What 2020 is Teaching Us About our Health

I think we can all agree that 2020 is teaching us a lot. One of the things being redefined for us right now is health. Health is one of those things that unfortunately so many people put on the back burner. We put it off until we have more time or more money or for any number of reasons. So many of us put self-care last on our to-do list. A lot of us live such a fast-paced life that we don’t ever stop to notice our bodies and how they are feeling and what they really need. This has shifted since spring 2020.

Suddenly our health is our number one priority. Not only that, but life has been forcibly slowed down for almost all of us. We have been forced to look at ourselves and the way we live our lives and notice what really needs support. I really think that we are also seeing health in a different way entirely. In our world, “health” is often warped into being about body size and our appearance. Now, however, we are realizing how multi-faceted our health is and the importance of nurturing all of those facets: mental health, emotional health, spiritual health, and physical health. Here is what 20/20 is teaching us about our health:

1. Health is more than just physical
I think with the intense stress, many of us are realizing that physical health is only one aspect of our overall well-being. The combination of being hit with this stressful situation plus our limited ability to connect with other people, is showing us that health goes beyond the food and exercise. Our mental health and emotional health is so vitally important. I really think, in my personal opinion, that they are important to focus on even more so than physical health. Here’s why: trying to take care of your body is extremely hard to do if you are not in a good emotional or mental state. You might have noticed this when we first were quarantined to our homes. You might have let all of those healthy habits you had before go out the window because the stress and emotions just felt like way too much and you started to shut down. This is totally normal and a human response to intense stress. Now more than ever, it is so important to nurture your mental and emotional health. This could mean connecting with a naturopathic doctor or a registered holistic nutritionist to talk about supplements, herbs, and other treatments. They could also mean talking to a psychologist to help you process your feelings and emotions.

2. Our lives are so fast paced that we’ve lost what really matters
One day in Spring 2020, we all realized what it is that we really really care about. When all of life seemed to come to a stop, it became clear what we value the most. This could be health, family, connection, sense of belonging, doing work that is impactful or meaningful, etc. When life stood still, you probably noticed what you cared about the most. What do you want to take from this experience into the future? Working less hours to be home more? Committing to meeting up with your friends more? A change of career? Things will not be the same after this, but let’s take what we learned from this experience to create a better world for ourselves, our families, and the rest of the world.

3. Social connection is an important part of health
So many of us felt our health, especially our emotional and mental health, decline when we stopped being able to be close with our friends and family. Social connection is a really important part of health. It’s one of the top things that lead to a longer life span. For a lot of us, this social connection is what we missed the most. I believe that we will treasure our social connection more than ever now. Coffee chats with a friend or date nights with a partner feel so much more special now.

4. We need to seek support
For the working parents especially, we realized just how much of a workload we have. It is so challenging to manage a home or a family in isolation. Even if you are living alone, you are still trying to run your home and your life with an underlying level of stress that is higher than ever before. None of this is easy. It makes sense to feel like it is all too much. A lot of us have a hard time asking for help, but this time in our lives might be giving us that extra push to finally do so. Whether that is seeking help from a psychologist, or opening up to a loved one about your stress, or even ordering dinner instead of cooking after a long day of parenting and working from home at the same time. There is no shame in getting help. The more you practice seeking support, the easier it becomes.

5. Life, and health, are ever-changing
Sometimes we can think of our health needs or what we want in life as a fixed target. With these massive changes in the world, it becomes clear that life and health are ever-changing. Deciding what we need is not a one-and-done kind of thing. Meeting our needs is a moving target. A lot of us live such a fast-paced life that we don’t even notice the little changes we go through and adjust the way we care for ourselves. Use this experience of massive change to learn how to be flexible in how you take care of yourself. What worked for you in 2019 is probably not cutting it in 2020. What needs to change so that you can meet your needs and feel healthy and happy?

Contributed by Melanie Maxwell, R.H.N.