For me, exercising and maintaining a healthy lifestyle comes from not only a desire to feel and look good, but an absolute necessity.
When I was in high school, I broke my back. Most women past their mid-twenties start to live with some lower back pain, but with my injury, that pain has been exacerbated. Couple the pain with the fact that I was working 40+ hours a week sitting at a desk, and you can only imagine the physical pain and mental exhaustion I was experiencing.
This unhappiness and general feeling of terribleness on a daily basis fueled my passion to change my work life and do something I had always dreamed of, become my own boss. When I moved from San Francisco to Atlanta a little over 3 years ago, I made that dream into a reality. I now run two graphic design and branding businesses from my home office on the westside of Atlanta.
As most of you know, running an online business is hard work, and that oftentimes means I’m working more hours than I was at my desk jobs. Instead of letting myself slip into that place of mental and physical pain again, I have to prioritize my wellbeing on a daily basis. In fact, prioritizing self care is one of the main values in both of my businesses. I fully believe that we can’t do our best work when we don’t feel our absolute best.
In order to stay and feel healthy as well as manage my chronic back pain, there are several routines that I stick to religiously that keep me feeling my best.
Staying Active During Work Hours (Getting Those Steps In!)
Since most of the time I’m super busy working on designs for my clients or working on my businesses, I’m not very active during the workday. It can be so easy to stare at the computer screen and then suddenly realize you haven’t walked around or been active for hours.
In comes my FitBit to the rescue. It buzzes at me every hour to get up and move around. This reminder is much needed and my brain is now conditioned to prioritize myself once every hour at minimum. Making sure I get my 10,000 steps per day has become more like a fun challenge than a dreaded activity. Participating in challenges with my friends also helps.
If you are struggling to move around enough during the day the best suggestion I have is to get an app that reminds you to get up every hour and then actually listen to it! If all else fails, then get a dog. Having to take my furry friend on walks around the neighborhood several times a day keeps me active and keeps my dog happy. Not to mention, getting outside several times a day is also great for your productivity. If you can’t, or don’t want, a dog, then find a podcast you enjoy and take a stroll several times a day around your neighborhood listening to it.
Working Out & Exercising
As far as my workout regiment goes, I stick to a routine of hitting a heated vinyasa yoga class at least 3 times a week split with swimming 1-2 miles once or twice a week. Both of these activities are low impact and very effective at managing pain, strengthening my body, as well as being wonderful for my mental health. Yoga is proven to lower stress, reduce anxiety and promote self-confidence and acceptance. Adding that in with some cardio during the week is plenty for me to manage my pain, stay in shape, and feel good.
Setting boundaries with my clients and colleagues and never compromising on skipping these activities when I know I need them (even when work is extra busy) is something I fully believe in and have reaped the rewards from. It isn’t always easy, in fact, most of the time it’s extremely difficult to motivate and set those boundaries, but once you do, you’ll feel better almost immediately.
Don’t ever have the fear of seeming selfish because you prioritize your physical activity and wellbeing.
As far as my eating habits go, I don’t stick to a super strict diet, I have found that dieting doesn’t really work well for me. I crave unhealthy food all the time when I know I can’t have it.
Instead, I stick to eating healthy lunches during the week and cooking with my husband every weeknight. Then, I let myself have a little fun on the weekends. Now, I’m not saying to binge eat fast food all weekend, but treating yourself to a nice dinner out or indulging in some cookies and cream ice cream (my fav!) never hurt anybody. I actually believe that treating yourself sometimes will help you be more healthy overall. Cake is good for your mental health, right?
As far as what to eat goes, I like to aim to eat vegetarian lunches, and at least 1, but preferably 2 nights, vegetarian for dinner. I also like to cook healthy meats like fish, and make substitutions like ground turkey for ground beef, or greek yogurt for sour cream.
Feed your Soul
Lastly, in addition to working out and eating healthy I make sure to devote some time to myself weekly. I’m a lover of the outdoors so getting outside and hiking or camping are surefire ways to rest and recharge my batteries, while also having fun. I make it a priority to get a massage for myself at least once every 6 weeks, or take a Friday afternoon off once a month to go shopping. Prioritizing activities that I love keeps me content and in turn, my businesses are more successful because I’m running them from a place of love and care instead of pain and unhappiness.
Whatever it is that makes your soul feel good, make sure you schedule it into your calendar and then stick to it.
Prioritizing your mental health is an absolute necessity in today’s world, and I’ve learned that when you are mentally healthy, you’ll automatically make better decisions about your physical health.
Juggling all the responsibilities we have on a day to day basis makes it so easy to let your physical health fall by the wayside. But, I’d argue that prioritizing yourself is the single most important thing you can do in your life. It can sometimes be perceived as selfish, but that, my friends, is a lie. How can you be a good boss, friend, wife, mother, sister, or colleague when you don’t feel the absolute best you can? And how can you feel good if you don’t prioritize your health and wellbeing?
Bio: Callie Cullum is a brand designer based in Atlanta, Georgia. She helps creative entrepreneurs and small businesses feel proud, inspired, and confident in their story by designing brand identities that shine. By having to overcome a difficult physical challenge earlier in her life, she now prioritizes her mental and physical wellbeing on a daily basis. This has provided her with the purpose and fulfillment she has been searching for: to use her design talent to equip others with the tools they need to succeed on their entrepreneurial journey, whatever it may be!
You can learn more about Callie and view her work at: