Self-care has changed. It is no longer a suggestion to get a massage or plan girls’ night out. Self-care is beginning to be seen as a critical factor to thriving in this busy, changing, stressful world.
Self-care is basically very simple. Each of us is charged with taking care of our own body as we navigate through life. The human body is a beautifully complicated and well-balanced system in a perfect world. However, the modern world isn’t always perfect to health and wellbeing. Thus, self-care has become most important.
Making green choices for the planet means helping mother earth thrive. We hope to clean things up, reduce pollution and waste, all while making sustainable choices. Those same ideas apply with green self-care. Take up the challenge to clean up your diet and your personal environment, reducing toxins that can challenge health and wellness. By making choices that promote health, longevity and deep satisfaction with life, you will often be doing things that will help our planet too.
Planet earth must work to overcome the damage from the modern world. In a similar way, our bodies strive to keep all internal systems functioning and in balance, in spite of stresses. Green self-care challenges you to look at all the ways you could help your body be strong and vital, healthy and vibrant.
In this article, the focus is on ways to make healthier, “greener” choices in food, water and how to care for your body. In a separate article, we’ll take a closer look at green self-care in regard to home and your local environment.
It’s all about the balancing act
Learning how to keep your body in balance is a key element of self-care. Gaining a better understanding of the body’s trials and tribulations can allow you to better evaluate which changes might be most important for you. Some suggested changes will seem easy for you and some might be impossible to imagine. Focus on the ideas that seem most do-able first. For every improvement you make in your self-care, your body is stronger and more able to handle the challenges that remain.
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We can’t be truly healthy without proper fuel, rest, calm and a positive environment. There is stress in the world, but how we respond to it is the key. Stress isn’t just emotional challenges at work. Our bodies are challenged by all sorts of stressors including– lack of sleep, too much anger, unhealthy food choices, too much alcohol, questionable chemicals in body care products, etc. These stressors challenge our bodies, taxing the energy it uses to maintain a healthy balance within.
Being aware of the stressors is a giant step in self-care. Once we are aware, we can make changes to help the body through demands that arise. Are you having a particularly stressful week? Then make sure you eat really cleanly and try to get lots of sleep. Have you overdone the coffee this morning? Choose to hydrate fully with purified water all afternoon and evening. Be aware of cause and effect, then adjust the factors you can to take the best care of your body possible.
Food is your fuel
When you’re having a stressful week, pay particular attention to what you eat. Choose natural, fresh foods as much as possible. Know where your food comes from. If you eat eggs, choose to buy them from a farmer whose chickens are happily scratching in the earth. Happy, healthy food sources mean higher, cleaner energy from the food. Self-care in this regard means putting wholesome, organic, chemical-free, unprocessed foods into your body as often as possible.
The body is made to process foods in their natural states. When whole food is eaten, your body knows what it is and how to use it. When the food is highly processed and mixed with chemical additives, the body can be confused about exactly what it is and what to do with it. Some parts can still be digested but others are just filtered out and excreted. Worse yet, some chemicals stay in the body and cause problems.1
Sugar in food is a stressor for our bodies. There are many different names for sugar on food labels including sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, maltose and over fifty more.2
Sugar can exhaust the pancreas and adrenal glands. It requires increased insulin production which can, in the long-term, cause obesity and be a factor in diabetes and heart disease. High sugar content in food also affects brain chemistry and can contribute to depression, memory issues, and appetite control issues. Sugars affect your hormones. Elastin and collagen production is decreased, leaving your skin looking older than it should. Food packaging, particularly fast foods, and canned products can introduce chemicals that can throw hormones out of balance.
Processing and chemical preservatives
These can challenge the natural flora of your gut. Imbalance in the gut drains the immune system and inflammation occurs. Inflammation is thought to be the root cause of many serious medical challenges in our country today.3
The gut is home to many “friendly” bacteria that break down food, so its nutrients can be absorbed. There are also some micro-organisms in the gut including yeasts, fungi, unfriendly bacteria and sometimes parasites. In a healthy person, the good bacteria keep the unfriendly sorts under control. Processed foods, poor eating habits, lack of sleep, no exercise and high levels of stress can affect this balance dramatically.
A quick note about alcohol…
It’s a toxin. We may have been raised to believe alcohol is a necessary part of life. Marketing reinforces that alcohol is necessary to be attractive, fun or sophisticated. Truth is alcohol is hard on health. The Center for Disease Control studies the health impact of alcohol. The figures show that alcohol consumption shortens lifespan and is an underlying cause of major health challenges.4 As you explore how to care for your body best, remember that there’s plenty of fun to be had and many ways to calm yourself without alcohol.
Make water your drink of choice
Water is crucial to the body’s function in so many ways. Our bodies must bathe each cell in water. Many beverages, like coffee, some teas, and alcoholic drinks don’t hydrate but actually, remove water from the system. When you drink these, remember to increase your water consumption.
