Despite the demands of today’s often-frenetic lifestyles, many of us do our best to carve out time to focus on ourselves, and on our health and wellbeing. And for an increasing number, including Carmen, self-care not only involves taking responsibility for our physical health, but our mental health, mind discipline and spiritual awareness too. Here she explains the significant role her parents have played in informing her self-care choices, her struggles with image, not taking care of her body, experience with anorexia, and the regimes and practices that she has found work for her, in terms of her mind, body and soul.
Carmen was very young when she started learning about the mind-body connection, thanks to the influence of her parents who were very health-conscious. She has always trekked and swam, however, her drive to achieve what she perceived to be the perfect shape and weight eventually led her to years of abusing her body. “I was anorexic and would box, and over-exercise until the point when I hurt my knees very badly. I was restless and resilient” she revealed. The damage she inflicted on herself resulted in a rethink of her regime, and it wasn't until just 6 years ago that she gave up high-impact exercise in favor of more low-impact training methods, and so now also dances and practices yoga, walking, Pilates, Gyrotonics and Qigong to maintain her fitness.
Her mother and father were also very influential in terms of her spiritual wellbeing. They were firm believers in the Gurdjieff discipline, and Carmen travelled around the world with her parents to learn different philosophies, all of which have taught her the importance of achieving balance in her life. “I always strive for the perfect mind-body balance and I challenge my intellect and spirit to different levels of discipline,” she said.
Carmen believes that we should all keep in mind that the body expires one day and that we only leave this body with the lessons learned and suffered in it, not with our lessons learned intellectually. “Both the intellect and the body are very ego-driven,” she said, “I always have to try to control my ego and try to keep it humble, while staying confident and not allowing people to put me down.” Inner peace is something she strives for, and she follows the principles set out in A Course in Miracles, which teaches that the way to inner peace, and love, is through forgiveness.
In addition to cultivating her spirituality, mind health is also very important to Carmen, and many of the regimes she has adopted to keep her body in shape, especially in terms of flexibility, she feels benefit her mind too, such as Pilates and Qigong. She also meditates and practices conscious breathing, and tries to learn something new, as well as let go of something, everyday. “I’m always curious,“ she said. “I try to meet new people and surround myself with interesting, dynamic personalities.”
Foodwise, Carmen eats a gluten-free diet. She is conscious of the risks that osteoporosis can pose to women, and credits her 100% bone density to the fact that she enjoys milk, cheese and dairy products, as well as fruit and proteins. “I don't listen to all those theories that cows milk is not good for you,” she said. “Exercise and milk have helped me to have healthy bone density and good skin.”
Despite eating a nutritious range of foods, Carmen recognizes that for her, additional vitamins are also a necessary part of her diet, but admits that she’s quite lazy when it comes to taking supplements orally and favors vitamin drips. In terms of other treatments, they are limited to pre-menopause hormone therapies.
Quite matter-of-factly, she has remarked that “We’re all going to die one day, and I have already abused my body by being a health and weight control-freak through my youth, so now I generally do whatever makes me feel good.” Now that’s a regime we can all live by.