Staying Healthy When Life Is Heavy

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Life has been hard lately. There’s no doubt about that. Between the COVID-19 crisis, the upending of the economy, a contentious political election, and social unrest, nearly everyone has experienced some sort of trauma coupled with chronically elevated stress and anxiety.

And when you’re grieving, stressing, and grappling with hopelessness, taking care of yourself feels very, very hard. It can be a challenge just to get out of bed in the morning, let alone spend an hour exercising and whip up kale smoothies.

I’ve felt this deeply over the course of the last several months, and because much of my identity is rooted in health and wellness, my perceived inability to stay healthy has impacted me that much more.

As a personal trainer and health coach, I should be able to take care of myself, right? It should be so easy. I should just wake up, work out, make a healthy breakfast, and get on with my day. But my reality has been far from what I say it “should” be.

"Over the last several weeks, I’ve realized I don’t want to feel the way I’ve felt for most of 2020. I want to feel better."

My reality has looked a lot like sleeping through my workout alarm because I’m drained. It’s meant skipping workouts and trudging through the ones I actually do because I’m depleted. It’s like eating too much candy, ice cream, and cookies — because that’s what I crave when I feel tired and emotionally fatigued.

I’ve started to get a grip, though. Over the last several weeks, I’ve realized I don’t want to feel the way I’ve felt for most of 2020. I want to feel better. Stronger. Healthier. Happier. And, because I’m credentialed in health and fitness, I know exactly what I need to do to make that happen. I know I need to eat more vegetables, exercise more consistently, and get solid sleep.

But I also know I can’t go all-in right away. I need to ease into it, so I’m employing some tactics to help me with that. These four techniques are working for me right now, and I hope they help you, too.

1. Give Yourself Some Grace

Seriously. Stop beating yourself up about missing a workout or eating a cupcake. We’re in the middle of a global pandemic and a social justice movement that will make history, for crying out loud! Everyone has a lot going on, and stressing over a snack isn’t going to do anyone much good.

Instead of the “all-or-nothing” mindset that’s so pervasive in wellness culture, try this: “Always something.”

When you’re too tired to crush a high-intensity interval training workout, go for a walk instead of doing nothing. When you want to stress-eat an entire cake, allow yourself to have one piece — and enjoy it instead of inhaling it. When you can’t wake up for five workouts a week, wake up for two or three and let that be enough.

2. Find Exercise You Actually Enjoy

The key to working out for life is finding a type of workout you get excited to do. Thus, you’ll have to shed the mentality that the only workouts worth doing involve a gym, weights, and machines. Working out doesn’t have to be so darn structured — because let’s be honest, traditional gym workouts get really boring really fast (unless you’re truly a gym rat, which is awesome).

Exercise can look like long daily walks, easy or difficult hikes, bike rides, or kayaking trips. Exercise can look like dancing to your favorite playlist in your living room, practicing handstands, hula-hooping, rollerblading, surfing, rock climbing, or literally anything else that gets your body moving.

Experiment to find exercises you love. Make exercise something you look forward to, and you’ll never have a problem sticking to a workout routine.

3. Don’t Restrict Foods You Love

Restricting foods leads to an “I can’t” mentality, and we all know that when you can’t have something, you want it more. For me, telling myself I can’t have certain foods just leads to a full-out binge later on when my willpower dissipates. So instead of trying to eat a “perfect” diet (there’s no such thing), I allow myself to have the foods I want.

And you know what?

When I know that I’m allowed to have them whenever I want, I don’t obsess about them so much. In fact, when I know I can eat all foods, I do a better job of listening to what my body actually wants. Sometimes it wants ice cream, but the honest truth is that most of the time, it wants whole foods and hearty meals.

4. Spend More Time Outdoors

Not only is vitamin D critical for healthy immune function — which we all need during a pandemic — but vitamin D can boost your mood and make you feel more energetic, which can make it easier to stick to healthy habits. Just remember to wear sunscreen if you’ll be in direct sunlight!

Here are a few tips for getting outside more often:

  • Take your workout or yoga flow outside.
  • If you have a laptop, work outside for an hour or two.
  • Take a 20-minute walk after lunch.
  • Go for walks when you take phone calls.
  • If you drink coffee before work, enjoy it outside in the morning light.

I hope these tips help you as we all continue to trudge through this pandemic together. It’s challenging to stay healthy when life is heavy, but when you have the right tools in your arsenal and build a repertoire of sustainable habits, you’ll go far.

Tags: Fitness, Self Care, Mental Health, Navigating the Pandemic, Overcoming Adversity, Mindfulness, Personal Growth

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Written By

Amanda Capritto

Amanda is a freelance health, fitness and travel writer who specializes in sustainable fitness, health tech, functional training, and all things outdoors. See Full Bio

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