Are you feeling cranky, run-down, or just plain off? Check your body budget.
What is a body budget, and why is it important? Your body budget is the energy your brain allocates to each of your body's functions to keep you alive. "A human brain is in charge of budgeting resources including water, blood, salt, oxygen, glucose, cortisol, sex hormones, and dozens more, to keep a body running efficiently. When those resources are depleted—by lack of sleep, chronic stress, or a lackluster diet that deprives you of important nutrients—your body is more vulnerable to illness," Lisa Feldman Barrett in an interview posted on news.northwestern.edu.
If you think of your body like an account, you can start to see how you're spending and saving.
Let's say your body budget is $100 per day. If you don’t sleep, drink enough water or eat well, those costs start piling up. The more you do those things, the more money you save on your overall budget. And if you spend too much one day (like eating out), it might mean that other parts of your life suffer because there isn’t enough left over for them—or even worse, there isn’t enough saved up for emergencies!
"Your body budget can have a significant impact on your emotions. "(p. xxii)
Social Emotional Classroom: A New Way to Understand Students and Nurture the Brain by Anna-Lisa Mackey and Melissa Ragan.
Sleep is an important part of your health, and getting enough is crucial to staying healthy. Generally, adults should get at least seven hours of sleep each night. If you're having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, try some basic lifestyle changes that might help:
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bedtime (the effects can last for several hours)
- Don't eat heavy meals within two hours of going to bed
- Exercise regularly (but not right before bedtime)
- Spend time relaxing every day—take a bath or read a book instead of watching TV or playing video games
Create a consistent sleep schedule. If you have trouble falling asleep, try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (including weekends) for a few weeks. It can take a while for your body to adjust to getting enough sleep regularly.
For information on the importance of sleep for teens, see our blog post here.
"The body budget, or allostasis, is really at the root of socialization and the need for relationships." (p. 48)
Social Emotional Classroom: A New Way to Understand Students and Nurture the Brain by Anna-Lisa Mackey and Melissa Ragan
Hydration is so important for regulating our body budget.
- Drink enough water.
- How do you know if you're dehydrated? Drink more water!
- The recommended amount of water for an adult daily is around 8 glasses.
The foundation of a healthy body is nourishment, and this is another important aspect of your Body Budget. You can’t build strength if you don’t have fuel!
You need to eat foods that will give your body the nutrients it needs to do everything from fighting off disease to repairing tissue and building muscle after a workout. Lean proteins (such as fish, chicken breast, or egg whites), complex carbs (like whole grains), and healthy fats such as nuts are all good options for getting these nutrients into your diet easily.
Facing food insecurity can make it difficult to fulfill this part of our body budget. If you are living in a food insecure area or a food desert, see the link here to find the local food shelter or food pick-up area in your location. Additionally, you can see if your local schools or community center have dinner or grocery plans for families facing food insecurity.
Move your body
Exercise is a key ingredient to staying healthy, but if you're not used to being active, it can feel like an extra chore on top of everything else. There are plenty of ways to make exercise more fun. Try getting active in your community through walking, biking, or running groups and classes that focus on different aspects of fitness, like yoga or pilates. You might also find other people who enjoy the same activities as you do—try joining a local sports team or even volunteering at your local community center, where they offer free fitness classes.
Socialization is a key to good mental health, and it can also benefit your physical health. Social interactions have been found to improve immune system function, which means that when you're around the people you love, your body works better. Friends and family can provide an outlet for stressors, while strangers may provide opportunities for meaningful connections. However you choose to do it—in person or online—make sure you find time each week to spend with other people.
Give yourself credit for taking good care of yourself
Taking care of yourself is important! It's also a bit of a balancing act because you need to take care of your body and mind but not stress too much about it. If you're feeling stressed out, remember that it's okay to ask for help. If a friend or family member asks how they can help you, tell them what would be most helpful—maybe it's some extra time with the kids while they're home from school, or maybe it's just an invitation to go out for ice cream after dinner.
The best way to figure out how much self-care is enough is by paying attention to your own needs and limits. Pay attention when things start feeling off: are you getting more irritated throughout the day? are you feeling more hungry than normal? is your sleep schedule off? All these things can be signs that something isn't right in your body budget!
Remember, maintaining your body budget is essential to your health and well-being, physically, mentally, and socially. Life can get in the way of us taking care of ourselves, this is true, but we need to take an active role in our well-being. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed out, take some time to relax and regroup before diving back into your list never-ending to-do list.