How can you stay on track with healthy habits during busy seasons of life? Explore these ideas for healthy eating, physical activity, and mental wellness to maintain your health.
I don’t know about you, but springtime in our household is madness.
It’s the time of year we meet ourselves coming and going – from baseball games to golf tournaments to band concerts to school award ceremonies. It’s so busy!
Top this busy-ness off with a baby and small business, I find it hard to take the time to care for myself these days.
Yes, self-care. That thing you “should” do… but is easier said than done.
In busy seasons like these, I come back to a concept I learned from a dietitian colleague of mine, Nicole Eichinger, on her Nutrition’s My Life Podcast: keeping my health non-negotiables and letting some other things go.
What is a “Health Non-Negotiable?”
Let me define what I mean when I say “health non-negotiable” – because this isn’t the same as a healthy habit. At least, not exactly:
Your non-negotiables are the things that keep you sane. The things that give you energy so you can care for others. The items on your non-negotiable list are the things which you know you need to do consistently in order to do all the other things in life.
Your non-negotiables are NOT necessarily your goals or your ideals. When things are going well, you may far exceed the items on this list. Rather, you non-negotiables are the “minimum necessary” to take care of yourself when life gets crazy.
Your non-negotiables are just that – non-negotiable. No matter how busy you are, no matter what’s going on, what is it you need to include in your life to function in your survival-mode-moments?
Why you Need to Identify your Health Non-Negotiables
Taking care of your own health is sort of like putting on your oxygen mask. In case of emergency, you need to have your mask on before you can help someone else with theirs.
The reason to put your mask on first is simple: you can’t help others unless you’re doing okay.
I’m sure you’ve heard this before – the importance of self-care. In fact, often I hear guilt about the lack of self-care when I meet with a new client – guilt about not taking enough time to cook/exercise/meditate/whatever it is they think they *should* be doing.
If this is you, I want you to know: it’s time to stop should-ing on yourself.
The reality is we only have 24 hours in a day and you have many priorities in life. Maybe you work, take care of children or an aging parent, or spend time volunteering. Because we live in a world of competing priorities, it’s not always possible to do all the things you know you need to do for your health.
Rather than place judgment on yourself, I encourage you to take a step back and identify what your oxygen-mask-health-needs are: those habits and daily tasks which are essential for you to be the healthiest version of yourself.
How to Identify your Health Non-Negotiables
To help you identify your top needs, I encourage you to consider what might be important in these three areas: nutrition, physical activity, and mental health.
Note: Nicole works with thyroid warriors and sometimes recommends nutritional supplements to support nutrition. In her podcast about non-negotiables, she separates her health non-negotiables into the categories of nutrition, supplements, and lifestyle; I’ve included supplements in my nutrition category.
As you identify YOUR non-negotiables, you might find you have different categories than either of us! That’s perfectly okay; the point is for you to personalize what your non-negotiables are based on YOUR needs.
Fundamentally, food is fuel; we need it to survive and if you’re not eating enough, you won’t be able to function well.
Yes, food is more than just fuel (listen as I explain how All Foods Fit), BUT when life is crazy it’s important to include enough nutrition so you can keep doing all the things you do.
When I talk about nutrition non-negotiables, I don’t mean lofty goals like cooking every meal from scratch or eating a plant-only diet. I want you to think about your bare minimum and what it is you need to do to nourish your body to keep you going.
Examples of Nutrition Non-Negotiables:
Cook at home 3 days per week
Eat a vegetable at dinner every day
Take my vitamin every day
Practice self-kindness around food
Make a meal plan for the week
Eat something just for fun at least once a week
Have a sit-down family dinner every Thursday
Now, that list above ^^ is long because it’s only for inspiration – pick only one or two of these as your “bare minimum” non-negotiable.
If nutrition is a stressful area for you and you’d like some help with getting a healthy dinner on the table, the Peas & Hoppy Meal Guides are designed to help you reclaim the joy of meals with your family. Download a free meal guide and let me take “come up with new recipes” off your mental checklist this week!
Physical Activity Non-Negotiables
Exercise can be healing in so many ways – it can be empowering to feel confident in your body, it can help balance your hormones, and it can be a way to connect with friends or with nature.
But exercise can also be exhausting when you’re already running ragged.
For this reason, your physical activity non-negotiable might look different than “go the gym 3 times per week,” which is more of a goal than a bare minimum (at least it is for me).
Instead, here are a few examples of Physical Activity Non-Negotiables:
Get outside once per week
Do yoga once during the week and once on the weekend
Plan a family walk, hike, or bike ride once per month
Take a 5-minute walk over the lunch break
In addition to including physical activity, I also encourage you to intentionally incorporate rest days into your routine. Sometimes a “lack of motivation” to exercise is just burnout!
Which leads us to our third category of non-negotiables…
Mental Health Non-Negotiables
It can be easy to overlook the importance of caring for your mental health, especially when you’re busy, but health is impacted by so much more than just what you eat or how you move your body.
Stress management, social connections, and sleep (both quantity and quality) are some of the most important pieces to a healthy lifestyle.
Mental health is such a broad topic which I encourage you to explore for yourself to find the things most important; it can take some practice to figure out what your personal non-negotiables are.
Here are a few examples of Mental Health Non-Negotiables:
Go to bed by 10:30 PM on weeknights
Practice gratitude on Sunday mornings
Schedule date night with spouse every other week
See a counselor once per month
Brush my teeth every day (meeting a physical need can help with mental health)
Watch favorite TV show every week
Take my depression medication every day
Spend time reading a book or journaling every weekend
As you can see, the needs of nutrition, movement, and mental health are intertwined. As you create your personal list of non-negotiables, include something from each of these categories to help you holistically care for your health.
In a season of overwhelm, committing to your non-negotiables can help you stay grounded, healthy, and happy for yourself and for those around you. It can take time to figure out which of these are important for you and which is okay to let go – so be patient with yourself as you learn.
If nutrition or mealtime feel particularly overwhelming, I invite you to join the Peas & Hoppy Meal Guides for a free trial. Let me take the burden from meal planning for the next couple of weeks so you can get back to what you do best – taking care of your family and yourself.
Wherever you are in this journey, I hope you continue to move forward with the support and love you deserve.
Happy healthy living,
Hungry for more?
Hear Nicole’s original podcast about Health Non-Negotiables
Learn more about Nicole, her nutrition private practice, and find her book, The Healthy Thyroid Guide on her website, nutritionsmylife.com