If recent events have taught us anything it’s that many of us have been a little too cavalier with our health. We’re getting used to washing our hands more, thinking harder about our contact with others and generally being more cautious. It’s not just to safeguard our own health, of course, it’s also in order to protect those around us who are perhaps more vulnerable than we are. If there’s one positive to take away from the recent pandemic, it’s that it has gotten us more used to thinking about our health. And for those of us of an entrepreneurial bent, freelancers or working in the gig economy, ailing health is something that we simply cannot afford.
And good health is a battle that’s fought on many fronts. It’s not something that we can buy in a bottle, take twice a day or rub into our skin at night. It’s something that involves a holistic approach, a lot of due diligence and care and maintenance every day for the rest of our lives. In an age of quick fixes, it’s not what we may want to hear. But it’s undoubtedly what we need to hear. In this post, we’ll look at the importance of a holistic approach to health and some of the things that you’ll need to consider (obvious and otherwise) to stay healthy.
Building from a strong foundation
There are many, many things that go into safeguarding your health and wellbeing, but in the 21st-century climate where most of us make a living from our desks, stewing in stress and surrounded by the temptation of high-calorie, low-nutrient “comfort” foods, these are the 3 pillars on which much of our health rests.
Eating well – It goes without saying that good health starts with a good diet. But even the parameters of what a “good” diet is are subject to fierce debate. Some will argue that fats have no place in a healthy diet while others will claim that carbs were sent here by the devil himself. Others will claim that the only truly healthy diet is a vegan diet while a few claim that you can be perfectly healthy living off nothing but red meant (don’t do this- it’s a terrible idea).
Far be it for us to tell you what a healthy diet is, but a little common sense goes a long way.
- Eat more food and less processed food-like substances
- Eat mostly plants
- Keep a close eye on your portion sizes
- Try to maintain a good balance of macronutrients. 35% carbohydrates, 35% proteins and 30% fats work well for most people.
Exercising – Exercise not only helps to keep our bodies lean and tones, it’s also an essential part of maintaining good mental health and improving mood with a natural shot of endorphins. A combination of cardiovascular exercise, weight training and stretching / yoga can keep the body string, lean and limber while also maintaining good heart health.
Sleep – Worryingly, many self-confessed health fanatics find themselves getting woefully little sleep. While it’s not always easy to get a good night’s sleep, it’s impossible to be truly healthy without it, no matter how much you work out or how well you eat. While we’re asleep, our bodies carry out all the repairs and maintenance needed to keep us healthy. Including repairing all those muscles that we damage during exercise so that they can grow back stronger. So make sure you’re getting at least 7 hours a day.
Tackling good health, mouth first!
There’s a whole lot more to our oral and dental health than a dazzling smile (although that’s also important). Poor oral health can affect us in a number of ways. First of all, it can affect our self-confidence and our self-image, thereby impinging on our mental health. What’s more, our oral health can be a good indicator of our overall health. Poor oral health can make it easier for viruses to enter our bodies via the mouth. Many conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, HIV and many forms of cancer tend to present in the mouth before they present elsewhere in the body.
As such, not only should we be brushing and flossing at least twice a day, we should also check in with our dentists and hygienists regularly to ensure that our mouths are clean and healthy places.
We need to talk about your naughty bits!
Well, not specifically your naughty bits, but everybody’s. In fact, calling them naughty bits is probably adding to the problem. Let’s call them what they are. They’re your genitals. And they’re as important to your health as your hands, your eyes, your mouth or your heart.
Sexual health is an important part of good genito-urinary health. Especially given that some STDs (like chlamydia) don’t always present symptoms that we can see and feel. Even if you practice safe sex, it’s still a good idea to get regular STD testing. It’s also essential to wash your genitals regularly (avoid using soap and perfumed shower gels etc.) to avoid yeast infections, fungal infections or UTIs. Avoiding UTIs is one of the many reasons why you should be drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day. When we drink lots of water we urinate more which can flush out the bacteria which can lead to infections of the urinary tract.
Stress – It can be your making or your undoing
Stress can actually be good for us. At least, in small doses. It can prevent us from becoming apathetic. It can help us to stay sharp and make quick decisions. It can bring out the best in us as we rise to new challenges. At the same time, however, it’s no hyperbole to say that stress can be fatal. It can compromise immune function, provoke the body’s inflammatory response and as such increase our risk of a range of serious conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease and numerous forms of cancer. Moreover, stress can make us a nightmare to live or work with, causing erratic mood swings and outbursts of bad temper. This can alienate us from our friends and families and exacerbate our existing mental health issues.
We all have sources of stress in life, but none of us are powerless to act upon them. Make sure that you take control of your stress by exercising regularly, eating healthily (seriously, these foods can help you fight of stress), and taking the time to carry out deep breathing exercises or mindfulness meditation. Just a few minutes of meditation every day can make a huge difference to our stress levels and dramatically improve our outlook and our ability to handle stress.
Sitting (not so) pretty
In an era where most of us make our living while sitting on our butts, it’s more important than ever to be aware of the health risks of too much sitting. Sitting is not a natural configuration for the human body and can put enormous pressure on our internal organs. It can exacerbate weight gain, create digestive problems, create or worsen back and neck pain and increase our vulnerabilities to a range of highly unpleasant conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer.
The good news is that it’s never too late to try and reverse the damage that sitting can do to your body. Even getting up for a few minutes every hour or alternating between sitting and standing desks can effectively help to mitigate the health risks of too much sitting.
When you make sure that you’re covering all of the above bases, you are primed for a lifetime of holistic health.