your Why is missing, exercise feels like a should’: weighted, sluggish, with that ‘drag your feet and roll your eyes’ kind of motivation. When exercise is clearly connected to what is most important to you—your Why—you feel energized, it’s exciting, with that ‘yes! I really want that!’ kind of motivation. For exercise to be a form of self-care, it needs to tap into this part of you that is your natural energy source.
When Tina and I chatted more about what it meant to be healthy and well, her whole appearance changed. She described how she used to love to sing and act in local theatre productions, but she got away from that when her career took off. As important as it was to avoid diabetes, exercising solely for that reason felt like a should, and it was adding to her stress. When we redefined being healthy and well as having the ability to do the things she loved again, like acting, everything shifted. Her spirits lifted, her mood lightened and her energy soared. Suddenly, exercising for her Why gave her energy to take care of her whole person.
Bottom line: ‘Should’ leads to stress, Why leads to well. When any part of exercise feels like a ‘should’, it’s a huge warning sign that it is disconnected from your spiritual well-being and thus will not feel like self-care. When you know how exercising is connected to your Why, even the thought of exercise gives you that tingle of excitement and energy and you are on your way to using exercise as a source of self-care.
PS: the WELL part of Exercising WELL is an acronym for a four step method we use to take your Why and put it into action. Stay tuned! Enrollment will be opening at the end of December so you can start your year off by tapping into the energy of your Why by Exercising WELL.