Cultivating Well-Being: A Narrative of Lifelong Self-Care

By Charon Normand-Widmer

Balancing awareness and care for one’s body is a profound journey that intertwines personal experiences, challenges, and a dedication to showing up for one’s self, day after day.

As a young reader immersed in both fiction and nonfiction, my fascination with health and nutrition emerged around the age of ten or eleven. The habit of perusing books on these subjects was really what laid the foundation for a conscious understanding of the importance of caring for one’s body, and it was during this time that fitness shows featuring figures like Richard Simmons and Gilad started to capture my attention. At the tender age of twelve, I initiated my own regular fitness routines, waking up at 5:30 to catch programs like ’The 20 Minute Workout’ and ‘Bodies in Motion’ before heading to middle school.

This early commitment to fitness took on a new dimension when I discovered the profound influence I had on my little brother. Unbeknownst to me, he had not only embraced a similar passion for fitness but later also transformed it into a thriving career as a group fitness instructor and coach. One day, when I was attending his dance fitness class, he announced at the end of the class that he owed his current success to his big sister, ME! I was so surprised and touched! The revelation of his gratitude and acknowledgment left me surprised and deeply touched, bringing tears to my eyes. It really highlighted to me how a single individual’s commitment to health and well-being could have a broad-reaching, positive impact in the world.

My own lifelong dedication to regular exercise has also translated into significant health benefits, especially as I navigate middle age. Twenty years ago I was diagnosed with a pre-diabetic condition, but through dietary adjustments and consistent exercise I overcame it. Two decades later I find myself with no major health issues, so I can confidently say that the commitment to moderate fitness has proven to be a preventative measure against potential health concerns, and for me highlights the transformative potential of self-care.

The connection between physical activity and mental well-being is also something that becomes evident, especially when we recognise that many mental health challenges stem from a lack of presence in the current reality. This is why I emphasize the role of activities that bring individuals into their bodies, whether it’s yoga, weight lifting, or receiving a massage, these practices can actively combat the intrusive thoughts associated with anxiety and depression, by fostering a more grounded and embodied awareness/mindset.

However, maintaining a routine of body care isn’t without its challenges. The demands of a busy life, coupled with societal expectations that prioritize productivity over recreation, create hurdles in dedicating time to oneself. In the broader cultural landscape there is a prevailing notion that taking time for self-care is somehow idle or unproductive. In a world that prioritizes constant productivity, ‘recreation’ is often frowned upon, as it doesn’t yield immediate quantitative results. The cultural stigma surrounding self-care, fueled by this relentless pursuit of productivity, can trigger feelings of guilt and shame when contemplating taking time for oneself.

This is why, as a therapist I encourage clients to discover self-care activities that they genuinely enjoy. Why? Because joy can help to transform the narrative of shame and guilt into one of play and pleasure, which is a much healthier place to begin. This shift in perspective then becomes a crucial element in fostering a commitment to long-term well-being.

I have found that as I deepen on my own personal journey and slowly come to understand my value as a human being by applying the lens of compassion to myself, I have been able to increase the amount of time I spend on self-care. This has enabled me to view self-care as truly an investment in myself. Taking time to care for myself, to process emotions and stay hydrated directly translates into how much I can be present in relating to others. Being present is an important value of mine, so this fuels my self-care routine. Understanding this has allowed me to work through the shame of resting and to view rest and care as a genuine asset in my life.

In conclusion, the exploration of awareness and care for one’s body unfolds as a multifaceted journey. Starting with early influences, it then evolves as we learn to navigate physical and mental health challenges. However, once begun, the journey is a profound, transformative and very joyful one. By directly understanding the intricate link between physical and mental well-being, and finding the joy in our exploration, we cultivate a more holistic approach to personal betterment and in so doing, have the potential to dramatically enhance the quality of our life journey.

What fitness routines bring you joy? Feel free to share your responses on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

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