5 Ways You Can Live Healthier to Unlock Your Full Potential

By Janice Russell
Parenting Disasters

High-achieving women are pros when it comes to reaching their goals. We’re well-versed in the planning process, great at follow-through, and are always ready for the next challenge. However, it’s easy to overlook one major factor along the path to success: ourselves.

Self-care and healthy choices sometimes feel like extras we can add to our routines later when we have the time. Keep your health on the backburner, however, and it will catch up with you eventually. By taking the opportunity to implement self-care as a regular practice, you’ll be amazed how much more you can achieve when you’re not constantly running on empty. Because I’m Fabulous shares five healthy choices you can fit into any schedule that are bound to get results.

1. Take a Multivitamin 

We all like to think we’re eating a healthy diet, but everyone slips up sometimes. If you’re not getting the nutrients your body needs to thrive, you’re not going to feel your best. Even minor vitamin deficiencies can leave you feeling tired, moody, and generally unwell. 

Although you should definitely focus on getting more nutrients through your diet (more on this later), the simplest way to know you’re getting everything you need is to take a daily multivitamin. By adding a supplement to your morning routine, you can be confident you’re giving your body what it needs to thrive. 

2. Treat Sources of Discomfort 

Ask yourself if this scenario sounds familiar: You wake up, and you have some pain and stiffness in your lower back. But you’re busy, so you get dressed and get out the door, pushing the pain into the back of your mind. As the day goes on, however, the pain keeps coming back to the forefront. It’s not that bad, you tell yourself, just ignore it. Despite your best efforts to power through, you spend the whole day periodically distracted. 

Many of us have made a habit out of trying to ignore discomfort, whether it’s muscular pain, menstrual cramps, headaches, what have you. However, it’s in our best interest to pay attention to discomfort and treat it. One way to tackle mild muscular pain and other ailments is to start a yoga practice. Yoga has many benefits, including relieving stress in your body and alleviating chronic pain. As a result, you feel better, and you’re more focused on what you need to do.   

3. Eat More Plants 

Famously, food journalist Michael Pollan began his book “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” with some extremely simple nutrition advice: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” We live in a diet-obsessed world where, unfortunately, the “not too much” section of that mantra is the only part most of us hear. In reality, however, increasing our plant consumption is one of the simplest ways we can keep our diets on track. 

Plants are good for us in myriad ways. They give us those vitamins and nutrients we talked about earlier. They’re a great source of both soluble and insoluble fiber, which keeps our digestive systems running at their best. They’re low-calorie, wholesome, and last but certainly not least, they taste great. 

If you’re totally plant averse, start small. Blend some leafy greens into a smoothie or opt for a bowl of strawberries for dessert. You don’t have to go vegetarian or vegan to prioritize plants in your diet – just focus on having some fruits or veggies with every meal, and you’ll get what you need. 

4. Stay Hydrated

Do you drink enough water every day? Statistically speaking, the answer is probably no. Doctors suspect that most adults are mildly dehydrated all the time. It’s easy to see why – we’re busy people, and drinking water can easily slip out of your mind. There’s also a vicious cycle element to the equation. It’s counterintuitive, but when you’re chronically dehydrated, your body gets worse at recognizing thirst. This means you’re even less likely to think about drinking when you need to the most. 

The easiest way to solve this problem is to get a nice, big water bottle and keep it with you (and full!) at all times. The bottle serves as both a visual reminder to drink and a convenient source of H2O. 

5. Meditate Daily 

Mindfulness is an amazing habit that everyone can benefit from building. Not only does it help to reduce stress, but it also makes you happier and healthier in the long run. We spend too much of our time going over past decisions or running through upcoming to-do lists in our head. This distracts us from the moment and prevents us from feeling joyful about our lives. 

The best way to build mindfulness is through a daily meditation practice. It doesn’t have to be a big thing – start small, with just a few minutes a day. Dedicate those few minutes to noticing what’s happening around you. If you find your mind wandering, gently bring it back to the present moment. With time, it will become easier and, eventually, it will be second nature. You’ll find yourself less stressed out and more capable of paying full attention to what you’re doing.

It may help to set aside some space inside your home to meditate. However, make sure the space is clutter-free and tidy, as disorganization can cause an increase in stress and anxiety. What’s more, it can often cause your surroundings to trap bad energy, which can have a negative impact on your entire household.

When you have a lot on your plate, it’s easy to let health fall to the wayside. However, you don’t want your own wellbeing to hold you back. Stay on top of a healthy diet, get plenty of water, and keep your mental health on track. Your body deserves to feel its best; you deserve to see what you can achieve once it does. 

