Balancing Fitness and Self-Care

Photo Credit:  Pexels

Photo Credit: Pexels

Do You Know How to Balance Fitness with Self-Care? If Not, You’ll Want to Read This

By: Sheila Olson

Have you started a new fitness routine? If so, you should be proud of taking a healthy step forward in your life, but is fitness all you need to thrive? While staying fit can definitely help you stay healthy, you need self-care to really let yourself prosper. Balance your workouts with self-care using these transformative tips:

Don’t Let Fitness Take Over Your Life

If you’ve made getting to the gym a regular commitment, you’re definitely on the path to healthy success. But if your workouts are taking up too much time, or if your diet is becoming too severe, you may be doing more harm than good. Addiction to exercise and eating disorders are major issues, and taking fitness too far is all too easy to do. So if you feel yourself becoming too focused on your fitness plan, or you don’t seem to have time for anything else, it’s probably a good idea to mix it up. 

Find Some Other Forms of Stress Relief

Exercise is such an effective tool in relieving stress, but it won’t make all your stress go away. To truly manage stress, you need to get out and get into other activities that make you happy. Find a spot in your home that can serve as a meditation space and commit to using it every day. Want a lifetime of stress relief? Think about adopting a new pet! Research proves that having pets is the ultimate way to unwind from stress. If you can’t adopt, think about petting some puppies or kittens at your local animal shelter. 

Start Each Day the Right Way

Self-care is the perfect way to start your day, and it doesn’t have to take a lot of time. You can practice self-care when you wake up by taking a few moments for a gentle breathing routine. Set a positive intention at the end of your breathwork, and improve your mood before you even have that first cup of coffee. If you’re committed to a fitness routine, you already know the importance of a healthy breakfast, so leave enough time to enjoy a smoothie bowl or some healthy toast before you really kick off your day.  

Take Some Real Time for Yourself  

You can’t build self-care into your health routine if you’re not really taking time for yourself. While workouts and hobbies can help you manage stress, sometimes you just need some time to do nothing. If you have a hard time fitting this important form of stress relief into your busy schedule, try penciling your “nothing” time into your calendar. Write in a weekly soak in the tub or a weekend nap in your hammock. Release the tension from your hard-working muscles and try to clear your mind to really enjoy this time to yourself.

Work on Your Emotional Health

Diet and exercise can benefit your body, but to be truly healthy, you need to work on your mind as well. Mental health is being talked about more and more in our society, and that’s for a good reason. Our physical health and overall happiness can be tightly tied to our mental health. Anxiety, depression, and mood disorders can make wellness nearly impossible if left unchecked. Include mental health in your self-care plans to put yourself on the path to true bliss. 

Clean Up Your Sleep Habits

Like mental health, sleep can also impact your overall wellness. A lack of sleep can negatively impact your immune system, emotions, and ability to lose weight. In fact, many experts compare the chronic loss of sleep to being intoxicated all of the time. Definitely not a good habit for your health. Make sure you get the rest you need by improving your relaxation routine at home with quality pillows and noise machines. Keep your bedroom dark as well.

Adding self-care to your health goals doesn’t have to be a major workout. The most effective forms of self-care are simple to mix into your routine, but they can have major benefits in your life. So start balancing fitness with self-care and start living your best life yet! 

Sheila Olson has been a personal trainer for five years. She believes the best way to achieve physical fitness and good health is to set and tackle small goals. She encourages her clients to stay positive and incorporates mindfulness and practices for reducing negative talk into her sessions. She created to spread the word about her fitness philosophy.

Letter to my 20-year-old self

Dear Nicole,

I don’t know how to say this without just… saying it. You are about to go through a lot of shit. Plain and simple. If my math is correct, you’re about to get pregnant (again) pretty soon, and trust me; you’re not even close to being over the last pregnancy. You’re going to be a mother, and this is going to change the entire trajectory of your life. Whatever you think you have planned right now, just forget it. And no matter what anyone says… you’re going to turn out great.

You’re going to make some life choices that are going to put you in some challenging situations. Most of them are going to involve boys.  You are looking for attention, approval, and what you think is love in all of the wrong places.  The awesome thing is, God will always be there. He already loves you, has forgiven you and has prepared a path for you that will lead you to your purpose. There’s definitely a reason why you’re here. I’m going to admit, I’m still not sure what that reason is, but I think I’m closer to figuring it out for us.

I want you to know that I’m proud of you. You did an amazing job with the hand you were dealt. You had an extremely bumpy start at life, and you’re not always willing to admit this. Being molested didn’t serve you well. You want to be strong, so talking about your past isn’t something you do. Depression and anxiety sneak in and take over, but you don’t recognize them. You chalk it up to being tired. You have no idea why you’re sweating, hyperventilating and feeling as though your heart is going to come out of your chest. You don’t know depression or anxiety exist. You only know that you feel bad. I want you to know that someday you will talk about all of this, and it will make you feel much better. You will slowly learn to release the hurt and fear that often paralyzes you. You will become stronger, braver, louder, better, and even more awesome.

I wish someone would’ve told you not to get that Discover card at the college bookstore that one time, or not to take out all those student loans. And not to let strangers into your bachelorette pad, and not to date guys based on their nice smile/eyes/teeth, and not to pay attention to people who don’t like how small you are. But then, you would’ve never learned how to properly use credit. Or that when people steal all of your stuff (even your GOLDFISH), you will get it all back, and even better the next time around. You wouldn’t have your handsome son, the one you’re about to be pregnant with soon. We are still working on the whole body image thing.

You and your newborn son will live with a family you met through church after you lose your main means of transportation, resulting in the loss of your job, and the subsequent need to move out of your apartment. Your father won’t allow you to live back home. You’re going to think this is the lowest you can ever be. No money for food, diapers, a roof over your son’s head. You feel the consequences of the choices you’ve made. You blame yourself. Your dad tells you, “it’s all your fault”, and you’re sure that it is.

At this moment I wish I could’ve told you that one day, you’re going to get married. You’re going to have 4 amazing children. You’re going to go to college and graduate. Twice. You’re going to own two homes, and a car that fits your growing family. You’re going to have an awesome dog that listens to nothing you say but loves you more than anything. You’re going to design your own furniture (after the home you built floods and has to be completely remodeled). Again, you will lose everything, and gain so much more. You will cry, you will stay in bed all day, skip showers and not wash your hair. You will refuse to eat and finally be formally diagnosed depression with that eating disorder you were hiding for all these years. You will find a counselor; or rather, God will send you one. And you will begin to heal. I know this all sounds absurd while you’re sitting there, trying to decide what to do with your life. You’re young yet and have a lot of life left to live.

Slow down. Stay strong. Be brave. Work hard. Stay focused. Eat well. Drink water. Take care of your body. Call your mother. Talk to someone about your problems. Believe that God has His hand in everything you do. It’s about to get rough, but things are going to get better.

See you around…


How the Opioid Epidemic has Effected the Sickle Cell Patient: A Think Piece

During my 7 years as a nurse, I’ve taken care of patients with sickle cell disease. I’ve educated hospital staff and nursing students about pain, according to the Joint Commission, National Patient Safety Goals and Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) survey expectations. Ethically, we are taught that pain is whatever the patient says they are experiencing at the time. If the patient states that they are experiencing level-10 pain, we are to treat level-10 pain, with the goal of achieving a pain-free patient. Some providers believe that this expectation, along with the over-prescribing of opioids for acute pain, may have contributed to the rise in opioid overdoses, and thus the crisis that we are facing today.

From where I sit now as a case manager, I am often faced with reports of uncontrolled pain. There’s very little I can do, except to be empathetic. You see, many opioids are no longer covered by insurance, and with the crusade to end the opioid crisis in full swing, some providers are reluctant to write prescriptions for the remaining medications that are covered. These providers refer patients to pain management. The patients, in turn, search ravenously for a pain management doctor who will accept their insurance, usually to no avail. This may lead patients who suffer from chronic pain to over utilize the emergency room. Some turn to street drugs; either prescriptions that are being sold illegally or other drugs like heroin. Some patients even check themselves into psychiatric facilities. Chronic pain, after all, can lead to depression and sometimes suicide. Drug overdose was the number one cause of non-medical deaths in the United States in 2008, and the numbers have increased since then (CDC, 2017).

