If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably run the gamut of emotions during this last month or so. Depending on the day, or even hour, I may feel fine and content, or annoyed, sad, or frustrated. How about you?
I was just emailing with a friend about how important it is to show ourselves grace during this time. She forwarded me an article about that and it was good timing, because it’s been on my mind!
So I wanted to check in with you on how you’re doing with showing yourself grace from a health and wellness perspective while still caring for your physical (and therefore mental/emotional because it’s all connected!) health.
I want to start out by saying I hope you are showing yourself grace! I think that can mean a lot of different things for different people and brings up a few questions and points of clarification.
What does it mean to show yourself grace (in this health/wellness sense)?
How do we keep ‘showing ourselves grace’ from turning into just always doing what feels good in the moment? Where is that balance?
Are there tips to help keep true self-care and going easy on yourself in harmony with one another?
I think this topic is so nuanced, as most things are. Showing oneself grace is going to look different for everybody depending on your circumstances. If something truly tragic has happened in your life then worrying about eating more vegetables or making sure you exercise are not going to be priorities. At a certain point it’s just about survival.
The purpose of this post isn’t to delve into those situations quite so much but to look more at what we can do in this current pandemic situation we’re all navigating.
So, what does it mean to show yourself grace right now?
Here’s my take. I think it means going easy on yourself with all the expectations. No, you don’t have to learn a new skill, cook fancy meals, and spend more time working out. (I mean, you obviously can if you want to!). You don’t have to “use” this time to get all the things done. Things are weird right now. This is stressful for a lot of people and the unknown, up-in-the-air timeline of getting back to some semblance of normalcy absolutely has an effect on our bodies. That stress can manifest itself in many ways in our bodies – it can affect sleep, immune health, weight, inflammation, and a million other things.
Our bodies aren’t made for chronic stress. And that’s kinda what’s happening now with our situation. So, while making healthy choices in regards to how you care for your body is absolutely important and always will be, the way you go about doing that is how you are either showing yourself grace, or just adding to your body’s stress bucket. I’ll give some examples I see of ways to do this in a bit.
Showing yourself grace means (to me) allowing yourself the freedom and wiggle room to be okay with what needs to happen in your day to keep your stress-levels in check. It’s releasing the extra demands that you put on yourself. If you’re a mom at home with kids right now you already have enough demands coming from other people! So those other things that you might be thinking should or need to happen – show yourself grace by taking them off the to-do list (or delegating if you can!).
So how do we keep this grace toward ourselves from turning into a self-indulgent free for all?
This is where it can get tricky. Because of the stress of everything right now, taking the time to plan a healthy meal, or finding the energy to go for a long walk may seem like they could easily be taken off the list of things to do. In an effort to show yourself grace, you may choose to get in the habit of cereal for breakfast, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for lunch, and frozen pizza for dinner.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, I can totally see why going for those quick food choices seems like the right choice for showing yourself grace. And sometimes I think that is 100% valid! There may be days where that is what happens and that is totally okay. What you don’t want to do is have the cereal, pb&j, pizza and then follow all that up with guilt or shame that you didn’t eat more vegetables or whatever.
I see the scales starting to tip toward just doing what feels good in the moment when we continually eat the highly processed foods out of habit or just because that’s what our taste buds have become accustomed to wanting. If I had healthy and easy enough options on hand but just kept choosing to order take out or just grab the processed stuff I know is full of junk most days in the name of ‘showing myself grace’ I think that is taking it past that point.
In my opinion, showing ourselves grace also still means loving ourselves. And when you love something you want to care for it and give it what it needs.
The way we nourish our bodies doesn’t have to be perfect. There is no “perfect” diet anyway. But the food we eat will have an effect on every aspect on our bodies and minds. What we eat affects what and how we think. Our brains are connected to our guts so what goes on down there will absolutely have an effect on how we think and feel. So the once in a while day of just eating whatever and being okay with it is one thing but when that becomes the habit and we say it’s because we’re showing ourselves grace, I think it’s worth reevaluating.
Some tips to keep grace toward yourself in harmony with still caring appropriately for your needs.
The biggest thing here is mindset. We have to realize that we are worth the time and effort it may take to make sure we’re showing ourselves care by choosing foods that are actually going to provide the nutrients our bodies need to function, not strip them away (because that is what’s happening when we eat junk on a consistent basis – it strips the body of vital nutrients).
Beyond mindset though, what are some practical things you can do to make caring for your body easier and not such an energy drain?
- Buy frozen vegetables. These are so easy to keep on hand and cook really quickly. Just make sure they’re plain and free of added sauces and things like that.
- Buy frozen fish or shrimp. Those defrost really quickly too and cook super fast. Stick to wild caught if you can and shoot for salmon, cod, or trout.
- Keep frozen chicken and beef as well. You don’t have to plan too far ahead with these. You can defrost in the fridge overnight or try one of these methods for defrosting quickly. I often do the metal pan method or submerging in warm water.
- Buy a big box of mixed greens for the week (or more than 1 depending on your family size). Keep carrots, cucumbers, and any other easy to chop up veggie you like. A quick salad with meat or fish really takes hardly any time.
- Buy avocados. Keep them on the counter until they start to get soft (if they aren’t already) and then put them in the fridge when they get soft. They last a lot longer that way. They are a great source of healthy fat and can round out any meal quickly!
- Eggs. These keep for a long time and are so easy. Breakfast, lunch, or dinner.
- Smoothies can make for a fast meal as well. Keep things on hand like a junk-free protein powder, milk of choice, chia, hemp, and/or ground flax seeds, frozen berries, and frozen banana. Pro-tip: freeze sliced up avocado (or buy frozen avocado, I’ve seen it!) and add to smoothies if you don’t like the taste of avocado. You won’t notice it but it adds a lovely thick texture.
Keep some of these quick options in mind and it’ll be easier to eat healthy food most of the time. Then when you have those days where you just want the choose the frozen pizza and ice cream you can enjoy it more because you know it’s not something that’s going to be the norm and you won’t later find yourself feeling like you know you need to stop eating those foods but can’t seem to get the motivation.
And remember – it’s not all or nothing! ‘Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good,’ as they say. Have a day here or there where you just enjoy whatever you want. But then when you do make healthier choices – just make them enjoyable too! Butter and salt are your friends. They make most food better!
What do you think? Have you been feeling the desire lately to just eat whatever or has this time made you want to spend more time eating healthy foods? Have you started new habits or is it more of survival mode right now?