As I sit on the beach I watch a toddler cry and pull, trying to get away from his mom who is dutifully applying sun screen lotion. I cannot help but think about how this type of behavior continues throughout life for so many of us. Since the potential harm is not imminent it is not top of mind that it should hold importance, even though we are inundated with continual information about the need.
We know that we need to move, eat the right amount of the right things, get enough rest and basically take good care of ourselves. But we also know that the body is great at adapting and can make do for long periods - so long that it gives us a false sense that everything is OK. When in reality, if we aren't putting a priority on those things that our body needs to be well cared for then we are sub-optimizing our lives - or, at least that is what we are told.
I am a fitness trainer and a big believer in the need for the body to keep moving. Regardless of the endorphins or dopamine that some rave about as reason to exercise, the simple movement of blood through the tissues of your body can do wonders and nothing does this like exercise can.
That said, I am a much bigger believer in doing what is right for your body at the right time. And, frankly, there are times when exercise might just be too stressful. So, on my list of priorities for taking good care of your body over the long term there are days to skip exercise and instead focus that time on you in other ways.
There seems to be little argument over the fact that stress is the number one cause for health issues but there is tremendous disagreement over how to best address the amount of stress that each individual internalizes. And those last three words are the essence of the challenge: each individual internalizes. Our systems are not designed for each individual, our systems are designed for most people. We use normative data to determine what will work for the individual and then apply it to everyone - sometimes forgetting that it shouldn't work for everyone.
If going for a run at the end of a stressful day brings you calm, then do it. But if running is just going to be another thing on your plate that is adding to your stress, then it doesn't make sense. Find another way to spend the time that is focused on you. I think it might be important to reiterate that the time should still be spent focused on you. Distractions like a movie, book or tv do not fit the criteria.
Find ways to nurture yourself. Unlike the toddler being forced to use sun protection, there are choices and limitless options. Try something and if it doesn't work then try something different. The goal is to find ways - ideally many - to take good care of yourself because that is your best proactive method of maintaining the lifestyle that you want.
As always, let me know how I can help.