I’ve never been a complete health-nut, but I’ve never been necessarily unhealthy either. Sure, I love pizza, anything sugar, Chinese take-out, bar food like fried chicken tenders and crispy french fries dipped in ranch dressing (cue hunger pangs!). But I also try to stay as active as possible and eat the occasional salad or smoothie. There’s always tomorrow to try to be healthier. Good enough, right?
Until September of 2015, I had settled for good enough. But this past spring, I developed an irritating canker-sore-like spot on the right side of my tongue. I figured it would go away, like a typical canker sore, but as the summer rolled around, I was in so much pain that simple things like speaking and chewing were almost unbearable. I had the most severe earache and neck pain that I have ever experienced, but didn’t put all the symptoms together. My dentist didn’t either. “You’re too young and too healthy for this to be a concern. Just use Oragel.”
At the end of August, I visited a new dentist. He took one look into my mouth and grimly said, “I want that biopsied. ASAP.” So I was sent to a Head & Neck surgeon for a biopsy. And in September, I was diagnosed with rare Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma, without a cause.
Intensive surgery followed the initial diagnosis, half of my tongue was removed and reconstructed, and I’ve spent the past four months recovering and relearning how to speak and eat. Before this happened, I was a worship director at my church, as well as recording and performing my own music, and singing has always been my life. Suddenly, I’ve been thrown into the world of health and cancer-fighting diets, essential oils and focusing all of my energy on alternative treatments and wellness. And I have no idea yet if I’m cancer-free!
It’s been exhausting. It’s been heartbreaking. It’s been inspiring and life-changing. And I’m learning so much about how we treat ourselves just because we don’t know any better- or if we’ve been informed, we aren’t ready to make a change until we have to. So, here are five healthy habits we can all start TODAY:
1) Health begins on your plate
Do your research. Take an extra second to read those ingredients. We literally ARE what we eat, and if it’s all processed junk and chemicals, then our bodies are running on processed junk and chemicals. What we put into our bodies every meal is so important to our overall health. Have fun with it! Create a Pinterest recipe board, buy more whole foods, eat out less and experiment more. I’ll admit, it’s confusing at first to make changes in your diet. But once it becomes second-nature, you will notice you feel better, you function better, and you wonder why you aren’t craving all the garbage!
2) Exercise is key
So you hate cardio? Me too. But the more we move our bodies every day, the better we feel! Take time today to go for a walk, follow a yoga video on YouTube, dust off that old aerobics VHS circa 1985 from your mom’s collection…get your heart pumping! I guarantee you will never regret a workout.
3) Guilt-free Me Time
Honestly, the most important part of my healing process so far- besides eating cancer-fighting meals and forcing myself to get off the couch- has been this time of rest and recuperation. I realized that stress was an integral part of my everyday life, and I couldn’t remember the last time I had just taken the time to relax and have some Me-time. Especially as women, we are always so busy trying to make our lives worthwhile and constantly pouring into the lives of others, and stopping to rest just seems like a waste of that precious time. Being stressed is just a part of the race. But what we don’t realize is that the stress is killing us just as quickly as the chemicals in our food- and how can we genuinely love on and serve others when we’re burned out and exhausted?
Start carving out some time each day – even if it’s a mere five minutes to close your eyes and breathe. Whether your days consist of chasing and cleaning up after toddlers, leading a Fortune 500 company, or running a successful and thriving ministry (maybe all of the above!), making time for yourself is crucial to staying healthy, focused, and happy.
4) Create a bedtime routine
Falling asleep with my phone, after just being on my laptop or binging on Netflix, became much too easy of a habit to create. Now I’m trying hard to break it. A good night’s sleep is vital to our overall health and wellness. Drink a cup of tea, do some relaxing yoga, read a book, or listen to some calming music as you prepare for bed. Your brain has been running full speed all day- give yourself the chance to wind down and relax without the distractions.
5) Read something encouraging or inspiring daily
We live in a media-saturated world, and not all of what we read every day is uplifting or inspirational. Make it a point each morning to read something that gives you hope. Maybe it’s a quote, a Bible verse, a line from a song, or a passage from your favorite book. Write it down in a journal or stick it to the fridge. Make personal encouragement a daily routine. Who knows? You might even feel inspired to encourage someone else!
Frankly, I don’t have all of these things mastered yet, but I am doing my best. One thing I know for certain: the better we are to ourselves and making our health a priority instead of an afterthought, the better chance we have at living vibrant, happy and whole. You owe it to yourself to make YOU a priority. This year, let’s strive to do better than good enough.