Photo Credit: Pexels

You ought to be grateful…

I was on Facebook recently, just browsing and relaxing after dinner. One woman in my local community group posted that she was fed up with “such and such” location of major fast food chain. The lines are always overly long and her food is usually completely cold. Several people agreed and even more recommended different fast food locations with better service. And then a poster arrived with all her righteous judgement and proclaimed, “You should be grateful that your biggest complaint is cold food. You could be in Ukraine right now, running for your life!”

Cue the screeching brakes. What? How do these two even connect? Did she order her burger in Kyiv? Are the Ukrainians stopping for bags of cold fast food on their way to Poland? How did this even become a comparison? Besides, gratitude doesn’t work like that.

We all know what gratitude means, right? Probably? Anytime I’m predominantly using a word in a post (or in general) I look it up because most of the time we’re just mostly right. The definition starts out with what we’d likely expect, “feeling or showing an appreciation of kindness; thankful” but then comes a bit of surprise because it also means, “appreciative of benefits received affording pleasure or contentment and/or pleasing by reason of comfort supplied or discomfort alleviated”. So gratitude is a two way street. You feel thankful but the other person (or people) has to provide something for you to be thankful for that’s above what you already had.

The woman in question had no reason to be grateful no matter what’s happening in Europe. She bought and paid for a fast food meal and got food that was worth less than the value of what she paid. Less than is not gratitude. However, let’s take an identical meal at an identical store and have it sitting to the side because the customer drove off. It’s been a while, they’re not coming back. But there’s someone digging through the trash outside, looking for food. You bring that bag of clean, nicely wrapped, untouched food to the person and ask if they want it. Maybe you even include a cup of water. Are they going to feel gratitude? Most definitely! Cold and clean is a huge step up from cold, half eaten, and dirty. It’s the same product but they’re in completely different situations.

Or another scenario. I live in a small subsidized apartment in a fairly small town. There’s pretty much no storage space and it’s been described, more than once, as a bachelor apartment with a bedroom. Flip side is I’ve got large windows, 10ft high ceilings, white walls, and blonde laminate floors so it looks a bit more spacious. Rent prices are horrific around here to the point where most rooms are priced too high for someone on disability and I’m on disability. The best Colin and I could find was a one bedroom for $999/m in a crappy section of town and the reviews are so bad they’d be in the negatives if that were an option. As far as I can tell the bedbugs and the cockroaches are having a turf war. But finding a hazmat suit wasn’t necessary since paying bills and rent left no food money and eating’s a bit important. So you can imagine how grateful I was to get a clean, safe apartment in a clean, safe neighbourhood that still allowed me money for groceries and bills plus some treats and a few trips to Dollarama.

However, picture someone who was doing well but their circumstances changed, be it job loss, health, divorce, addiction, or a combination of the above. They’re used to a house or a big condo. What do you mean there’s no bathtub? Where’s the heated floor? Why don’t I have a balcony? How come there’s no pool or gym or rooftop patio with barbecues? Where’s the night life? Wait… there is no night life? The apartment I’m grateful for could very well be their white cell, complete with bars on the window.

gratitude page

One of my gratitude journal pages

Our society is very big on gratitude journals these days. I get told in various groups that we should be writing down one… or two… or five things we should be grateful for every single day. And I tried, I really did. I managed to write 65 consecutive entries, each one with a different reason to be grateful but then I stalled. Do I start repeating my gratitudes? How many times can I say I’m grateful for my family? For my cats? For my friends? And some days I honestly don’t feel grateful at all. I just feel tired. I couldn’t imagine coming up with five things to be grateful for every day. That might sound ungrateful but, honestly, after the first week’s done and you’ve been grateful for your partner, your children and/or fur babies, your family members (the decent ones, you don’t have to be grateful for Aunt Gertrude who stole your candy and said you’d always be the ugly one of the family), whatever stability you have in your life, that beautiful sunrise/sunset, how lucky you are to have this food and/or water, and you can insert a few more here… then what? Five gratitude entries a day are going to have you sitting in bed at 9:45pm saying, “Crap, can I be grateful I don’t have hairy toes?” I mean there’s only so much stuff in our lives.

Do we have to be grateful all the time? Can we not save grateful for those times when our life actually has been improved and we’ve received pleasure in some way? We have so many other positive emotions to share and embrace, like happiness, joy, kindness, love, and friendship, we need to think about those too. Just not every single day, five times a day. They say everything in moderation for a reason and that I can be grateful for.

