How to Design a Journey to Better Self-Esteem
By Godot Media
Pay attention to physical wellness
It is true that when we neglect our physical wellness, we become susceptible to diseases and lifestyle disorders. Both our inner well-being and outer appearance suffer from the negative effects of such negligence. Illness has an impact on the body image of an individual. And body image is connected to a person’s self-esteem.
One of the first major steps towards emotional and mental well-being is taking care of the physical body. There is a powerful connection between the mind and body. If you take steps to enhance your physical well-being, you will naturally experience improved emotional and mental well-being too. For instance, when you exercise, you not only work towards strengthening your lungs and heart, but also release endorphins. These are powerful chemicals which give you an energy boost and uplift your mood. Your emotional and physical health is dependent on your daily activities and the choices made by you.
What is Body Image?
It is simply the way people see themselves and how they feel about their outer or physical appearance. Body image has a strong connection with one’s self esteem and this is especially true for the younger generation. But even as we grow older, it becomes vital to keep ourselves physically healthy in order to cope with all kinds of life situations. There is a proven scientific relationship between mental and physical health. When we are prone to falling sick or when we feel unhealthy, we automatically start developing a low self-esteem and submit to negative behavioral patterns such as isolation or depression.
Therefore, it is important to find different ways in which we can overcome physical ailments in order to enhance or restore our self-esteem. Below are some steps that you can take in order to enjoy good physical health in the long run.
- Eating Right
In reality, eating right is not a very complicated thing. A healthy and nutritious diet can have a significant impact on how you feel from the inside and also reflects in your physical appearance. A nutritious diet will incorporate foods from all major food groups (cereals, vegetables, fruits, dairy, meats, poultry, nuts etc.) so that your body gets a dose of all essential nutrients. This is the basis for physical wellness. When your body has a sufficient store of all macro (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) and micro nutrients (vitamins and minerals), then it is more resilient and less vulnerable to illnesses.
When planning a healthy daily diet, think about incorporating the following foods:
- Fresh fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains (oats, whole wheat flour, bran etc.)
- Low-fat dairy products (milks, cheese, yoghurt etc.)
- Lean meats, fish, eggs and poultry
- Pulses, beans and legumes
- Healthy cooking fats and oils
For those fighting obesity or heart disorders, extra care needs to be taken with the kind of fats/oils used for cooking, quantity of food consumed (portion sizes), salt intake, cholesterol, added sugars and so on.
Quick Tips for Healthy Eating
Below are some simple tips that can keep you on track when trying to eat healthy.
- Prepare Meals on your Own
When you cook maximum number of meals at home, you are able to exercise better control over your eating. You can also monitor what is going into the food.
- Make Smart Changes
Healthy eating is not simply about cutting down on the unhealthy foods. It is also vital to have healthy alternatives in place of such foods. For instance, you could substitute vegetable fats for animal fats (use olive oil instead of butter). This will definitely have a positive impact on your overall health.
- Keep it Simple
Avoid being obsessed with calorie counting. Instead, focus on a diet that has variety, color and fresh ingredients. It is important to avoid consuming processed or packaged foods and opt for a greater amount of fresh ingredients for preparing meals.
- Read Labels
It is good to know what goes into your food. Manufacturers can often camouflage the large sugar or salt quantities used to prepare packaged foods. This is true even when they are marketing the foods as ‘healthy’. So learn to read between the lines and know which ingredients are actually healthy for consumption.
- Drink More Water
Water plays an important role in flushing out toxins and waste products from our system. Still, several people experience dehydration as they forget to drink adequate amounts of water throughout the day. This can lead to low energy levels, fatigue and even headaches. Often, we think we are hungry when we are actually just thirsty. Therefore, it is important to stay hydrated throughout the day to feel healthy and energetic.
It takes time to inculcate new tastes and eating habits. However, the healthier we eat, the better we feel post a meal. When the intake of junk food is high, we tend to experience discomfort and feel low on energy. Fresh, simple and nutritious food on the other hand, helps boost our mood, enhance our physical well-being and keeps illnesses at bay. Ultimately you are able to enjoy a high level of self-esteem as you feel physically fit.
Along with good food, all human beings also require quality sleep to maintain physical wellness. One-third of an individual’s life is spent sleeping and ‘sleep health’ is an important element of one’s overall well-being.
Even though majority of us are aware that we need about 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night, only a handful of us manage to actually get these many hours of sleep each night. The lack of sleep could be a major factor contributing to illness. Severe headaches, fatigue, low energy levels, bowel related issues, obesity and heart disorders might be closely linked to one’s sleeping patterns.
The situation is further complicated when stimulants such as energy drinks and coffee, artificial lights and alarm clocks interfere with the “circadian rhythm”. This is an individual’s natural sleep cycle.