There are many types of chronic pain that are reported, like fibromyalgia and chronic back pain. Sickle cell pain does not make up a large percentage of these complaints. Sickle cell disease normally affects a small portion of African Americans, who are in the minority group of the national population. Regardless, patients with sickle cell disease are more likely to be accused of opioid abuse or addiction. Patients who live with sickle cell disease typically know which drugs work best for them. They’ve been living with this disease all of their lives. Signs and symptoms of sickle cell disease can show themselves as early as one year of age. As a healthcare provider, it can be alarming when a patient can tell you which pain medicine works best for them. “How do they know that?” we think. “They must get this medication an awful lot.” Instead of taking their word, and assuming it’s based on their life experience, these patients get labeled as “pain medication seekers” and “frequent fliers”. I’ll admit, I was once guilty of having this jaded mindset.

Until I did my own research.

The CDC keeps a Multiple Cause of Death database. According to their research, not only have the deaths associated with sickle cell decreased significantly over the last 20 years, but they also report that only a very small number of patients with sickle cell disease died from opioid pain relief overdoses. Between 1999 and 2013, 174,959 people died from opioid overdoses, and only 95 of those that died were sickle cell patients (The Opioid Drug Epidemic and Sickle Cell Disease; Guilt by Association. Ruta and Ballas, 2016).

Recently, certain diagnoses have been excluded as those that qualify patients to receive insurance coverage for prescribed opioid pain relievers. I was not surprised to see that patients diagnosed with cancer would still be covered for their prescription opioids. Rightfully so, since pain caused by cancer has been reported by patients to be excruciating. I was shocked, however, to learn that patients with sickle cell disease were excluded, even though sickle cell pain has been described as being just as painful as cancer pain.

The government has tasked researchers with finding alternate pain relieving options, such as non-opioid painkillers and non-pharmaceutical remedies such as meditation and acupuncture, in order to alleviate the need for opioid pain relievers. However, research shows that opioids are still the best pain relief for those who suffer from sickle cell disease. While the war on opioid overdose is needed, it has left patients with sickle cell disease to suffer due to the popular misconception that they are addicted to drugs simply based on their diagnosis alone. It has only exacerbated the stigma.

Why is that?

I was listening to a Sunday afternoon radio talk show that was hosting a local sickle cell advocacy group. The spokesperson was discussing how sickle cell research is one of the most underfunded research topics. The radio host asked why and the spokesperson said, “I have my theories.” I wanted her so badly to say that it was because of the healthcare disparities that plague our nation. Healthy People 2020 defines a Health Disparity as "a particular type of health difference that is closely linked with social, economic, and/or environmental disadvantages. Health Disparities adversely affect groups of people who have systematically experienced greater obstacles to health based on their racial or ethnic group; religion; socioeconomic status; gender; age; mental health; cognitive, sensory, or physical disability; sexual orientation or gender identity; geographical location; or other characteristics historically linked to discrimination or exclusion" (Healthy People 2020). There’s a direct correlation between sickle cell and Black people. The connection is glaringly obvious. And yet, we are too afraid to say, “It’s because it affects Black people”. 

So here we are, genetically inclined to be born with a disease that can leave us in crippling pain and denied coverage for the medication needed to control this pain. We are more likely to be denied access to care due to a myriad of disparities. It’s obviously going to take more than an act of Congress to fix this severely broken healthcare system. We can all see how that’s been working. It often feels like the same rules do not apply to Black people as they do for our White counterparts. While the crack epidemic criminalized the Black community, the opioid epidemic has turned drug abuse into a medical condition called Opioid Use Disorder. Just think how things might be different today if the crack epidemic had been treated as a medical condition.

I will leave you with this thought. We are going to have to work together, within the Black community, to educate each other, raise our own funds, do our own research, and end these disparities once and for all. We can no longer count on others to do this for us. We can no longer count on others to care more about us than we do ourselves. We must work harder to end the disparities in our communities if we want to see real change. And it all starts by using our voices.

Nicole Scott MSN, RN