Beyond Exercise: How to Tend to Your Body

Beyond Exercise: How to Tend to Your Body

Today we wanted to talk about growth in the physical sense, taking care of our bodies, but not necessarily the approach that our culture is obsessed with, which is exercise and diet. We are physical creatures and yet we get so caught up in our day-to-day routines, we forget how our bodies are affected. We forget everything is connected, our minds, bodies, and spirits.

What are some misconceptions that you think of when someone says, how are you taking care of your physical body?

The biggest misconception is that exercise and dieting are the only things. They’re not bad of course, but they aren't the only things. When your motivation to exercise and diet is to achieve what you perceive to be the perfect body or the perfect physique it’s damaging. We're not all the same but it’s prevalent in our culture to become obsessed with believing you must meet a physical ideal.  

Instead, you need to learn to be more aware and nurture the physical nature of your being.

What are some healthy ways that you can start to think about your physical health?

One important way is to remember that your physical body is not separate from your mental health. Everything affects your physical and mental health. Whether it’s in the form of movement, thought, food, people you choose to hang out with, newsfeeds or even movies—it’s
all connected. All of those things go toward making you healthy or unhealthy. It's not about being perfect. It’s about what you need for the space that you're occupying.

Another way you can take care of your body in a healthy way is by allowing yourself to cry. There are many benefits of crying. Scientifically speaking, tears release stress hormones from your body. If you cry long enough and deep enough, it releases oxytocin, which is a great chemical for your body. A lot of times you think about crying as an emotional response and it is but there's something physical too, that’s good for your body.

Humans are sensory beings. Being around other people intellectually is one thing but you also need to have healthy physical touch with other people. Giving a hug and embracing your kids and giving and asking for hugs from friends too is a healthy way to take care of your body.

What are some things that negatively impact your physical being?

There are a lot of studies correlating trauma to physical chronic illnesses so what you put your body through does affect your physical well-being and health. When you experience grief it actually changes the form and function of your heart temporarily.

Stress is something that negatively impacts well-being that unfortunately single parents are really familiar with. If you don’t address stress it gets store stored in your body and can come out in some very unhealthy ways according to a book called, The Body Keeps the Score.
It’s really important to release stress in healthy ways.

Being in a toxic relationship can negatively impact your health and so can negative thinking.

What are some unhealthy ways that we cope with stress or trauma?

Common unhealthy ways people cope are medicating with alcohol, drugs or food to try to numb or avoid the pain.

Withdrawing emotionally is also an unhealthy way to cope. You can withdraw from your kids, and your friends and even withdraw from yourself because you just don't want to experience your feelings. Anything you do to avoid feeling your feelings is unhealthy. You may also spend too much time watching TV or scrolling on your smartphone or being on the internet.  

Emotional responses affect us physically and the other people around us.

Another example of unhealthy coping is avoiding your feelings when you’re not in control of something. When you’re feeling you don’t have control and you’re grieving this loss you may find an activity that makes you feel in control, like obsessive cleaning.

One thing you may not think about as an unhealthy coping strategy is starting a fight. When you have fear and you're stressed sometimes people will start a fight as a stress response. This has a negative impact on you and whomever you’re picking a fight with.

Most of the things that are examples of unhealthy coping strategies are not inherently bad. It's just that you’ve got to see that you use them to cope with your feelings of grief, stress or trauma. The point is instead of avoiding or numbing, you need to deal directly with your feelings.

What are some practical and healthy ways you can tend to your physical body?

Avoiding and numbing pain traps like grief, stress, and trauma inside your body - look for ways that you can release it so that you can have relief. You can release it through prayer, journaling, going to a support group and sharing, or meeting with a counselor or with a friend. Getting your thoughts out of your mind in a healthy way. Make sure you do this with someone you trust and that you don’t do this with your kids. Pray and ask God to speak truth to you so you’re grounded in truth. He will remind you that He loves you and that He is with you.

Recognize that as a physical being, you are a sensory being. Find ways to nurture all of your senses—smell, touch, taste, sight and listening. Some examples are being in nature, listening to music, looking at art, etc.

If you tend to start a fight with someone to cope with your stress, you can choose to be quiet and wait until you’ve dealt with your feelings to respond in a healthy way. Be aware of what triggers you and that you tend to react in the moment so that you can learn to respond.

Another practical and healthy way is meditation with a simple breathing exercise. You can create a ritual for yourself of setting aside time to just breathe and be and surrender to God. Show up and ask for God to meet you. Pray, breathe, and let yourself go.

Bring your physical body and senses into meditation. You can do this by feeling things for a couple of minutes. For example, feel your toes touching your shoes, feel your body sitting in the chair and sinking into the chair. Go through 5, 4, 3, 2 and 1 with your senses—the five things you see, four things you smell, three things you hear, and two things you can feel. Focus both on the internal and external in your meditation.

And lastly, another example is showing other people simple acts of kindness. If you’re at the grocery store ask if you can put someone’s cart up, say good morning to someone, or buy someone’s groceries or coffee, there are endless possibilities. Not just because you want the other person to experience kindness, but because you need to experience kindness too. When the world feels especially unkind, you can create kindness by exhibiting it toward others in simple ways.

Our physical being impacts every area of our life. If we're not taking care of our physical being, there will be negative ramifications.

Stress, grief, and trauma negatively affect our physical being. Learn to listen and respond to your body in healthy ways.

Find one or two of these healthy sensory habits and start incorporating them.

Do something that is physically and sensory fulfilling.

Listener Question
How do I get my teenager to help around the house? I've tried offering money for chores, but that hasn't helped. When my father discusses it with him—that he needs to help me—it makes him feel guilty, but it doesn't change his behavior and erodes their relationship, which is the only positive male influence he has.

Teenagers do need to contribute to household chores, especially in the family living spaces. You can give them a little bit more freedom in their bedrooms. You’re training them in the way you want your family to live. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but you can say to them, “In this family, we make our beds and we pick up our stuff on Saturdays."

They're going to either take that with them when they grow up or not. It’s your responsibility to enforce the standard. Teenagers don’t care. They won’t wash their sheets for half a year. They won't vacuum. They’ll leave wrappers and food everywhere and then you’ll get ants and roaches.  

Allowing flexibility but also requiring responsibility. Consider all that your teenager has going on. Beyond school does he have a part-time job or is he busy with extracurricular activities? Set reasonable expectations and remember that just because you want it done now doesn’t mean he can do it now. Be clear on what your expectation is and what the consequence is if he doesn’t meet the expectation. The expectation and the consequence might be, “Before you do anything that is not work or school, this kitchen will be cleaned and if not, you are grounded.” Then you have to follow through.

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