The concept of self-love is not novel; but we are in an era in which people are finally realizing that cultivating love within ourselves is a key to being able to love and be loved by others. While it can certainly be challenging, it is an empowering and worthwhile practice, especially as it relates to mental health. I have been utilizing the Self-Love Workbook in my private and have seen how this investment often serves as the cornerstone for transitioning from struggling with mental wellness to thriving. Individuals who hone their self-love often experience benefits such as improved confidence, motivation, and happiness, as well as decreased anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation.
One of the many tricky aspects of self-love is inherent to the term: It pertains to the self. What self-love looks like for me may not be what it looks like for you. Increased awareness of self-love has been helpful to highlight this resourceful concept, but we typically explore self-love as it relates to mental health, and therefore, the most-commonly suggested strategies parallel those within the scope of counseling and psychology (e.g., meditation, gratitude, reframing). For this series of posts, I'm exploring creative alternative methods of fostering self-love. Below is my conversation with Kristina Monioudis-Jagan, an AFPA Certified Pre & Post Natal Fitness Specialist—and an influencer also known as Kiki Jag—to explore how to incorporate fitness into a self-love. Her love for fitness started about 7 years ago, before getting pregnant with her first child. Since then, her love for fitness and helping others with their fitness journey has become a passion, and a catalyst for self-love.
Can you share a little about your mental wellness journey?
I believe I first became aware of my mental wellness after having my first child and being a working mom at the time. With great days also came bad days when stress and anxiety kicked in, but I found serenity in fitness. Fast forward six years, with another child and the start of the pandemic: I've been working remotely and while it has been amazing being able to spend more time with my children and husband, it also blurred the line of the work-home life balance. It all became jumbled into one and it became even more evident that I needed to take more time to focus on myself. I set aside an hour-and-a-half of my day to put my headphones on and go to the gym to work out. This part of my day allows me to do something that I love; the focus is myself and it builds both my physical and mental strength and health.
How does self-love show up in your work?
Exercise is not just a means to fix “imperfections” or things we’d like to physically change about our bodies; it truly is a form of self-care that affects our attitudes, moods, stress, and anxieties. It has the ability to build our confidence and remove these mental obstacles we tend to face. Personally, after a workout, I’m in the best mood and it leads to a more productive day. I'm happier, I focus on better eating, I have more energy and I sleep better.
I like to focus on progressive overload which means I continuously increase the weight, reps or frequency in my workout routines. This allows me to see actual physical changes in my body but it also gives me a feeling of fulfillment that if I put my mind to it, I can do it. Through this approach, self-esteem increases. I've had clients who obsessed over the number they saw on the scale, but as we consistently worked out, they realized the number on the scale wasn't that important. Through fitness they were able to build muscle, see their strength improve, and find their relationships with food become much healthier.
A “fitness journey” can begin at any point of your life but it doesn’t end. Through fitness you end up realizing so much more about yourself. Don’t look at fitness as an act of punishment, but rather an act of love that benefits your mind, body, and soul. Learn to love the skin you're in.
What can people use from the realm of fitness to improve their self-love?
Find your why and set goals. Movement and fitness are not a punishment or a chore; they should be part of your lifestyle because of the physical and mental benefits. When you set goals and hit those goals there’s an amazing feeling of accomplishment.
What are some tips you’d share to help people foster physical and mental health?
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help to prioritize yourself. As a working mom of two, I tend to feel guilty not spending every minute with my kids, but I schedule my workouts during a time when my husband or the grandparents are available to help. Schedule this time like an important appointment on your calendar.
2. Do it for yourself. With so many external pressures it’s important to “find your why”: Focus on yourself and your journey. Set mini-goals and long-term goals so you can hold yourself accountable. There’s a great feeling of accomplishment when you look back from where you first started and see all the progress you've made and how you've grown.
3. Create a healthy relationship with fitness, nutrition, and health. It’s important to realize that food is fuel and not an enemy. Eating clean is essential but remember that it’s okay to have a craving and to actually eat the cookie or the piece of cake: Everything in moderation. When we supply our body with the right balance of foods we tend to be more productive and happier.
4. Know that even a 30-minute workout is better than nothing: It’s still an investment in your long-term health. Being active and moving is essential. It’s not just about the physical aspect, but the mental and emotional aspects as well.
The Lancet. (2018, August 8). Exercise linked to improved mental health, but more may not always be better. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 30, 2022 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/08/180808193656.htm
Medical College of Georgia. (2009, March 18). Regular Exercise Reduces Depressive Symptoms, Improves Self-esteem In Overweight Children. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 29, 2022 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/03/090318104330.htm
Gary S. Goldfield, Kristi B. Adamo, Jane Rutherford, and Marisa Murray. The Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Psychosocial Functioning of Adolescents Who Are Overweight or Obese. J. Pediatr. Psychol., September 30, 2012 DOI: 10.1093/jpepsy/jss084