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As I glide deeper into my 40s, I have a new appreciation for taking care of my body.
Connecting each day with this incredible vessel has become one of my main priorities (and biggest pleasures). It’s honestly odd to think about a time when my body was the last thing on my mind as I chased success, love, approval, and the next shiny thing.
After becoming extremely ill about five years ago, I learned quickly how isolating and frustrating it is to be in poor health. Your world becomes pretty small, pretty fast, and those who haven’t been through it do not understand and can do little to help.
If we don’t have our health, nothing else matters because very little is enjoyable. Everything becomes about what we can do to feel better and just get through the next painful moment.
Below are five actions I take each day, specifically for my body and health. You may already do some of them (yay!), and some may give you new ideas or inspirations. Enjoy!
1. I complete stress cycles as much as possible to improve my vagal tone.
Our vagus nerve connects the brain and the gut—it is the longest nerve in our body. It is the motherboard of communication between our autonomic nervous system in the brain with every organ in the body.
In Latin, “vagus” means “wanderer,” which aptly describes how our vagus nerve “wanders” through the body, connecting to every major organ.
When we perceive safety, the vagus nerve tells our body to relax and get on with normal functions. When we perceive a threat, the vagus nerve tells the body to get ready to fight, flight, or freeze.
Chronic stress responses—or continuously being in stress cycles that don’t complete—can hinder our vagus nerve performance (known as poor vagal tone), and weaken our ability to recover and be resilient.
Doing a check-in a few times a day of what stress we are still holding in the body and then, doing something to complete the cycle (like screaming, dancing, or punching a pillow) allows the vagus nerve to return to the responsive setting, communicating that to every other system in the body.
Knowing that the vagus nerve is the main highway of communication for the body, we want to keep it as healthy and high-functioning as possible.
2. I drink 12 oz of water first thing in the morning.
I know this is written about in a lot of places, and that’s because it works. This is a game changer for digestion and elimination.
Chronic gut inflammation is a primary cause of most diseases in the body. Having good gut health and digestion/elimination affects the well-being of our immune system, since the gut literally “talks” to the brain and every other system in our body.
I read about the benefits of this for years (years!) but never made a habit of it. Now that I have, I will do it for the rest of my life. This is especially helpful if you are a caffeine drinker.
3. I perform a three-to-five-minute facial massage.
Who has been to a massage, and at the end, they massage your face? (If you have not experienced this, it’s probably the most relaxing thing in the whole world!)
Our face has 42 muscles. Forty-two! No wonder it feels sore or tired after we have been smiling, laughing, or talking a lot throughout the day. There are a lot of facial massage techniques you can learn just by an internet search.
Facial massage increases collagen production, helps circulation, helps keep our face tight and lifted, releases toxins, increases the absorption of facial products, and of course, relaxes us.
Even giving our forehead a grid rub when we have a headache can make a difference. Giving our entire face that attention will help our skin’s natural glow and elasticity. Facial massages also bring attention to our mindset and help us sloooooow down.
4. I do 20 minutes of yoga stretches each night.
If you can perform no other type of exercise, I hope you make a habit of stretching. Not only does stretching feel amazing, but it is also a preventative for all sorts of physical problems as we age.
If you do yoga as well, this is even better for some of the weight-bearing poses.
Regularly moving our hips and pelvis, legs, arms, core, lower back, and neck and shoulders can help prevent tight joints and ligaments, poor circulation, poor agility, possible sexual/urinary problems, poor balance, poor strength, and poor overall health.
When I turned 40, I remember chatting with my yoga teacher who was in her early 50s. She told me that starting any sort of consistent physical activity by around 40 is the best way to prevent a lot of hip and knee problems that lots of older folks have. I have never forgotten that (and I started yoga way before 40, but it was good to have that feedback from her).
Also, stretching doesn’t take hours of your time. Twenty minutes each evening is a great amount and it will help you sleep as well as assist your digestion. If you don’t have a regular stretching routine, don’t sweat it. A quick internet search can give you some great ideas. You can also just start with some neck and shoulder rolls and allow your body to lead the way from there.
5. I have at least two fruits and two vegetables a day.
Incorporating more fruits and veggies in our diet does wonders for our skin, digestion, nutrient intake, blood health, and mood.
More fruits and veggies also improves our “gut bacteria diversity,” thus boosting our immune system.
Something to keep in mind here: food has become more about entertainment than it has about nutrients and health. The point of food is to give us energy, not entertain us. But since food is connected to many of our celebrations, holidays, and stages of life, it can be challenging to keep our relationship with food healthy.
Become more conscious of your food habits and choices. Much of how we eat comes from our unconscious conditioning and is connected to witnessing our parents’ relationship with food. Cultural pressures can attribute to eating foods that don’t make us feel good or even cause us to get sick.
If you can and have access, go get your bloodwork done and get to know your nutrient intake and how healthy your blood is. Many people are nutrient deficient even though they consume a lot of food. More food does not automatically equal more nutrients. Your blood will tell you how well you are taking care of yourself.
I ignored my body for years. I chastised it because my tummy wasn’t flat as a board. I got angry with my boobs for being too big to fit in certain dresses. I hated my shape and stature because I wanted to be “beautiful” (whatever that means!).
Now, I am in love with my body—truly. I cherish my soft lower belly, I take pride in my broad, strong shoulders, and I accept my shape because it’s mine.
I wasted many years wanting and wishing for a different body, and I know many people can relate. But now, in my early 40s, I am finally at peace with how it looks and how it feels.
And that is sexy as hell.