The quality of the water you take in is important. City water processing plants add chlorine and fluoride to the water. Both are considered carcinogens by many researchers. Look into water filters and local sources of spring water that isn’t packaged in plastic bottles. Find water that feels pure to you, then drink a lot. How much is up to you depending on which resource you consult. There are books written on the power of water to heal and also on the damaging effects that chronic dehydration cause to the body. Water is true “health food.” Drink it!
Health and beauty that’s good for you
What is sitting on the countertop, in the medicine cabinet or on the shelf around the tub in your bathroom? If you are like most Americans, there is bottle after bottle of chemicals. We aren’t trained to see these “health and beauty” products that way. Advertising has helped us believe that these products are beneficial and necessary.
There is no government agency that controls what goes in health and beauty products because they are not ingested. But they are inhaled and absorbed through the skin. Ask Google about the “risks of health and beauty products.” What follows are just snippets shown in a recent search:
- Dr. Frank Lipman’s site says, “Association warns of major risks to health from the great majority of cosmetics.”5
- University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center site reads, “beauty and personal care products contain small quantities of known cancer-causing chemicals.”6
- The Breast Cancer Prevention Partners site shares, “BCPP’s Campaign for Safe Cosmetics developed a Red List of Chemicals of Concern in Cosmetics.”7
The point is that the ads for these products, which we spread over our skin, in our hair, and in our mouth and breathe into our lungs, never say anything about health risks. But health concerned sources say there are risks and you should know about them. Remember too, that chemicals washed down the drain become part of the ecosystem. Your body doesn’t need an overdose of unnecessary chemicals and neither does the planet.
Don’t be scared, just be informed. Some of the products you use on your body daily or spray in the air or bathe in are causing your body increased stress. You can opt for more natural products. Check out the health and beauty department in the local health food store. Consider buying from a local maker of personal care products for fresh, simple formulas.
Choose products with a short list of ingredients. It is even better if you can recognize those ingredients without being a chemist. Be cautious about dyes and fragrances. They just add to the stressful load of chemicals your body must process. Choose products that use essential oils as scents, since essential oils have beneficial qualities that their synthetic counterparts do not.
Now a word about aerosol products. There are several issues with aerosols- flammable propellants, difficulty to dispose of empty containers in a greenway and the dangers to the lungs by breathing in the atomized particles. Make a choice to choose a non-aerosol product as it’s good for your body and our planet.
Hand sanitizers might seem convenient but studies that have proven the chemicals in them can be more harmful than the bacteria they are intending to destroy. Soap and water are just as effective.8
Thinking people make conscious decisions about what to put in and on their bodies. In doing so, they are working towards a cleaner, healthier future for themselves and our planet. By just making a few wiser choices, how much healthier could your body be? A healthy body might have the strength to fend off that cold or sinus infection that’s going around at work. Healthful alternatives might even help you live a longer and happier life. It’s all about choices.
Time and motion
How you use time can help you or stress you. Rather than adding another task to your to-do, try rearranging a few things to get time to thrive into your day. This part of self-care often gets a low priority, but it is so important. Find a way to take time for yourself.
Get outdoors and move
Can you make your lunch break a time to get outside? The sunshine, fresh air, and a brisk walk can be so refreshing. If that’s not an option, walk in the morning or after dinner. There are many studies available showing the benefits of vitamin D, forest bathing and earthing or grounding ourselves to the soil. Could you get off the bus one stop early and walk to the office? Take that farthest parking spot and walk a bit more. After dinner, take a walk rather than settling in to watch television.
Enjoy the quiet
Turn off the background noise. If that noise is soothing music, let that slide. However, if you’ve developed a habit of letting news media fill your mind with the woes of the day, you might reconsider. Silence is a powerful comforter once you cultivate a taste for it. You might use the quiet time to think about things you’re grateful for. You might just breathe deeply and relax. Just a few minutes can make a big difference in your mood and energy levels.
Here’s a note to those “I can’t go to sleep without the television on” types. Studies have shown clearly that deep, healing sleep comes in dark, quiet rooms. It may be a challenge to retrain yourself, but banning television from the bedroom is a good idea. There are ways to fall asleep that are more beneficial to mind and body. You might learn some simple meditation practices, explore essential oils or natural supplements that can calm and relax you before sleep. Reading a good book (or a boring book) is much more conducive to sleep than web browsing on the iPad.
Mindfulness is a trending word today and for good reason. Mindfulness is a perfect stress reduction tool and an important part of self-care. Anyone can use this simple practice to calm down, pause, and choose how to act in any given situation. Meditation isn’t about stopping your mind but more about getting to know your mind as one facet of who you are as a person. If you haven’t tried mindfulness meditation, do some homework, get an app or join a local meditation group.
Do you feel better yet?
This was a lot of info and if you are feeling overwhelmed, take a deep breath and relax. The goal is to share some important ways to help you care for yourself better. No one can take better care of you than you.
Review the suggestions, then pick one or two to add to your life. You must make self-care a priority simply because it is not a luxury anymore. Self-care is intrinsic to good health, vitality, happiness and deep satisfaction with life. The benefits from making cleaner, healthier choices in your life are also passed on to the planet. Do your part for a better you and a better world.
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