By Dr. Shawna Darou, ND
I initially wrote these notes as a blog post at the start of 2020 as health trends I hoped to see that year. Wow, so much has changed since then in the world and as I was reading through this article, here we have come full circle talking about our resilience, the importance of connection, and especially putting boundaries around emails and technology. As you read through this list, think of how the past year and a half has gone for you, what you’ve learned, and what you now appreciate. My biggest hope right now, is that we begin to wake up and start taking back our lives, our free time, and remember to (safely) build real in-person connections again.
1. Slowing down and less emphasis on being busy
This one is going to ring true with all of you. When someone asks you how you’re doing, how easy is to answer ‘busy.’ All of our to-do lists seem to vary somewhat, but what they all have in common is a relentlessness of tasks that are growing and growing. I absolutely love this quote from Brene Brown’s Guideposts for Wholehearted living “Let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth.”
What if we took back our time, allowed ourselves to rest and become creative again, made time for connection, and let our nervous systems rest? Maybe a gentle place to start is by building in a little true, unproductive downtime every single day, and make the decision to stop the constant rushing.
I would love to see downtime, relaxation and unproductive time valued for what it is – and how it can positively impact mood, energy, nervous system and creativity. We’re not designed to be constantly on the go!
2. Putting boundaries around electronics, emails, texts and social media
Our devices have seriously taken over our lives, to the point that even a few minutes of boredom has become unbearable. This step fits very clearly into the one above, in that our devices and addiction to checking all aspects of our online lives have created a big part of the never-ending feeling of being busy.
Constantly checking emails makes us feel like work is never done, and we can’t have a life outside of the office. Texts require an immediate response, and while social media brings us together in one way, it also leaves us feeling empty and lacking in comparison of the beautiful lives we see online.
A few simple steps you could take would be to put clear boundaries about when you check work emails to create a sense of freedom from work; keep all devices out of the bedroom to allow for deeper sleep; and reduce the time on social media to create more openings for in-person connections.
3. More movement and less sitting
Although the phrase “sitting is the new smoking” is tossed around plenty, most of us have not really found a good solution to our growing hours at a desk during the daytime, and additional hours checking in on work from home. It often amounts to 12+ hours of sitting in a 24 hour period, even if you’re a healthy person who goes to the gym.
Some possible solutions are to integrate walking meetings with colleagues or friends; to get away from your desk at lunchtime every day and walk for at least 15 minutes; to request an innovative work station that allows you to both sit and stand through the day; and to stay as active as possible in your time away from work. This one does take effort, but you’ll find your energy and mood change dramatically with even small changes in habits to break up the long days of sitting.
4. Making home–cooked meals and enjoying the process of cooking
I’ve just been reading a lovely book this week called “The Measure of my Powers,” by Jackie Kai Ellis, which has reminded me of the immense pleasure we can get from cooking, preparing foods, and enjoying the process of cooking and eating. I’m sure that I am not alone in rushing through meal prep, looking for convenient, quicker options, and not really being present during the cooking or eating of many meals.
We are so lucky to have access to such a variety of groceries in the stores, and abundance of recipes, cooking shows and videos, and yet what’s missing is the time to enjoy the process. We all know that home-cooked meals are healthier than almost anything bought outside, and they also save us lots of money. Maybe the motivator is to re-focus on the cooking itself – the process of choosing a wonderful recipe, putting some music on, and getting carried away in the smells, tastes and experience. This is truly a way to honour yourself, and also a way to slow down the pace of your life for a little while.
5. More in-person connections
As much as we communicate constantly by email, text and on social media, many of us are truly lacking in-person connections. There is a big difference between a text message and a phone call, and an even bigger one with an in-person meeting.
Most of us blame this on being too busy again, that we don’t have time to socialize much anymore, or that our families take up the remainder of our limited time. This does however create loneliness, disconnection and feeling of lack, because the need for connection with other people is a large part of what makes us human.
You may have heard of the 2015 TED Talk by Johann Hari, called “Everything you think you know about addition is wrong.” In his talk, he states that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety, it’s connection, and that addiction is not about the pleasurable effects of substances, it’s about the user’s inability to connect in healthy ways with other human beings. Some of you may have experienced bigger addictions, but more likely smaller ones like overeating, too much exercise, drinking a little too much wine, or binge-watching Netflix late in the night.
When you’re in the state of feeling guilty or bad for your actions, a more gentle approach could be to look at what you’re really wanting. I could guess that a lack of real connection may be at the root of it. Unfortunately our busy lives, and pervasive technology has made this more difficult to access.
I think this change just takes place gradually, and individually. For example, making small steps like inviting a friend over for a meal, finding someone to walk with or exercise with, taking a colleague for a lunch break at work, and acknowledging our need for regular true connection.
6. Appreciating our resilience
Resilience is your ability to recover from difficulties, which could also be stated as the ability to bounce back and keep going. This applies to our emotional state, and also our physical health.
Resilience in health means that we are able to tolerate stresses here and there – we don’t always get sick if we are exposed to a flu virus, and we are able to detoxify and clear some of the chemicals we come in contact with every day. Building resilience in health comes from a healthy gut, healthy immune system, but also from a nutrient dense diet, enough sleep and managing stress.
We are always going to be faced with adversity – with stressful situations, health challenges, and circumstances that can be difficult. The key is building resilience so that we are able to bounce back more easily after the hard times pass – we can never create a perfectly safe life where nothing will affect us.
When we appreciate our resilience, we turn our focus on our strength, rather than feeling like a victim of the challenges in our lives. This shift in perspective is huge, and can be a catalyst for not only emotional strength, but also physical health. The next time you have come through a challenging time, take a moment to celebrate your resilience, and how remarkably strong you have become.
You may wonder what all of this has to do with your wellness – but all of these habits build the foundation of your health, and also your resilience. Downtime to reduce the stress response, regular movement, community and connection, and good food are at the core of whatever health issue you currently are struggling with, whether it’s a hormone imbalance, fertility struggle, auto-immune condition, digestive dysfunction, fatigue, insomnia, or more.
If this article rings true with you, and you would like support to create a different kind of wellness lifestyle, please ask at your next appointment. Remember wellness is so much more than the vitamins you take!
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