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7 Keys to Taking Care of Your Whole Self

1 Corinthians 6:19

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?

How's your temple? Are you running like a finely tuned machine? Are you eating healthy? Are your mind, spirit, and emotions fit as a fiddle (whatever that means)? Here are some tips to help you get your temple in tip top shape!

1. Clean Up Your Diet

Are you having donuts for breakfast, a burger and fries for lunch, and pizza for dinner and washing it all down with a 42oz soda? You might want to rethink that and move toward eating more whole foods, less processed foods, less sugar and drinking more water.

Admittedly, it's almost impossible to change everything at once and make those changes last, so start with the easiest things. Order a smaller soda, and start drinking more water. Move toward making that smaller soda a once a week thing, then a once a month thing, and then just a rare thing. I drink water all day long, and I take a glass of ice water with me every time I get in the car. This keeps me from getting thirsty so I'm not tempted to get in the drive-through line and order a soda. It has taken me a couple of years to tame my sugar monster, and I did it through small, incremental changes that have become habits.

Here are some ideas:

1. Buy some fruits and veggies and have them with every meal.

2. Learn how to cook, and toss the processed foods. When you do the cooking, you know exactly what is in your food, and even better, you can season it exactly how you like it best!

3. Instead of a donut or bagel, make eggs for breakfast. Saute some chopped ham and veggies in butter or olive oil with a little salt, and add them to the eggs for a ham and veggie scramble.

4. Have a salad with chicken for lunch or a bowl of soup.

5. Grill a steak or fish and steam some veggies for dinner. For dessert, have a piece of fruit.

6. Snack on nuts, preferably raw and unsalted, or fruit.

Do this for a week, and you won't believe how much better you feel! You can eat your junk food on the weekends so you don't go completely bananas, but you might just find that you don't crave it so much after a few weeks.

When you clean up your diet, you will live longer, and your quality of life will be so much better. Higher energy, less mood swings, no more post-sugar crashes, and as an extra bonus, you won't get sick as often!

Ham and veggie scramble and fruit salad for breakfast - yum!!

2. Exercise

You don't have to run a marathon, just get off the couch! Get up a few minutes earlier in the morning, and do as many pushups as you can leaning against your bathroom counter. If you're strong enough, do them on the floor. Do some chair dips on your bathtub. Go up and down your stairs several times. Do lunges down the hallway. While you're brushing your teeth, do squats or build your balancing muscles by standing on one foot. You can do all these things while your eggs are cooking, too.

If the weather is nice, go for a walk around the block. If it's not nice out, go to the mall and walk, or go to the gym and get on a treadmill. I like to swim (you can read more here). Join an exercise class. Go for a short walk on your lunch hour and again after dinner. Take a stretch break.

Add some movement throughout the day. When you're young, it doesn't seem like a big deal, but as you get older, your metabolism slows down, your muscle tone starts to disappear, and you get stiff if you don't move. If you're still young, trust me on this and set some better habits now. You'll thank me later.

Michael doing a plank at the beach when we lived in Malibu

3. Get Enough Sleep

Are you getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night? If you're not, then you're probably running up a sleep deficit. Most people are not getting enough sleep, so you're in good company, but that doesn't mean it's a good thing! Without enough sleep, you're not only going to be tired and cranky, you're also not going to be functioning in top form mentally or physically! Unfortunately, you can't just make it up by sleeping in on the weekends.

To be a peak performer and really treat your temple right, try these tips to get more sleep:

1. Don't drink anything with caffeine in it after 3pm. If you're super-sensitive to caffeine, you may have to knock it off even earlier. This includes coffee, chocolate, energy drinks, and many sodas.

2. Don't eat anything after 8pm. You won't sleep as well if you're still digesting food, so close the kitchen, and stay away from those late night snacks.

3. Stop using screens at least an hour before bedtime. That includes TV, computer, iPad, iPhone, etc

4. Exercising earlier in the day will generally help you sleep better at night. However, exercising too close to bedtime may have the reverse effect, so pay attention to how your exercise time affects your sleep.

5. Develop rituals before bedtime. Read a book (preferably not an action novel that you can't put down....). Do some prayer time. Write in a journal. Take a hot bath. Write out tomorrow's to-do list to get it out of your brain. Make it a habit to start winding down and decompressing 30-60 min before you hit the pillow.

6. Go to bed earlier. You probably can't sleep later in the morning because of work, school, your dog needing you to let him out, the baby waking you up, etc., so you'll have to get that extra sleep by going to bed earlier.

