As we settle into the realization that physical distancing (or some form of it) will very likely be our reality for at least the next few months, many of us are also trying to reconcile what that reality looks like. Whether you’re working more or working less – this is a time of massive change from your normal. Last week I shared this post about giving yourself grace, space and permission to settle in, at your own pace. This week I want to begin to explore the specific topic of health in this new normal with this lens of grace, space and permission. If you haven’t already read it, circle back and read my first post here because it truly is the foundation of where we go from here.

What (really) matters now?

As we create some distance from what was, now is a great opportunity to pause and reflect on our priorities – on what really matters to us now. I don’t know about you, but I can quite easily tell you at least a few things that I used to spend time and money on, that I don’t really miss right now (or at least not significantly). You might also find yourself being (pleasantly) surprised by your enjoyment of things you’re spending more time doing (perhaps cooking? Gardening? Reading? A new pandemic hobby?). Or maybe you’re at the front lines or in an essential service and working more than ever (thank you BTW). If this is true for you, have you noticed what routines and strategies are truly helping you right now? What is truly serving and supporting you during this time? And in contrast, what habits and routines might you need to let go of, at least for now?
As you venture forward from here in the creation of a new normal the first step I’d invite you to take is to check in with yourself. When I work with clients one-to-one or in groups I use something I call a “compassionate” audit. Within this audit – we explore each of the 5 pillars: health, work/ business, family, community and personal/ professional development. Within each pillar the basic question is simple: am I happy and fulfilled?
As we tweak this process to land in this particularly unprecedented time, I’d like to invite you to explore each of the 5 pillars with this question: what do I (really) need to be happy and fulfilled right now?
Journalling Exercise: Explore Your 5 Pillars with Compassion
  1. Health: Physical/ Mental/ Spiritual Health and Well-being
  2. Work/ Business
  3. Family: immediate, extended and the family you choose (aka close friends)
  4. Community: volunteer, church, extended friendships, etc.
  5. Personal/ Professional Development: schooling, coursework, reading, podcasts, etc.
You might find it helpful to do some free writing journalling or use simple bullets under the title of each of the 5 pillars. Whichever approach you take remember to give yourself some space and grace as you explore this. There is no right or wrong answer here. Just an opportunity to explore and be curious. Be open to what comes up.

Once you’ve taken a bigger picture look – we can start to look at how the pieces come together. Generally speaking:

  • What do you need to do to get you from where you are to where you’ll be happy and fulfilled?
  • Who do you need in your court?
  • Where will you get the information and tools you need?

From this big picture view we can begin to hone in on the details we need to move forward with with greater clarity and purpose. It enables us to be more strategic in our approach to health and well-being instead of just jumping on to the most sparkly “free” plan or program because, it’s free…and it sounds good.

Don’t get me wrong, free is great (I’ve even got a few free offerings), but what if that offering isn’t what would best serve you? What if it’s not in alignment with what you need to be truly happy and fulfilled right now? Now more than ever – we don’t have time to waste our (precious) time! So let’s dive in and get really clear on what would best serve and support you – right now!

Before we start digging into exactly what strategies and tactics are going to serve and support you best, I want to introduce you to one more fundamental Super You Philosophy – I call it the Health Zone.

