Self-care series: Exercising for mental 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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In the most recent article of this series, we made the connection between exercise and self-care for spiritual well-being. When your reasons for exercise are brought to their most elemental level of what is important to you (your Why), exercise is more energizing and motivation is more natural. Exercising for self-care starts with your Why as a guide to choose what to do for exercise so it supports your mental well-being. 

Your brain is hardwired to keep you well and it is constantly learning about what restores well-being for you. Each time you do something, your brain decides if it is worth doing again because it made you feel better, or if it is better to avoid because it made you feel worse.  

If you are going to choose exercise as a form of self-care, you need to choose exercise  in a way that restores your mental well-being. Rick Hanson, PhD gives a simplified way of understanding what your brain is looking for to keep you well. Your mind continuously seeks ways for you to be safe, contented, and connected. Use this checklist to apply that wisdom to exercise, to determine if what you are doing, or are planning on doing, for exercise will lead to whole-person well-being.   

Safe

Physically: what I do for exercise reduces my chances of injury and illness, and makes me feel more confident I can protect myself and others in an emergency.

Spiritually: what I do for exercise makes me feel free to be myself. 

Content

Physically: what I do for exercise leaves me feeling better and more comfortable in my body now.

Spiritually: what I do for exercise allows me to do the things that make my life meaningful and to enjoy my passions. 

Connected

Physically: what I do for exercise allows me to connect with people I care about.  

Spiritually: what I do for exercise keeps me connected or grounded in my sense of who I am and what is most important to me in life. 

If there is something you are doing, or think you should be doing, for exercise that takes you away from this, it is lowering the health benefits of exercise because it is taking you away from self-care and your brain is more likely to make excuses like ‘you don’t have time’ or ‘you can’t do that exercise right now’. When what you do for exercise satisfies each one of these criteria, every time you exercise, your brain senses you are well. This puts your body in healing and repair mode and your brain wants you to keep doing it again and again.  

If you go down this checklist and say ‘sure, exercise would do all of that for me, but why am I still not motivated to do it?’, it means your brain isn’t making the connection between what you are doing and feeling feeling safe, contented, and connected. That’s why an essential part to making this work is staying aware of what you are getting from exercise. Rick Hanson calls it “taking in the good”. Your brain is hardwired to notice what is missing and skip over what is going well. This tendency toward the negative is there to keep us safe, so it takes a bit of extra effort to help your brain see when exercise is putting you in a state of whole-person well-being. 

What to do for exercise so it leads to mental well-being varies from person to person and situation to situation. Because life is full of changes, you need a way to stay up-to-date about how to exercise in the way that leads to mental well-being. How you feel and what you sense in your body is what we call feelings or emotions. They are your built-in feedback loop to the brain about your state of mental well-being. The next part of this series on exercise as self-care will explore how to use this by exercising for emotional well-being. 

Bottom line: Exercise becomes self-care when we let our Why guide what we do to be well now. Understanding mental well-being allows us to make this connection between our Why (spiritual well-being) and what we choose what to do for exercise. When it satisfies your brain’s need to keep you safe, contented, and connected, exercise becomes a form of whole-person self-care.  

Bonus! Click here for a Recharge Pause™ called Moving Gratitude. It takes Rick Hanson’s practice of ‘taking in the good’ and brings it from your mind into your body.   Experience how exercise (AKA Movement for self-care), in under two minutes, can restore your sense of being safe, contented and connected in your mind and your body. Enjoy!

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. 

Self-care series: Your natural energy source

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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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. 

Be WELL,

Janet

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.

Self-care series: exercise your whole-person

Exercise as

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. This blog series will build on my last one about finding the right way to exercise for your body and your life right now. Both of these series serve as a guide to help you use exercise as a way to recharge your whole person, so you can be well now.  

Let’s face it, when we talk about exercising to be healthy and well, it is a vague goal. Being healthy is a bit easier to define than being well, but there are still so many facets and factors, it is not always enough to keep us motivated to exercise regularly.   

Have you ever considered when health happens? You might affirm you are healthy in a visit with your doctor, but that is not when health happens. Health happens moment by moment. More specifically, it happens in the moments you are well.  

When you are in a stress response or alarm mode, your body down-regulates healing and repair. Your energy is needed to handle the stressor. It does that by preparing to move. Heart rate, blood pressure, blood fats, blood sugars, muscle tension all increase so you are ready to fight or flee. When you finally get back to the relaxed state of recharge mode, that is when every cell in your body is able to get back to the work of making health happen. When you are in alarm mode, you could say you are ‘not well’, and when in recharge mode, you could say you are well.  

So if health happens in the moments you are well, to be healthy we need to ramp up more ways to get back to being in recharge mode or well.  Since you can only be well now, being healthy means noticing when you are in alarm mode, and having instantaneous ways to shift back into recharge mode.  