Lauren and Dani catching up on some sleep

4. Feed Your Mind

When was the last time you read a book that wasn't assigned to you in school? I'm not talking about romance novels; I'm talking about books that teach you things. What are you curious about? Learning to cook? Technology and the latest ideas of Elon Musk? Genetics and your health? Learning a new language? Playing an instrument? Planting a garden? If you're broke, go to the library and browse the stacks. There are so many wonderful books out there on every subject imaginable. Even if you only read for 30 min a day, that's 182.5 hours a year of reading! If you read a book a month, that's 12 books a year!

If you're more of a video person, there's a wealth of knowledge out there on YouTube. There are history videos, science videos, exercise videos, Ted talks, and how-to videos on just about everything. There are also audio books and ebooks. Not only will you learn new things, you will become a more interesting conversationalist. That's a big win-win for everyone around you. As they say, a mind is a terrible thing to waste....


Books on one of my favorite topics, homeschooling!

5. Tune Up Your Emotional Health

How's your mood? Are you on an emotional rollercoaster? Down in the dumps too much of the time? Are you connected with other people?

If you aren't doing well in the emotional department, know that there are sometimes physical reasons that you can easily fix. If you are eating a junk food diet and not moving much or getting outside, those are going to totally tank your mood. Sunshine hitting your skin helps your body make Vitamin D, which helps with a sunnier disposition. Exercise raises your level of endorphins and dopamine, which also brighten your mood. Eating a cleaner diet levels out your blood sugar and gets your system running smoothly, which helps stabilize your mood.

Beyond that, connection is key. Being connected to people we care about is a basic human need. Isolation breeds depression. Yes, even for introverts. We introverts need our alone time, but not all the time. If you're lacking in the friend department, try joining something like a bunco group or a book club or a Bible study or a youth group or whatever. If you are with like-minded people, you are more likely to find some potential friends to connect with, and this will help your emotional health, especially if you're doing something fun together. I'm in a bunco group in my neighborhood and a book club with some other ladies who are also Catholic moms with large families. Instant connection there!

Read more about dealing with Stress and Anxiety

If you have serious issues with depression, please find a good therapist. A therapist is like a personal trainer for your mind. They can help you learn how to sort out your emotions and deal with things that you're having a hard time processing.

Fun family time is great for your emotional health

6. Build Up Your Spiritual Life

Spirituality is a big part of who we are as humans. If you don't have a faith tradition already, I invite you to look into Christianity. My family is Catholic, and we have a very rich and wonderful faith tradition in our church. I like to read the daily Mass readings and reflections on my Laudate app on my iPad every morning when I wake up. As part of homeschooling my children, I assign them some sort of religious reading (Bible, catechism, story of a saint, etc) as the first thing they read every day to help set the tone for the day.

Our local church has all sorts of opportunities to enrich our faith life with Bible studies, small discussion groups, young adult and youth groups, seniors group, charitable opportunities, mission trips, and loads of things to volunteer for. And of course, there are thousands of books to read on deepening your spiritual life.

Amy and Lauren with the bishop at Lauren's Confirmation

7. Exercise Your Creative Muscle

If you're not doing creative stuff on a regular basis, take a minute to think back to when you were a small child and what you liked to do then. I used to finger paint, play with play dough, make up imaginary friends, play with dolls, role play through games like cops and robbers, draw pictures, dress up in costumes, make up songs, write stories, make mud pies, and on and on. Children have no shortage of imagination or creativity. If you've lost that, do yourself a favor and find it again.

You can start with something as simple as the camera on your phone; take some artsy pictures of every day things by arranging them in an aesthetic way. Pick some wildflowers and put them in a pretty vase, then take a picture of them on a stack of books. Capture a beautiful sunrise or sunset on film. If you have a musical instrument, pick it up and compose a simple piece of music (and take an artsy picture of your instrument while you're at it!). Grab a pen and paper, and write a funny poem. Experiment with cooking and create a tasty new dish. Buy some cheap canvases, some acrylic paint and some brushes, and try your hand at painting. The next time you paint your nails, try doing nail art with some fine paint brushes and different colors of nail polish.

Dani writing a song

Amy recently took up painting

Some of Lisa's early experiments with nail art

Creativity is a wonderful way to beautify your living space, and it can also be a terrific outlet for your deepest thoughts and feelings. Your temple should be beautiful inside and out, and creativity is just the ticket!

To really treat your temple right, clean up your diet, get moving, get enough sleep, read a book, connect with your friends and family more, build up your spiritual life through prayer and learning, and do some fun and creative stuff! Start making small steps in each of these areas, and then check back in with yourself a year from now. You'll be amazed at what you have accomplished and how much better you feel!

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