As you may or may not know, I was sick with four different illnesses and infections over the course of the entire month of June. I was down for the count and pretty upset. As a holistic wellness coach with a daily meditation and movement practice, a plant-based diet, plenty of nature-time and a career I love and am passionate about, I couldn't figure out what the hold up was.
So yes, all of those things are KEY to your wellbeing and I can help you with any of them including the ones below. After running into walls, I did a little scan on my personal wellness regimen. Once I found some holes and areas of interest (both through analysis and intuition), I began researching some fields I had neglected. Nutrition, sleep and social were surprising areas I had some improvements to make.
1. Eat probiotic-rich foods.
The gut has been deemed by medical professionals and researchers around the world as our "second brain." It rids toxins, absorbs nutrients, breaks food down, produces energy, balances our hormones, skin health, and even mental health. It's safe to say that when the gut is messed up, we're messed up. No matter what you're troubleshooting, add the gut. It's so often under-looked and undernourished especially with all the processed foods and sugars we feed it all day.
So the last sentence indicates a need to tread lighter on some of the foods that hurt the gut, but just as important is incorporating foods that nourish the gut. Fermented foods are your friends! Think sauerkraut, kimchi, vegan yogurt (dairy can inflame the gut), tons of veggies and fruits for the fiber and prebiotics, kombucha (watch the sugar) and definitely consider a daily supplement with prebiotics and probiotics (we need both for optimal gut function)!
It may seem strange, but the gut may be your entry point for a cure-all for all kinds of ailments and dis-ease in the body. Load it up on that good stuff!
2. Sleep on your back.
Back-sleeping has been researched and declared as the best way for humans to sleep. The benefits include:
- keeps your spine aligned.
- reduces tension headaches.
- helps chronic conditions by reducing pressure. and compression.
- relieves sinus buildup.
- avoid creases, wrinkles, and irritated facial. skin.
As a lifelong side-sleeper, this felt impossible for me to get behind - especially when I knew there'd be a learning-curve. There was a bit of a learning-curve, but I was desperate to rid myself of the fatigue and congestion side-sleeping had been causing me my entire life. It was time to optimize.
After some research, I found that sleeping with two pillows behind my head and shoulders in a slightly upright-angled position with one soft pillow under my knees and one squishy one to hold across my belly was the way I could do it. I'd find myself wanting to turn in the middle of the night, but I'd resist. I was in training. If you have extra space or pillows to place on either side of your head, that can help too (think: bumpers).
Since back-sleeping, I have been less congested, wake up naturally (never did before), wake up earlier (this is revolutionary), and generally feel like I sleep more consistently throughout the night (before I'd flip from side to side often) and less shoulder pain.
Though it was a bit of a pain for a while to adjust to, I wish I'd done this sooner. I highly recommend finding your optimal back-position.
3. Spend time with people.
We heal in community. Humans are not meant to be isolated. With rising rates of depression and anxiety like we've never seen before, it's no surprise that the last few years of quarantine and "avoiding" social interaction has taken an extreme mental and emotional toll on us. But what about the physical toll? Stress in the mind is stress in the body. The quote that echoes through my mind is "Researchers have found that loneliness is just as lethal as smoking fifteen cigarettes per day." FIFTEEN CIGARETTES PER DAY!
I'm going to be honest with you, I'm prone to self-isolating. I've struggled my whole life with vulnerability for fear of being shamed and definitely fall into the introvert-category. Heck, I actually enjoy my alone time. None of that matters though. Social experts, Tom Rath and Jim Harter, PhD say that "a robust sense of well-being requires six hours a day of social interaction." (Go Strengths).
My fellow intro's, I hear you internally screaming from here (same). So read this: "Research estimates that social interactions extending over 3 hours can lead to post-socializing fatigue for some people" (Psych Central). We may feel better with less time, but we still need a ton of social interaction. Your family counts, but venturing beyond the walls of your home is vastly important. Connect with others: friends, strangers, neighbors, etc. If this makes you cringe and want to hide back in your room, I get you. But take it from me (an introvert prone to self-isolation who loves my alone-time): you need it. It's key to your health and wellbeing.