If I asked you what you do to take care of your home, what comes to mind? I’ll bet you’re thinking about what you do to care for that brick-and-mortar place you leave in the morning and return to every evening, that place with your name on the mailbox and your favorite comfy, comfy chair is in the corner.
But, that’s not what I’m not talking about at all. I’m talking about the place in which you’ve lived since you drew your first breath, and where you’re going to live until you leave this earth. I’m talking about your amazing, magnificent body.
The House You Build
There was once a carpenter who really prided himself on his work. He always bought and used the very best materials. He measured twice and cut once. He paid attention to the smallest details, because he knew those small details would make a big difference to the people who would live in that house for years to come. Now, this carpenter worked his whole career with a general contractor who felt exactly the same about the houses they built together. Quality, quality, quality.
And, not unexpectedly, they had a great reputation for building sturdy, elegant, peaceful retreats. They built homes that stood the test of time and were always in great demand.
But after almost three decades of working together, the carpenter decided that it was time to retire. He went to his friend, the general contractor and said, “I’ve enjoyed our partnership over all these years, but I’m getting older and I want to retire now while we’re at the top of our game. I just couldn’t bear to let people down with less than our best work.
The contractor sadly agreed with his friend, that the time had come to part ways. But he said, “before you end your career, I have one last favor to ask. Could you, please build me just one last house, as a personal favor.”
The carpenter was really upset at the request. He felt his friend was using him to get just a little more money in the bank. But because of their years together, the carpenter reluctantly agreed.
And when he showed up to do the work on this house, his heart was not in it. He didn’t bother to find or use the best quality materials He rushed through the project, not bothering to measure twice. He just slapped things together in an attempt to just finish and be done once and for all. He knew this house wasn’t anywhere near his best work. But he was annoyed with the general contractor and he just wanted to be done.
When he finally finished the project, the carpenter went to his friend, the general contractor and he handed him the keys to this last house. “Here, he said. I’m done. Our partnership is over.”
“Not so fast, my friend,” the General Contractor said with a smile, and handed him back the keys. “You have been such a great friend and partner over all these years, I wanted to give you the greatest gift I could think of, a home of your own. And the house you just built is my gift to you. My friend, all this time you’ve been building your own home.”
Where Do You Want to Live?
This parable of sorts is true for all of us. We’re all building our homes, our bodies, where we’re going to live today and for the rest of our lives. The thought and care we put into our bodies determines the quality of our life. And, by the way, we not only build our bodies, we’re in charge of upkeep and maintenance as well. Just the way you’re in charge of the upkeep and maintenance of your brick and mortar home.
You know what it looks like when you let the dishes pile up in the sink, how the laundry smells after a week in the hamper. Imagine what would happen if you didn’t deal with the overflowing toilet or the leaking refrigerator. Chaos and confusion, right? Same with your body. When you don’t take care of it, it manifests as reduced physical health and reduced emotional wellness, not to mention extra stress and anxiety.
Here’s what I’ve learned over the years: If you don’t take care of yourself, chances are, probably no one else is going to do it for you. If you keep putting yourself and your needs at the bottom of your to-do list, you cheat not only yourself but the people who love and depend on you. Because, if you don’t take care of yourself, you can’t take care of anyone or anything else.
6 Rules for the Upkeep and Maintenance of You
1. Notice how you talk to and about your body.
No more belittling. No more blaming or shaming. From now on, let’s agree you’re going to describe your body with the same supportive, loving language you’d used to describe the body of a beloved friend or family member. Please, be compassionate with yourself. Body shaming does you no good whatsoever. From here on in, I encourage you to begin to talk about your body with the respect and gratitude it deserves, for all it has done for you and will continue to do for you over the coming years.
2. Respect your body’s needs.
This amazing body of yours is always telling you what it needs. It tells you when it’s hungry, thirsty, tired, stressed, or overworked and anxious. It pleads with you to eat something, go to bed, and to stop working so late every night, for heaven’s sake.
But if you’re like most of us, until today you’ve been too busy to listen. Your body wants to feel calm and comfortable – and it will tell you what you actually need.
3. Feed yourself.
We’ve already talked about what to eat, now let’s talk about when to eat. Think about how many times have you forgotten to eat and gotten so hungry you felt like you’re crazy out of control, or what I call “hanxious.” Maybe you’ve heard the term “hangry,” which the combination of hungry and angry. Well, “hanxiety” describes the combination of hungry and anxious. Because when we let ourselves get too hungry, our blood sugar falls, and that can make us anxious. Regular meals can help with this – or even small, healthy snacks at regular intervals throughout the day.
4. Move more (if you are able).
Your body wasn’t built to sit for hours at a desk or even on the couch. It was designed to walk or swim or climb or dance for joy. Your body was made to move.
And not only does exercise makes you feel better physically, it can also reduce stress and anxiety. There are studies that show that for some people, regular exercise worked as well as medication to reduce the symptoms of anxiety. So, just a walk can make such a difference.
5. Rest and restore.
When your body tells you, “you’re tired,” just get some rest. Staying up and binge-watching TV or playing video games isn’t fair to your body. Research shows that not getting enough sleep can cause your body to release more cortisol (i.e. the “stress hormone”), and that can contribute not only to excessive worrying – but also, ironically, to insomnia and sleepless nights.
Finally, listen to the signs when your body’s telling you it’s running on empty. If you’re grinding your teeth, looking for the reading glasses on your head, losing your temper for no reason, or you’re just plain overworked and overwhelmed with stress, and worry – take some time – to play.
Play reduces stress and eases anxiety. So, when your body says, “I need a break, honor it by going and doing something just for fun. Dance up a storm. Go watch as the stars come out. Garden. Paint your masterpiece. Do what brings you joy!
So, let me sum up. Love and accept your magnificent self just the way you are. Listen to your body and honor its needs. Be gentle with yourself as you work on creating a healthy body and an ongoing sense of emotional well-being and peace.
For more tips on how to take care of yourself and quell your anxiety, please read my "anxiety handbook," Calm & Sense: A Woman's Guide to Living Anxiety-Free.
 Stanborough, Rebecca, Joy. Can Hunger Make You Feel Anxious. healthline.com. https://www.healthline.com/health/anxious-when-hungry Reviewed December 15, 2020. Dehydration and Anxiety: How to Keep Calm and Hydrate On. healthline.com. https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety/dehydration-and-anxiety#takeaway  Abraham, Micah, BSc. October 20, 2020. Can You Treat Anxiety With Exercise? Calmclinic.com https://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/treatment/exercising  Cox, Janelle. May 26, 2020. Can Lack of Sleep Cause Anxiety? psyccentral.com https://psychcentral.com/anxiety/can-lack-of-sleep-cause-anxiety  Des Marais, Says, MSW. November 9, 2020. The Importance of Play for Adults.. Psyccentral.com https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-importance-of-play-for-adults