4. Food, nutrition, hydration
Being in harmony with your physical body is essential to your empathic self-care. Understanding your needs, from a physiological perspective, blends into many different areas of your wellness. For example, much of the serotonin, a hormone that plays a part in mood stabilization, is actually found in the gut and the brain.
The body is an ecosystem, and approaching yourself from a holistic point of view gives you the opportunity to manage your mood, emotions, spirit, and physical wellness as interconnected and not compartmentalized. Like many things in life, it is about balance.
Being hungry can contribute to poor mood and decreased alertness and overall functioning. When you are hungry, it is hard to keep everything else aligned and relationships running smoothly. By you being aware of how food affects you, you can become more in tune with managing your life.
Here are some steps you can take to get to know your physical self better (remember to always see your healthcare provider for medical advice):
1. Know your food sensitivities
- Allergies and food sensitivities can have a big impact on how you feel. Speak with a medical professional to investigate if particular foods in your diet could be impacting your mood and how to best track for that.
- Explore what might be disrupting your system or making you feel sluggish, or moody. It could be something in your diet.
- Keep a food journal. Tracking things you suspect make you feel off, or cranky, or bloated, uncomfortable, and so on.
- Test by eliminating suspected foods from your diet for a while, or visit your doctor or naturopath for an allergy test.
- Once you know that certain foods are affecting your mood, shift your diet and explore alternatives.
2. Hydration reminders
Water is an essential substance for the body’s functioning. About 70% of the body is made up of water. Staying well hydrated can help regulate mood swings and support healthy digestion.
- Set a hydration reminder for yourself. This might be every time you get up to take a break from work, you stretch and get a glass of water. Use your phone to set alarms throughout the day if that is not too disruptive for you.
- Or have a cup of water with every meal or snack or keep a glass of water at your desk or by your bed
- Carry around an aesthetically-pleasing water bottle.
- Make a ritual out of your water intake habits to make it more enjoyable and
pleasurable for you.
- If you don’t particularly like drinking water, try adding cucumbers, lemon, or other fresh fruits to make it taste better.
3. Understand your relationship with food
Everyone’s relationship with food is different. There is endless advice about what to eat all over the internet, in books, and from the people in your life. Because you naturally try to please others, you might take on their dietary or nutritional recommendations when they may not actually work for you.
At times, you might turn to food as a way to process or avoid the complex emotions you are feeling. It can be overwhelming to understand all the dietary and nutritional information that exists. Refine your own personal relationship with food.
Here are some things you can try:
- Start a journal focusing on your feelings and emotions around food.
- Explore some of the social and cultural conditioning you have around food. For example, did you grow up in a home where you had to eat every bite of food on your plate even when you were full or didn’t like the taste of the food? These are things that can root into the psyche and can be worth exploring if you want to develop a different relationship with your meals.
- Focus on the food you love, practice gratitude when you have a meal you really enjoy, and acknowledge when eat foods that make you feel joyful, celebratory, and fulfilled.
- Reframe the conversations you have around food. For example, you may be hard on yourself because you ate more than you wanted on a particularly stressful day. Rewrite that story to say something like: “I did the best I could, and given it was a challenging day it was better for wellness to go easy on myself by reduce expectations around food.”
- Changing attitudes around food that is often portrayed as “naughty” or “bad,” such as desserts, can help you create more positivity about your personal relationship to food.
- Research emotional eating to understand if you are eating to alleviate stress or anxiety. Knowing this about yourself can help you plan and manage meals with personalized attention based on your needs.
- Notice how your mood changes based on what you eat, or by how long you wait between meals. These things can affect how you feel. Your ability to empathize can be heightened or distorted based on food/diet/nutrition. These things might be worth exploring further if this section resonates with you.