I thought it was funny when I heard it, but realised only seconds later how true it was:
Q: What is the ONE thing human beings care the least about, when they have it, and worry about most when they don’t?
Health is actually the most important thing we have to maintain in our lives, because, frankly, without it –what is there that we can do? And yet human beings are experts at taking it for granted –myself included. When we are healthy, we don’t think about it. In fact we unthinkingly do things that might pt it at risk! We sleep late and irregularly, we wake up in a hurry and eat on the run, we think that bunjee-jumping is a great idea, and hate the sight of stairs, preferring to wait for the life to take us a floor up. We torture ourselves with negative thinking at the office, stressing and worrying about deadlines and milestones (rather than organising and prioritising) and then meet our friends after work to go over the same stress quite proudly (“I’m SO stressed at work, I tell you!”; “I have deadlines up the wazoo!”; “You can’t imagine how my boss is stressing me!”) smoking and/or over-drinking in the process, to take it away. Later, we’ll get home only to worry about how much we’ve overspent on our budget this month, and/or argue fiercely with a loved one about why our relationships aren’t working as well as we hope, instead of communicating calmly. We end up in bed negative and unknowingly hungry, (because the last thing we ate was a plate of greasy chips at lunch) or excessively full (because we’ve been starving all day and have compensated by stuffing ourselves at dinner) unable to get a good quality of sleep, for all our current stress, added to the worry we have about tomorrow. What a way to live!
If you are living this cycle, be glad that you are young. The body, perfectly made, is a wondrous thing, and there is no end to the ways it finds to remedy itself, when you are not treating well, especially when you are young. If you are older and living this cycle, however –it is definitely time to change, I suggest, in the following ways.
A – Take everything one thing at A time, be it the step on a staircase, or an important project at work. Even the day. Take one day at a time, and, at the end of it? Throw it off and calmly sink into sleep in order to be fresh in starting again the next day. No matter how much one worries, one can never bring back the day before, so why not just let it go? Should you have experienced failure, the next day is a chance to begin again and afresh. Should you have met a wall, the next day is another chance at having a go at it to break it. Should you have done a bad deed, the next day is another chance to apologise and to mend bridges. Learn to relax. As one of my very good friends often says about seemingly the most serious things: “It’s not that important.” It used to drive me crazy, but I’ve learned how so very true this is: NOTHING is THAT important!!! Certainly it isn’t so important that it should drive you and health crazy! Broken things can be fixed, apologies can be made, a sick relative will get better –and if they don’t, they don’t. Convey your love to them, vocally, physically and with all your heart, pray and calm right back down, for life goes on relentlessly. Make it a rule to enjoy the good times to the fullest, and conversely, to let go off the bad as soon as possible. Make it a rule to move on.
B – Be extremely aware of your body’s messages. When it is tired, and it shouldn’t be, levels of vitamin or sugar or iron are low, and you must eat whatever it is to bring yourself back up to par. When you are feeling stress, you need to take 5 and go somewhere to breathe and arrange your thoughts. Don’t disregard the importance of a good break from work, every year -not only are you entitled to it, but your body and mind need it.
When you are feeling hungry, know that you have missed an important meal; The reason for the said “Three square meals a day” is so that your body does not get hungry and begin to panic about incoming food. A healthy breakfast should carry you all the way to lunchtime, three or so hours later, and lunch should carry you all the way to tea-time, three or so hours later and so to dinner. By eating this way, you reassure your body that food is there, so that it can relax and function the way it is normally supposed to, taking in useful nutrients, storing a little fat, when necessary, and disposing of the rest. When you allow yourself to become hungry, you send your body into panic mode, and it becomes a ‘grabber’. This homemade term of mine simply refers to the fact that the body begins to grab and keep everything that you eat, ‘just in case’ there won’t be any more, and is jealously possessive of sugars and fats (which is one reason that diets won’t work if they include insufficient amounts of food, and you may even put on more weight. A pang of hunger may be excused, but an outright “I’m STARVING!” must be avoided at all costs. It impacts almost tangibly on your digestive system and your energy levels.
C – See that you are generally taking in what you should, in terms of nutrients, and expanding healthy levels of energy, in terms of exercise. Taking vitamin, iron, calcium and other pills are a useful way to ensure that you are on top of things –but not all of us are a fan of pill-popping; not to mention that, ingesting your required nutrients normally, from various foods, is the best way.
Munch on fruits as a snack, to get your required 5 daily portions of Fruit & Veg. Eat fried foods occasionally, and indulge in roasted, steamed and boiled meals more (a dash of olive oil and spices make even these interesting!) Indulge your salty or sweet tooth only on special occasions, or as a special treat for something well done.
Eat meat (especially red meat) moderately (a portion should be as big as your fist) and always remove the fat from it. Do NOT make it a habit to eat half a goat in Nyama Choma form (even with three pinches of sukuma on the side) as a meal in itself. Your portion of starchy food should also be moderated. You require only a quarter of a plate of rice or potato, and not half of a full plate.
Drink less coffee and tea throughout the day, than you do plain, simple, refreshing, cleansing water. Try and keep to your one or two glasses of red wine a day (respectively for women and men) as alcohol intake, and more only on special occasions. Try not to dabble in spirits, as they have no nutritional value whatsoever. Beer, while it contains water and will refresh you, is also very calorific and will fatten you up in no time, if you are not careful. Do NOT use alcohol as a relaxant when extremely stressed, nor as a way to vent out frustration –this habit will come back to bite you where it hurts (the wallet, silly!) as well as adversely impact directly on your liver, your mood, and your energy levels all around.
Don’t make it a habit to drive or ‘mat’ it everywhere. Walk everywhere you can, take the stairs up one or two floors, and carrying your groceries yourself will tone your arm muscles almost better than if you lifted weights regularly! Do join a gym, if you can, and then make it a habit to go, even if it’s only once a week. Finally, stop telling the kids to go play and join them! You’ll have worked up a sweat in not time –and did you know that exertion releases endorphins into your bloodstream, which make you happy? It is so! So, should you feel stressed out, the best cure is actually to go for a short angry run!
Good luck in all you do, and make sure you ABC from now on!