The number of sleeping hours required by the body keeps changing as you grow older. It is also significantly affected by the your physical and emotional health and general lifestyle. In order to understand the amount of sleep one really needs, it is vital to know where one falls on the “sleep requirement spectrum”. Besides this, it is also crucial to study the lifestyle factors which impact the quantity and quality of an individual’s sleep. This includes stress factors, work schedules, eating patterns etc.
Health Benefits of Sleep
Scientific research suggests that sleeping right makes one feel better. It not only boosts your mood but also keeps you energetic and alert throughout the day. You will notice several benefits of good sleep once you make it a part of your daily routine. The benefits will translate into good cardiovascular health, emotional and physical wellness. All these are ultimately linked to a good level of self-esteem in all individuals.
Sleep and Improved Memory
We might not be aware of the fact that the mind is busy when we are sleeping. During sleep, it is actually possible to strengthen memory and “practice” skills that were learnt when we were awake (consolidation process).
When you are attempting to memorize or learn something new, you typically use the practice technique. However, something happens when you are sleeping that enables you to learn and retain better. That is why students are often recommended to get quality sleep prior to giving an exam so that they can perform well.
How Sleep helps in Dealing with Inflammation
There is a connection between inflammation and problems such as stroke, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, premature aging etc. As per research, those who sleep for 6 hours or less every night might have higher amounts of inflammatory proteins in their blood as compared to those who sleep more.
According to a 2010 study, the C-reactive protein (linked to the risk of heart attack), was more in those individuals who got 6 or lesser hours of night’s sleep.
Also, those who suffer from insomnia or sleep apnea can treat inflammation and blood pressure issues by addressing sleep disorders.
Tips for Sleeping Better
Here are some tips that could help restore a healthy sleeping pattern in your daily lifestyle.
- Fix a Definite Bedtime
For good sleep, it is vital to hit the sack at a fixed time each night. Get inside your bed when you feel tired so that there is minimal tossing and turning. Try and stick to this routine even on weekends. Also try and get up at a fixed time each day. Those who get adequate amount of sleep manage to wake up on their own without any alarms. But feel free to set an alarm if you need to wake up at a fixed time.
- Take Naps If you have lost out on some hours of sleep, try and take a nap during the day instead of sleeping in. This way you will catch up on the lost hours of sleep and also avoid interfering with your natural sleeping/waking up pattern.
Taking naps could be an excellent recharge technique for some people. But for others, particularly the older adults, this could worsen insomnia. For those suffering from insomnia, napping might best be avoided. Also 20 to 30 minutes of early afternoon nap time should be sufficient for most people.
- Fighting Post-Dinner Drowsiness
Do something that is mildly stimulating in order to avoid getting into bed immediately after dinner. You could make a phone call, pick clothes for the following day, wash dishes etc. If you sleep too early, there are chances of you waking up later and finding it hard to sleep again.
- Reducing Intake of Alcohol, Caffeine and Drugs
There has been a consistent increase in the consumption of alcohol and drugs in the last few decades. Addiction to caffeine is yet another issue being faced by people all over the world. Rising work stress, long hours, family and relationship problems and financial worries are some of the top noted reasons for people to take to alcohol, caffeine and drugs.
There are serious health hazards linked to the excessive consumption of all these substances. Some of them include heart-related diseases, stroke, liver and kidney disorders, depression, anxiety, diabetes and obesity.
As per governmental guidelines, for those who drink on a regular basis (daily or almost every day in a week), the alcohol consumption should be limited to 3–4 units for men and 2–3 units for women.
If you feel that your alcohol consumption might be leading you to enter the high-risk categories, then it might be the right time to re-evaluate and cut down on quantities.
Here are some ways in which you can begin reducing your alcohol intake on a regular basis:
- Don’t Get into Rounds of Drinking
When you drink in rounds, you can end up drinking much faster than you ideally should. It is therefore best to stay out of rounds or drink with a small group instead.
- Beware of Cocktails
Cocktails might be tempting when you’re partying with your friends but they actually contain a greater amount of alcohol as compared to regular drinks.
Drink Slowly and Spread the Drinks
It will help in cutting the total intake during the night.
- Opt for Smaller Measures
Instead of going for pints, it is better to sip halves or get a bottle of beer or a small glass of wine.
Other simple tricks to help reduce alcohol consumption is to dilute your drinks more and to keep sipping water after each drink to stay hydrated.
Excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to liver and kidney disorders as well as to mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, stress etc. All these issues lead to a poor self-esteem in an individual and might cause him/her to become isolated or withdrawn from the world. It is best to drink in moderation if one is unable to give up alcohol completely.
Cutting Caffeine Intake
Each day, several billion people all over the world consume caffeine in some form or the other. Even though moderate caffeine consumption is considered to be safe, there are various benefits of quitting caffeine or minimizing its intake in the form of tea, coffee, soda, energy drinks etc.