A solitary Christmas…

me at Christmas 1971I was a tiny toddler, which makes sense considering I weighed less than 5lbs at birth. My second Christmas, while the adults all chattered, I would perch on a present and stare in awe at the tree.

“Mustn’t touch,” I’d murmur to myself, one finger mere millimetres away from an ornament. “Mustn’t touch.” And there I’d sit, awed by the shining lights and shimmering decorations.

Not much later my Mom would ask me what I wanted for Christmas and my answer was always the same; a tree with lots of sparkling lights and decorations. My Mom would assure me we would get that, it came with the whole Christmas package, but I was insistent it was all I wanted. So she’d guess and I was happy. The tree was still my first Christmas love though.

The years went on. My sisters and I discovered the Sears Wishbook and spent hours pouring through it, circling items we (along with the rest of North America) never got. I started paying attention to ads and things in stores as we were passing through. Plus I had genuine needs. But I still spent a good chunk of time just sitting beside the tree and admiring it. There was still that tree shaped space in my heart.

Finally I became an adult and then a mother. My tree wasn’t just for myself but for a couple of little ones. I began buying ornaments and decorations every year to remind me of the time we spent together. And the years went from the ornaments being placed.all.together.on.a.single.branch to “I’ve brought all the totes up from storage Mom. I’m going to play Fallout 3 now.”

And February 2020 I moved into an apartment on my own.

I’ve downsized a bit. I no longer have my grouping of three small trees (with real bark trunks) and my tree has shrunk from 5.5ft to 4.5ft. But I still have four Rubbermaid totes and several bags down in storage. I need two trips, and that’s with my big canvas wagon. It’s definitely pretty when everything’s up though.

I was out with two of my friends one evening and we were under my living room window.

“You can see my wreath,” I said excitedly. “And my tree!”

Both friends admitted they didn’t put up any decorations because, “It’s too much work just for me”.

STOP right there! It is not too much work. If you want the decorations and the glitz then you deserve them. Society acts like being single is some sort of holding pattern that you wait in until you’re back into a relationship. It’s not. You are equally valid no matter how many or few partners you have or how many people you expect to stop by over the holidays. You matter. Just that. You!

Also, make it your holiday. After all it’s your place. Got a thing for pink? Get a pink tree! Don’t want the hassle of putting up and decorating a 6ft giant? Buy a three footer and stick it on the side table. Want everything Doctor Who? Great! Just, umm, face the weeping angel topper toward a mirror. You can never be too safe, right?

But please don’t think you’re not worth it. Christmas is for anyone who wants to celebrate and that includes you. You know you’ve got some inner tinsel in you (just keep it away from the kitties). Now, here’s some vegan chocolate chip cookies and a Christmas music playlist on YouTube. If you’ve got decorations you’ve still got time left. If you don’t then you can browse for next year’s decorations to your heart’s content.

overview of apartment

Another year older and hopefully wiser…

Last year was the big year, the big five-oh, and I had it all planned. A mother-daughter-sister visit to Ste. Anne’s Spa with my Mom and sister. I poured over their website, checking out every room and cottage available to our number of guests, searching for the perfect accommodations for us. My favourites were saved in a file on my computer, all ready to be shared when it was close enough for us to book. And then covid hit… and stayed. My birthday was lots of fun but I don’t think anyone could say that eating takeout pizza in my kitchen (with family) in any way compares to eating a freshly prepared gourmet meal on a beautiful patio, also with family.

my beach selfieThis year was different. My parents left in early July to visit my other sister, halfway across the country and I gave up on the mega planning. My napkins and candle were from last year and plans were made on a whim. And it was fantastic! I started out with an exercise class (that wasn’t the fantastic part) and then a video call with my parents so they could see me open their present to me. Then I visited friends who lived near my old building, the friends I sing karaoke with. We went to a nearby Dollarama and I found three fall items that I spent all last fall looking for and didn’t succeed. They’re going to look so good in September. They’re so not getting put out now. By that point it was time to head home and I got back just in time to have another friend over for dinner followed by an evening trip to the beach. Plus a video call with Colin. Plus my sister and her boys came over for dinner two evenings later. It’s been busy but a good busy and it was so nice to see everyone.

I thought I would have things more figured out by my 50’s than I do but here I am still chanting “righty-tighty lefty-loosey” when I need to loosen a screw and singing the alphabet song whenever I have to remember where a letter goes. I spent half a cab ride wondering why the driver kept going left when his little robotic directing device was telling him to go right… only to realized I’d mixed up my directions (again). Left and right are very nebulous to me. And I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, although I have changed my mind about being a garbage man.

