Self care series: Exercising for emotional well-being

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. 

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If someone sent you a message that said, “I need to tell you something important”, what would you do? Well, if it was from a business trying to get you to buy something, chances are you would ignore it. If it were a trusted friend, you would contact them right away.  

Emotional well-being is not about feeling great all the time, it’s about listening to your emotions because you know they are important messages about your well-being.  

If you think about eating a lemon, your mouth will probably start to water. If you think of being in your happy place, your body will probably relax. This is because thoughts are immediately felt in our body. Sometimes it is subtle, sometimes it is overwhelming, but what you think is always felt in your body.  

This happens through is a vast network of superhighways that run from your brain to every corner of your body through nerve cells. They are continually sharing information back and forth about the state of your well-being. Brain to body, body back to the brain, faster than you can blink. They communicate the degree to which you are are safe, contented, and connected. 

These three qualities of well-being we discussed in the last part of this series are a simple way to think about mental well-being. When your brain perceives that there is a threat to your safety, contentment, or connection to others, it signals to your body that there is a problem. Instantly the thought creates changes in your body to let you know there is a problem. At the same time, it prepares your body to take care of the problem. This is how your brain and body work together to keep you well.  

But if the ‘problem’ is a critical email from your boss, or your clothes feeling tight from a week of holiday parties, those changes in your body to take action won’t help you solve the problem, they may even make things worse. A negative stress response can limit creativity and self-control and send a surge of cortisol into your body, telling it to store fat in case this ‘problem’ leads to a lack of food in the future.  

We cannot change the way we are hardwired to handle stress. Your nervous system is hardwired to prepare for movement when there is a threat to your sense of safety, contentment, and connection. We can, however, listen closely to our emotions, knowing they are important messages about our well-being. As licensed psychologist and author Guy Winch, PhD shares in this powerful TED talk, when we see emotional hygiene as essential as washing our hands when around someone who is ill, we can truly be well.   We can choose to respond to emotions like we would to a trusted friend who sends us an urgent message—immediately with kindness and care.  

Yet, we often forget that those emotions prepare our bodies for movement. Moving with kindness is like washing your hands to clear away germs. When you perceive exercise as something you should do, hanging over your head like another task on your to do list, you miss the chance for it to restore emotional well-being. When you think of exercise as a moment in your day to check in and clear the effects of thoughts stored in your body, you are using exercise as a valuable form of self-care for your whole person.  

Bottom Line: Exercise, when done as an act of self-care, leads to emotional well-being. It gives you a chance to check in, listen to the messages, and respond by giving your body the movement it needs to clear the thoughts held in your body as emotions.  

Be Well Now,

Janet

Exercising WELL gives you a whole toolbox of user-friendly ways to exercise to restore well-being in your own personalized way.  Start by clarifying your Why for exercise in a FREE coaching call with me. No strings. No commitment. Just a conversation that lets you unleash your natural motivation to be well now.  Click here to schedule your call. 

One thought on “Self care series: Exercising for emotional well-being

  1. Pingback: Self-care series: Be Well Now | Janet Huehls, MS

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