Whether it’s working from home and managing multiple fronts over the last year or working in physical spaces at the office and managing all other caregiving responsibilities, women often find themselves overburdened. How then do you care for yourself and your health?
Nipa Asharam, a certified health, wellness and life coach and founder of Eat.Breathe.Smile, a health-based holistic healing venture, shares her thoughts on the importance of keeping yourself physically healthy, especially if you are a working woman.
How do men and women perceive taking care of their health differently?
NA: The difference between men and women in terms of taking care of their health is their mindset. While we cannot generalize it, in my personal experience, I see men are able to focus and prioritize health-related goals more clearly once they have decided to take care of their health. With women, a lot of conditioning (emotional and mental) takes over even after they have made a decision to take care of their health, and health just slips down the priority order.
Interestingly, the term self-care has been googled more in the last three years than ever before. Do you feel that women put self-care last when it comes to themselves?
NA: Self-care with women has been a challenge for years and a holistic approach is missing. Due to this inexplicable guilt of putting themselves first, they often block their own journey of being healthy. A holistic approach is when you see a perfect blend of emotional-mental-physical well-being and for that, a mindset shift is highly necessary. This shift is about knowing that if I don’t take care of myself, I can’t give my best at work or for my family.
Most women will do some basic stuff for self-care and make peace with it, but real self-care needs reflection. You need to ask questions like “what is my best version?” and “what is it that would entail me to be physically, emotionally and mentally happy?” I think they fear asking these questions because it would mean making changes in their life that bring about emotions of guilt and shame. So, you see it is deep-rooted conditioning here that we are talking about.
While there are many conversations around mental health, good mental health is also an offset of good physical health. How important, according to you, is this aspect of physical health?
NA: Physical health—your gut health and your hormones—are essential for longevity and freedom from diseases. If we compromise this aspect, then we see it affect many areas of our life and this could lead to chronic diseases. Physical health isn't just looking a certain way in the mirror—it is also about what is going on inside us. For instance, someone might be thin but have the worst gut health.
Keeping oneself fit physically will most definitely help in mental health because it is directly connected. When we are physically fit, we will automatically have a routine, a certain set of habits and also mobility that keep us mentally grounded when things aren't going well. It also helps to keep cortisol levels low when we are having a bad day and helps us to be able to stay focused while problem solving. Many of us don’t realize that good physical health helps us in this area too.
Given today’s demanding work environment, is it even possible to find a balance between personal and professional life with fitness?
NA: When there is a choice, there is a way. The reason for not finding balance is because we think professional life is “urgent and important” and personal life is “important but not urgent.” Please understand, we cannot pour from an empty cup and our personal life where we allocate time for a fitness regime, is where we fill our cup! This cup is what we use to pour into our professional life. Fitness is the key that brings the balance and the input of energy in order to make us lead a successful and fulfilled life.
Do share some suggestions as to how working women can set physical fitness goals for themselves. Are there any areas one should concentrate on first while doing this?
NA: For working women to set fitness goals, they need to first approach it realistically because the tendency of action-oriented women is to go all in and that can be very overwhelming!
Two things to start with are the Mindfulness Goal and the Mobility Goal. The Mindfulness Goal will focus on just eating right and that is choosing whole food to begin with—more fruits, vegetables and whole grains; staying away from processed and packaged foods. The Mobility Goal will be to move more in office, at home, outside office for a walk and complete 10,000 steps a day. Just achieving these two can significantly change how they feel about themselves before going on to the next level. Some other easy ways include:
Be in calorie deficit as opposed to what you burn daily (a smart watch can help you with this).
Do daily steps and have a step goal (again use your phone or your smart watch).
Have a buddy coach with whom you share your weekly results and achievements and celebrate with.
Take baby steps in fasting for your gut health because it gives your gut a break.
Listen to your body to see what foods suit you or don’t suit you. This is the best way to know how you feel the next day.
If you have any specific goals, then invest in a great holistic coach.