Caffeine has the potential to increase one’s blood pressure by a few or more points. When you minimize caffeine intake, you might notice a fall in your blood pressure levels and improved heart health.
The amount of sleep you get every night is also sometimes greatly impacted by your caffeine intake. If you drink coffee, tea or energy drinks in the late hours of the evening or close to bedtime, it could disturb your regular sleeping cycle. This means it could easily be some hours of tossing and turning before you could finally get sleep. When trying to quite caffeine, start by slowly reducing your intake every day. For instance, if you are accustomed to drinking 4 cups of coffee every day, try and cut one cup a day, every week and replace it with a healthy alternative (herbal or green tea, water etc.). This is termed as the weaning method, wherein you body slowly gets used to lower levels of caffeine till you finally quit it. You might initially experience some withdrawal symptoms, such as feeling low, fatigue, headache etc. But these symptoms soon start to wither away.
Drugs have a similar, but worse, affect on your body, especially when taken in uncontrolled amounts. Drug addicts could suffer from very low levels of self-esteem, poor self-image and mental disorders like anxiety, panic attacks and depression. The withdrawal symptoms related to quitting drugs are far more drastic as compared to leaving caffeine and possibly even alcohol. Harmful drugs such as prescribed medicines (pain killers, anti-anxiety drugs), cocaine, heroin etc. enter the blood stream and disturb the natural chemical balance of the body.
For example, marijuana is a drug which has the ability to cause changes in the human brain. These changes resemble those occurring in people suffering from schizophrenia. In addition to this, the drug also causes lung damage.
Similarly, methamphetamine has a very powerful impact on your body, particularly the brain and the nervous system. Excessive consumption of multiple drugs (and alcohol) could result in substantial amounts of weight loss as well as malnutrition. This could ultimately affect a person’s ability to fight illness.
For those looking to quit drugs, the solution might lie in joining a rehab centre which offers a recovery program. Rehab programs might also prescribe medications to those trying to quit drugs (throughout the recovery program or during withdrawal and once they return back home). However, some people wish to give up drugs entirely and avoid medications of any kind.
Once you are off drugs completely, you will slowly start to feel authentic and real emotions again (joy, sadness etc.) Alcohol and drugs can disguise the authentic emotional responses of an individual to various life events. The ‘Twelve Step Recovery Program’ is one of the most well recognized programs all over the world to help people deal with drug and alcohol addiction and boost self-esteem.
Many people feel that there is no way to avoid stress or stressful situations. This is especially true for people who suffer from a low self-esteem. They do not have faith in their ability to deal with stressful situations. It is true that we all feel the daily pressure of bills coming in, hectic work schedules and shortage of time. There are also family issues and health problems to deal with on a regular basis. But even then, you have the inherent ability to keep yourself calm in the midst of all the chaos.
Stress management or coping mechanisms for dealing with stress relate to making changes in your attitudes, thoughts and eventually your lifestyle. There are various steps that can be taken to minimize the looming pressure and get back control over life.
The first step towards stress management is identifying the various causes of stress in one’s life. These could include major life changing events- switching jobs, loss of a loved one, moving home etc. It is difficult to identify causes of daily stress and we all tend to overlook our own feelings, thoughts and behaviours which possibly contribute to increasing stress levels.
Some people use unhealthy coping mechanisms when dealing with stress. This includes drinking, smoking, use of drugs/pills, withdrawing from family and friends, zoning out by watching TV for hours and so on.
If you feel that the methods employed by you are not healthy and taking away from your physical and emotional well-being, then it is time you look for healthier options for dealing with stress. Some of them include the following:
- Physical Activity: It plays a significant role in preventing stress and minimizing its effects on the mind and body. Any form of physical exercise that you enjoy, whether dancing, swimming, jogging, playing a sport, could work well in helping you burn away tension, anger and frustration.
- Social Interaction: Social interaction is one of the most effective and quickest ways to gain control over stress and avoid an overreaction to external or internal events that are perceived as threats. When you communicate with others and share your thoughts and feelings with a trusted friend or family member, you automatically feel its calming effect on your nervous system.
- Healthy Lifestyle: Making changes to your daily lifestyle, such as eating a nutritious diet, exercising, sleeping right and making time for relaxation and fun, can greatly reduce stress experienced on a daily basis.
- Meditation and Yoga: Join a yoga or meditation class to get connected to your mind and body and reduce daily stress.
The physical symptoms of stress include poor energy levels, headaches, fatigue, muscle aches and so on. A highly stressed individual also becomes prone to illnesses as the body’s ability to fight disease greatly reduces. It is therefore best to start working on stress management at an early age to avoid health problems later.