One thing I have figured out is I need to take better care of my mental health. Years ago I told the man who called me from Canadian Pension Plan – Disability that it felt like something had broken inside my brain and I didn’t think it was ever going back together. I still feel that way. I’ve made strides in so many ways and I’m sure I’ll make more but I need a nap every day because I’m drained by early afternoon. Lately I’ve been too tired to even eat lunch. And my memory is… wait… what were we talking about? Oh yeah, I saw the cutest brown bunny on my walk last week.

So I’m in several online groups, which would be in-person if it wasn’t for covid, and I talk to Colin several times a day. I hang out with at least one friend a day too. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy starts in just over a week and I’ve got my kitties for lots of snuggles and attention. So many positive things.

Evelyn the cypressOne thing I have been doing is decorating my apartment so that it feels more comfortable and homey to me. It’s a lot easier to relax and feel calm in a place you feel safe and at ease, right? I’ve worked a lot on my bedroom and the living room and now I’ve been working on my kitchen, with the help of a Homesense gift card from my parents. I didn’t like the top of the cabinets, it was way too bare. I had one little tin of yellow and orange flowers at the end closest to the stove, I bought them from Dollarama last year. But they simply emphasized how empty the rest of the space was. I took an hour long bus ride to the nearest Homesense and found the perfect pot for my mini cypress Evelyn. I didn’t, however, find the rectangular planters I’d been hoping for. They did have fake marble pots similar to the ones on my table, so I grabbed two of those. Now I needed something long to place in the middle space. I got to the end of the aisle and noticed white and burlap and then the word “kitchen”. It was a big, rectangular framed wall art and just the right size and shape. Basically it was eminently suitable. I took a quick look at the rest of their art but there was nothing else remotely similar. So I bought it and stood precariously on the counter to hang it up. I’m telling you, 51 years old and climbing onto a counter don’t go together well. But I got down, cleaned up, and took a good look and, wouldn’t you know it, I absolutely love that picture. It just ties together the whole room. I might change up the greenery someday but for right now it’s just perfect.

And now I’m going to pull on my super soft nightie from my Mom, give Oreo some scritches under his neck and behind his ears, grab my phone and my favourite peanut butter cups, give Evelyn the cypress a good sniff (because she smells so good), and play my favourite phone game. Because that’s what life is, it’s all about the little things. The big things might be flashy but the little things are the meat of our lives and they’re what counts.

I hope you have a quiet, comfortable, and peaceful evening wherever you are (and if you have a pet, give them a skritch for me).

kitchen with Pooh mitts

Another spin around the sun…

oldI was brushing my teeth last night then could feel a wave of doom hovering over me. I snuggled Smudge, who purred and drooled all over my hand, read a good book, ate vegan ice cream, chatted with my Mom and Colin on the phone, and listened to quiet music. The wave stayed, crested and silent, and once in bed, I slowly slipped into an exhausted slumber only to wake again at midnight. The wave crashed as I got up, drowning me in terror barely before my feet hit the floor. This time breathing and quiet music were not going to cut it, not on their own. So I took some Ativan, listened to some tunes, and finally crashed. It wasn’t until morning that I realized today’s the first anniversary of me moving into this apartment.

Back in 2012 I picked out an apartment for Colin and I to live in. I fully figured that he’d need to stay living with me so I picked an apartment that seemed perfect for us. Two bedrooms, two balconies, lots of closets, two storage lockers (one en suite), gym, indoor and outdoor pool, nearby library, and lots of shopping. We had three grocery stores plus a Giant Tiger (with a good size grocery area) all within a 10 minute walk plus a Dollarama, Value Village, and three drug stores. It was convenient and, between the two of us, affordable. I just hadn’t factored in one thing. I couldn’t handle living with Colin.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Colin dearly. He’s an amazing person with great insights into a lot of topics but we often disagree (especially over politics). And I’m not interested in Reddit. I’m really not interested in hearing about the Men’s Rights Forums on Reddit. And I completely, absolutely, do not want to hear about their topic of the day at 3:30am. Colin knows he’s only supposed to wake me in case of emergency. Unfortunately he seems to thinks that big feelings are an emergency and will do anything, up to and including flicking on and off my lights and yelling at me, to keep me up to hear why he has big feelings. I have explained the difference between emotions and the apartment burning down more than once, he simply doesn’t see the difference. To him they’re both BIG. We also have completely different standards on clutter, where I prefer none and he prefers decidedly more. Which is why, when I was offered this apartment back in the beginning of 2019, I hesitated for a moment and then took it. The town was farther away from my family and I’d never set foot in it but the unit was subsidized and it would just be the cats and I. Saying “yes” felt awfully like jumping off a cliff but I still did it. And, with that, I changed our lives.

