5 Things I Wish I Could’ve Told My 20-Year-Old Self About Physical and Mental Health

Jacqueline Alwill

Recently, one of my very old friends mentioned in conversation that the people we are today are very different from the people we were in our 20s. This got me thinking, as a mother of three little people, crawling out of homeschooling, isolations and lockdowns prompted from a global pandemic (sometimes gasping for air), if I had the chance, what would I tell my 20-year-old self?

My name is Jacqueline Alwill, I’m an accredited nutritionist passionate about women’s reproductive health, fertility and functional food, which I share information on at @brownpapernutrition. I love to cook. I adore my children. I’ve spent many years studying nutrition and at the tender age of 38, I feel grateful for the world I live in. But my life hasn’t always been like this.

Jacqueline Alwill

So, armed with the knowledge, wisdom and power of time and a career I truly live and breathe, I’ve come up with five things I wish I could’ve told my 20-year-old self.

Make Time for Rest

Rest days weren’t a thing for me when I was 20. And sleep? “Can do that when I’m an old lady,” I’d laugh and say. But what I wish my 20-year-old self knew was that in fact, sleep is like the low-hanging fruit in health. Whilst you sleep, your body is a powerful factory, producing hormones, repairing damage, building communication pathways, restoring your health. You absolutely need plenty of good quality sleep and you need rest days from exercise too. Depriving your body of either is stripping one of the most important elements out of the greater health equation. Sleep seven to nine hours each evening and when your body feels tired, honour it and let it rest, don’t keep pushing.

Look After Your Mental Health

The mental health conversation wasn’t as common and open when I was 20. It wasn’t as easy back then to acknowledge when I really wasn’t feeling okay. It was easier to wear a mask. But, what I’d love to go back and say to 20-year-old Jacq, is that it’s okay not to be okay, you don’t have to hide when you’re not, and you don’t have to put pressure on yourself to have ‘it all’ together. Truthfully, no one really does. What you can do is to connect with others when you need support; start the process of diving deeper into understanding you, tread a little gentler, and always speak kindly within.

Being ‘on a Diet’ Isn’t Sustainable

Although I couldn’t have acknowledged it at the time, the reality was that at age 20, I’d tried almost every diet there was going around. I wasn’t ready to accept my body, my weight, or let go of dieting, which had defined my existence for some years already. I wish 20-year-old Jacq could have understood that dieting isn’t sustainable, but having a healthy relationship with food and your body is. Breaking the pattern, the addiction to dieting is hard, especially when you’re young and vulnerable. However, when you do decide to break free from the vicious cycle of dieting, the reward, the freedom and self-acceptance are beyond measure.

Take Care Of Your Skin

“Jacq… put-on some SPF, hun, you won’t have that youthful glowing skin forever. In fact, don’t just use the SPF, but understand that what you do with your diet and nutrition is powerful for the health of your skin, too.” From age 20, you lose 1% of the collagen in your skin each year that goes by, so start supporting your body and the youth of your skin with some quality supplementation too. If I were next to 20-year-old Jacq, I’d also pop Healthy Care’s Beauty Elixir Shots in her hand. They’d easily give her a high bioactive collagen peptides, which would’ve made all the difference to her skin hydration and skin health today. Particularly as 20-year-old Jac spent a good chunk of time hanging at the beach.

Ask Yourself, Is This Stress Really Worth It?

There are things in life you can control. Like what you wear, what you eat, how you move your body.  But then there are things that are totally and utterly out of your control, like what other people think, the past and the “what-if” scenarios.  My strong advice is to let go of what you can’t control, stop stressing about it.  Focus on what you can control and lean into stress relievers like meditation, spending time with people who fill your cup and engaging in activities that truly make you feel wholesome and happy. Your future self will absolutely thank you.

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