The Health Zone

In my coaching practice and in my book I talk about the concept of a “health zone.” Instead of viewing your health as a binary state you’re either “in” or “not” (read: on or off that blessed health wagon), we’re going to view your health as an evolving continuum or zone of habits and routines. And as long as you’re living each day within your defined “zone” you my friend are ROCKING your health – your way! No guilt. No shame. Just you feeling fabulous. Can I get an amen?!
(note: the value and importance of defining a health zone as opposed to the binary view of health is something I cover in depth in my book and in the Super You Studio Clarity Coaching Module, but for now let’s just summarize it to this…When we view health as binary there is no wiggle room for real life. So when we “fall off the wagon” as we invariably will, there tends to be a lot of guilt and negative emotions. These negative emotions are counter productive to us feeling confident in our capabilities to be successful, and the result is often that we simply stop the habit entirely. By creating a zone, we create more “clearance” or wiggle room for real life. Which means we’re far more likely to be successful. I’ve been using this model with clients for over 3 years now and it’s truly been game changing for many of them.)
Within Your Health Zone you’re going to create a range within each health habit by defining both Lower Limit Habits and Upper Limit Habits. Your Lower Limit Habits are the habits you’ll maintain no matter what. No matter what (within reason), you’re going to keep on keeping on with these non-negotiable habits. That means they need to be basic. Really simple. Think: brushing your teeth, drinking a certain amount of water, getting a minimum number of hours sleep, moving for a certain number of steps per day or doing some daily stretches, etc. On the other end of your zone you will have your Upper Limit Habits. These are the habits you’ll maintain when things are chugging along – nothing hitting the fan, just you living life. Not unicorns and rainbows dreamland – but your real life, without major hiccups.
The beauty of this model is that it affords you flexibility for times exactly like this. When you’re having a tough day dealing with “all the things,” you stick with the lower limits. Awesome. When you’re feeling more energized and into it, that’s right, you’re living the upper limits! Also awesome.
Here’s the super important caveat about the Health Zone. The “trick” to living in your Health Zone is to accept that anywhere you land within this zone is (genuinely) ok. That if you’re hitting lower limits all week – it’s actually ok. And is still you doing a great job! For real.
There’s one other feature of the Health Zone I want you to be aware of….
Your Health Zone isn’t static.
You don’t define your Health Zone and then stick with it for life (nope, it’s not that simple – life rarely is). The other aspect of this zone is that it too is malleable and will evolve depending on your unique priorities, commitments and values! In times of peak stress, or after a life change, or a major change in your health your Health Zone will also shift! For some of you (ie. 99.9% of people) reading this, all three of these are happening right now – so it’s an important time to pre-emptively shift your zone so you don’t just say “screw it,” and throw in the towel until this pandemic is over. Because as we already acknowledged, we might be “here” for a while yet. So we may as well buckle up.
So if you take a step back and evaluate your Zones now – you can create space and grace to feel truly successful with your health habits – through the chaos. Rather than waiting for “when it’s all over.” By viewing your health as this responsive zone – it offers us the opportunity to be more resilient and flexible (literally and figuratively).

Creating Your Pandemic Health Zone:

When I’m working with clients to define their Health Zone I typically break “health” into 3 components:
  1. Physical: the health of your physical body – includes three primary components:
    • Movement – may include general physical activity for overall mental and physical well-being or may encompass both physical activity and more specific exercise for fitness outcomes
    • Nutrition – how you choose to nourish your body to feel your best
    • Sleep – rest and recovery for optimal health
  2. Mental: emotional, social, and psychological well-being. Practices might include mindfulness, stress management, personal or professional development or working with a coach or counsellor.
  3. Spiritual: connection to a higher power or belief system. It may be determined by your religious faith, personal values, beliefs, principles and morals. Practices might include self-compassion, prayer, devotions, meditation, relaxation, gratitude, journalling or connecting with loved ones or nature.

As you begin to define your Health Zone, keep in mind each of these unique areas. You might find that you don’t need as much support in one as the other. For some exercise is your go-to right now, awesome. But you might need to bring your focus to nutrition – say, dialling back the emotional/ boredom eating and re-connecting to your hunger and fullness cues and eating a bit more intuitively and mindfully. Or maybe you’re feeling pretty solid nutritionally, but all of the sudden you’re more sedentary and need to bring your focus to more intentional movement and some mental health strategies to support anxiety.

Wherever you land in the mix, remember this: less is more. Try to make your Lower Limits things you can do pretty much without thinking (or with some simple visual cues like post it notes for reminders or auditory cues like alarms on your phone). Don’t make it hard, make it easy! Then make your Upper Limits stretch you – but only a little. Now is not a time for big stretch goals! Now is a time for powering down and settling in. Focus on things that fill your resilience bucket and help you feel empowered and strong!

Have fun with this. Remember the practice of living a healthy lifestyle is meant to add value to your life – not feel like one more chore (on a very long list). Focus on feeling good. Focus on doing things that bring you joy. And remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

If you’d like some support around bringing this to life, please contact me. I’m currently offering one-to-one coaching on a sliding scale. You can also bring these concepts to life in my upcoming Super You Mindset Course starting May 4th (this is also available on a sliding scale). Please don’t let financial constraints be a barrier for you. I’m happy to discuss options to help you get the help you need to get through this challenging time feeling healthy and well.