The quest for personal improvement seems like a construct of more time in the day than work to be done. Social media scrolling, dating, meal planning, Netflixing… If we were working every moment just to survive, we would mate with the first suitable prospect we came across, eat whatever we could forage, and tumble to the earth under whatever shelter we managed to fashion at the end of each exhausting day. To keep our ancestors alive, the brain evolved strong tendencies toward fear, including an ongoing internal trickle of unease. What if there isn’t enough to eat? What if a saber-toothed tiger is lurking around the corner? What if my bloodline ends with me? These fears motivated us to hunt, find shelter, and procreate. In today’s world where most of us live in relative safety when it comes to meeting our daily needs, this nagging unease that is unresolved by the lack of hunting and procreation it is meant to inspire makes us easy marks for people who want to sell us things. Feeling anxious? Wine. Feeling sore? Pain reliever. Feeling slow? New running shoes. I am not here to tell you that these remedies are unwarranted or wrong. But consider for a moment that those feelings you are feeling don’t need fixing. Consider that the ill or injured body you have today may just need to be honored the way it is. It’s not easy. But it is possible with a little practice. Here’s how:
#1. FEEL YOUR FEELINGS
You don’t owe a “happy face” to anyone. A positive and hopeful attitude about life increases our ability to roll with the punches, but we have got to acknowledge the punches so we know when it’s time to roll! I used to think that the saying about making lemonade from lemons was about masking the bitter flavor with sugar. But these days, I’m certain the point of that saying is that lemons are valuable just the way they are.
#2. NOTE WHAT IS WORKING
Quick! Name five parts of your body that work well. Maybe it’s your taste buds, feet, ears, elbows and fingers (those could be ten all on their own!). If you are experiencing pain and loss of function in your back, it will likely overshadow the fact that you can smell your neighbor’s grass being cut. But, if you notice with gratitude that your nose is working, it may take the edge off the pain. Noticing muscles that are working well when others aren’t can inspire you and help with the next strategy on our list as well.
#3. DO SOMETHING
As a personal trainer, my biggest value to my client is designing movements that work for their body; not some idealized human, but the actual human complete with injury and other loss of function. Never have I ever met a human who couldn’t do some form of exercise. Even flat on your back in bed, short bouts of breathwork and controlled eye movements can increase endorphins and improve vagal tone. Refer back to what is working and move those parts!
#4. CLING TO HEALTHY HABITS
We may need to look back at tip #2 for this one as well. When we don’t feel whole it’s easy to feel like we don’t deserve self care. But what would we tell our best friend? When we are hurt, we need it most. You may not feel like making a gourmet superfood salad, but you can get a big box of greens and eat a handful with every meal. Maybe your 60 minute jog is off the menu but, well, look back at tip #3. And while pain can severely compromise your sleep, practicing healthy sleep habits can help you get the most out of the shut eye you can get.
If your best friend has a cold, do you love them less? I am betting the answer is no. When our friend is sick, we take them soup and sit with them on their porch. That’s what they need to heal, paired with a level of activity that they can participate in. And this is where the hopeful magic can happen. If we feel that drive to improve, we can do it from a place of love and not just fear.
Erika Taylor is a community wellness instigator at Taylored Fitness. Taylored Fitness believes that everyone can discover small changes in order to make themselves and their communities more vibrant. Visit facebook.com/erika.taylor.303 or email email@example.com.