Moving here was such a huge change for me. Not only had I left Colin behind in a half empty apartment, I’d also left behind close friends and supportive groups. Our closest grocery store and Dollarama were a five minute walk away before; I could see Metro from our windows. Now they were between 20 minutes to a half hour away. We were supposed to have groups and activities start in my new building then covid hit a month later and everything got canceled. We had exactly one card night. Thankfully I became friends with my neighbour because the options for making friends were very small. And just as thankfully, groups reopened on Zoom so I could still see my old friends and discuss new topics. I even joined a zoom exercise group with my parents and began singing karaoke with friends via Facebook chat.

Getting used to the size of my apartment was another issue. I joke that it’s my tiny apartment but it really is just that. More than one person has described it as “a one bedroom but it’s kind of like a bachelor”. It’s open concept but has a separate bathroom and bedroom. I’m used to it now, and moving the kitchen table from in front of the hutch to right in the centre of the kitchen helped, but there have been several times the smallness of the apartment has triggered a panic attack. I’ve spent quite a bit of time this year buying relaxing decor. It wasn’t just out of some need to shop. Thankfully time and feeling soothed have made a difference. Every corner I look at holds something I love and the apartment has slowly become home.

Covid curtailed a lot of exploration too. My new town has quite an expansive old downtown with lots of small shops and little cafes. In pre-covid times my Mom and I planned on doing quite a bit of window shopping and ambling until we found a place to eat. Hard to do when everything’s closed. There’s a Thai restaurant I’ve been planning on ordering from for over a year now but they don’t do delivery and have fairly odd hours. Maybe this summer?

newAs for now, I’ve got an online grocery store to shop through, I’ve sorted out the bus system, I’ve found several nearby walking paths, I’ve got a dentist, doctor, and optometrist, and I’ve got three local Dollaramas and a Winners for happy shopping. Life is starting to settle and, thankfully, it’s settling well.

I have no idea what’s going to have happened by the time February 5, 2022 arrives but I hope I have some amazing things to write about and a whole lot less covid outside my door!

Doing acts of self-kindness…

I’d planned on going out earlier except I was exhausted after lunch, the kind of exhaustion that muddles words and drags down your eyelids, so I lay down for an hour. I needed to go to Walmart to pick up my printed scrapbooking pages and a 32 can carton of wet cat food; Walmart’s a half hour away by foot. I also needed to stop off at Dollarama which is on the way. I looked at the time and realized it was going to be dinnertime by the time I walked over, shopped, and walked home. Then I thought about “future me”. Would she rather I left right now, leaving her to tackle everything when she was cold, tired, and hungry or would she rather I did some prep work while I was fresh from a nap and ready to go? The answer seemed obvious. When I headed out, all that was left to do was chop the veggies and the actual cooking. I’d even put water in the pasta pot and premeasured the penne.

I’ve been thinking a lot about “future me” lately. It’s the one resolution that’s really stuck. It’s one huge way to treat myself kindly and with respect and it’s making life run so much more smoothly as well. I can’t do anything for “past me” except think kindly of her and assure her that she did the best she could but I can do a lot for “future me”. It’s so easy to procrastinate and put everything imaginable off until later but, when you get right down to it, you’re still going to be the same person. It’s not like you’re going to wake up tomorrow and say, “Oh wow! I love day old crusty dishes!” So I stop and ask myself if “future me” is going to handle the situation any better than “present me”. The vast majority of the time the answer is no. Sometimes it’s yes and I leave “future me” to handle it while I take Tylenol and head off to bed.

Love yourself firstIt’s just plain nice to treat myself. To prep breakfast at night so all I have to do is put the oatmilk in the microwave and pop the already cut english muffin in the toaster. To look into the kitchen area as I turn off the lights and see clean counters and an empty sink. To realize that everything for my zoom class is all ready and waiting for me at the table. It not only feels good but it’s making life run a hell of a lot smoother too. Not much makes your day run smoother than always being a step or two ahead of yourself. And, like I said, a clean kitchen. Damn, that’s a good feeling!

I find that New Year’s resolutions tend to last about a week before I discard them and go back to normal but I definitely think I picked a winner this time around. I highly recommend giving it a try. Feel free to let me know how it goes!