If exercise is part of your plan for being healthy, you are one smart cookie!  When your body has prepared to move in that alarm mode, the way out of alarm mode is to give it what it needs. Exercise, when it is not stress-producing, puts you back in the state where health happens. With all the complicated and conflicting information about the right way to exercise to be healthy, it all comes down to simply moving in a way that calms the alarm.  The sooner you are able to do that, the more time you get to spend in that health-creating state we call well-being. 

So exercise needs to be convenient enough to do when you need it most as well as calming, not stress-producing, for your whole person. That will take some rethinking: 

  • From exercise as something you need a lot of time, energy, and equipment to accomplish, to simply moving in any way that leaves you feeling better. 
  • From another task on your to-do list, to a form of self-care.
  • From training your body, to taking care of your whole person, your emotional, mental, and spiritual, as well as physical, self.  

This shift to exercise as a form of self-care for your whole person is what we can create during this time of year we need it most. Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a closer look at how to exercise for your mental, spiritual, emotional, and physical self in the ways that can restore well being instantly. As we do, share with me your thoughts, insights, and questions by emailing me at Janet@ExercisingWELL.com.  

Be Well Now,

Janet

PS: You could put off exercise until January, have the ‘I should exercise’ adding to the stress of the season, and then join the millions of people who rush to ‘get back in shape’ in the new year.    You could resist that dead-end trend and choose to give yourself a way to shed stress all season long so the new year is simply one more day you are confident you know how to be well now.  Exercising WELL ™ is the approach to exercise that is smart to do now.  Learn how to make exercise a form of self-care with personalized telephone coaching and an easy-to-use online program.   Enrollment for 2019 ends this week!  Click here now to get started with your FREE call. 

 

New article on Medium: You are in spring training; what are you training for?

 

Solving the mystery_ what’s the right way to exercise for your body and the real results you want, Part 1 (6)

Finding the balance between challenge and self-care

Solving the mystery_ what’s the right way to exercise for your body and the real results you want, Part 1 (4)

The value of testing oneself to achieve greater awareness and strength is found in nearly every religion, inspirational movie, and biography. We know that as humans, we grow the most when we are challenged.    

This gets a bit muddy, though, when we talk about self-care. If challenge makes us stronger, does self-care make us weaker?  

You might know in your head the logic behind the concept of ‘put your own oxygen mask on first’.  Why, then, do we struggle with taking time for ourselves? Does it have something to do with this emphasis in our culture on challenges being good for us? What is the right balance between self-care and personal challenge? 

Exercise is both of these wrapped into one. When you challenge your body, it gets stronger. Physical challenge also is shown to improve mental strength. Research shows the connection between youth sport participation and greater leadership skills. What sports do not do, however, is prepare you for using exercise as self-care. In fact, it makes it even more challenging.  

Exercise is moving to take care of yourself. When exercise is done for the purpose of health and well-being it is, by definition, self-care. Even if you are exercising to be a better athlete, it is still ultimately done for you. The difference is how you treat your body.  

In athletics, listening to and protecting your body can interfere with the goal.  If you try to protect your body from harm while competing, the competition will eat you alive! The idea can arise, then, that self-care makes you weak. This mindset about exercise has infused our approach to exercise for health and well-being. Exercising for weight loss has become a sport.  Getting enough steps is a competition. Our way of exercising to be ready for life, not just sports, is out of balance. 

For well-being and health, the balance between challenge and self-care is essential. This is why it is so important to keep exercising for athletics separate from exercising for well-being.      

There are many ways you can take care of yourself, but movement is essential for complete self-care. Movement is what your body is prepared for in a stress response. Movement gets your body back to to healing and repair mode. Now more than ever, we need to know how to exercise in a way that is stress-reducing, not stress-producing. 

Challenge in exercising is essential for staying strong because your body is a use-it-to-keep-it system. However, it’s important to challenge yourself in a way that is not stress-producing. If you push too hard with exercise and it leaves you feeling worse, your brain will make excuses so you avoid exercising again. Yet, without the challenge, exercise is boring, and your brain will steer you towards other activities and avoid exercising again. Either way, you lose the health and well-being benefits of exercise because you are not doing it consistently. Exercising with just the right balance of challenge and self-care is not so easy, but it’s possible.  

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, I will be writing about how to make exercise a form of self-care. It will build on my last blog series about how to Exercise Right because when you know how to exercise right, you feel better and it becomes an act of self-care.  

Bottom Line:  Both self-care and challenge makes us stronger. Exercise, when it is specifically designed for health and well-being,  provides both.  However, you are the only one who can create the right balance for you between motivating challenge and moving for self-care. What do you need more of right now in your life—self-care or challenge? Try adjusting your mindset about exercise to give you just the right balance of self-care and challenge. Let me know what happens by emailing me at Janet@ExercisingWELL.com

Be WELL,

Janet

Is even the thought of exercise stress producing?  Knowing how to use exercise to challenge your body at the just right level in a way that it feels like self care takes knowing how to exercise right.  Exercising WELL™ blends mindfulness and movement to create mindset that help you find that right balance for you each time.  Find out how to make exercise a source of self care with a unique, cost-effective blend of personal coaching and easy-to-use online learning.  Click here to get started with a FREE coaching call.