Every so often we are all due for physical and mental health checks and overall corrections. In executing these “self-checks,” people tend to use calendar dates for balance or as a procrastination technique (the latter being the usual case). How often do you hear, “starting next week, I will start diet xyz?” As we all know, the empty promises for lifestyle changes and personal growth are most common before the New Year. The point of this post is to drive home the idea that any given moment, on any given day, is the absolute best time to ensure that we are as physically and mentally healthy as we can possibly be. When it comes to our health and the health of those dependent on us, “it’s never to late to start” does not always ring true. It can be too late as far developing health issues or descending into an unhealthy mental state.
The reason for this post comes from personal experience. After enduring work-related stress levels (over the past few years) that were getting difficult to manage, I knew it was time to conduct a personal health check. First step was an evaluation to see if I could pinpoint the exact causes. I started by writing a daily reflection of my day and the various issues with which I had to deal. From there, I also took note of activities, work related or not, along with a food journal. Lately, I got feedback from those closest to me and took note of my interactions with them. Throughout this process (maybe a month or so) I did my best to highlight trends and patterns associated with higher or lower stress levels. Here are the top 10 negative trends that impacted my physical and mental health:
- Cliche sleep problems: I was going to bed extremely late around 1:30/2 AM (usually unable to fall asleep) and getting up very early around 6 a.m.
- Breakfast consisted of a minimum of 16 oz of coffee (cream only) and nothing else unless I went to Dunkin Donuts and got some sort of pre-made, ultra processed breakfast sandwich (I would get a muffin to feel healthier). As I was crashing, I would often then have some sort of caffeinated beverage in the afternoon.
- I was spending an upwards of 3 hours/day in my car (sitting=dying)
- I was spending an upwards of 4 hours/day responding to email or talking on the phone and an additional hour aggregate in just being distracted on my phone.
- Lunch= chipotle or Chic-Fil-A everyday or multiple times a day.
- I was consuming a minimum of 2 alcoholic drinks/day (happy hours, sports, long days= drinking).
- I was actively thinking about work-related concerns while engaging in any and all other activities.
- I wasn’t remembering conversations as I was not actively listening because I was on my phone or on my computer (this is a massive concern and relationship cancer in which many of us engage).
- Exercise was non-existent.
- My athletic build (not gloating I promise) was starting to fade to that of the 40-year-old rat race zombie (no offense). I was getting a “belly.”
So, now that I had this list, it was pretty simple to determine the main cause of these issues. My conclusion. Time! Son of bitch! Because of the category 5 hurricane that was my schedule and my inability to manage my time, I was not sleeping, not eating healthy, not exercising and getting fat all the while, ineffectively unwinding from the work that was causing all the problems. Here is the fucked up part: I have read at least 50 (highly recommended) books that in some way, shape, and or form, discuss time management and the importance of a balanced life. The problem was that I simply ignored everything I had read and I was blind to the fact that I had fallen victim. For a while, I thought I was doing great. Dammit!
Eureka! A solution! Insert another cliche, “Take control of my time” and stop (or change) doing the shit listed above!
Instead of waiting for the 1st of the month or some arbitrary day, I said to myself, “today was the last day I am going to do this like this.” My plan was to make specific changes based on information that I knew and have read to structure my life in a way that made me healthier, happier and wildly productive. It worked!
Here is what Life looks like now:
- During the week, I go to bed before midnight and awake after 7:00 a.m.
- A high protein breakfast is consumed within the first 30 minutes of waking. I still drink the coffee, but I will also consume green tea throughout the day.
- I work out (high intensity) for minimum of 10 minutes every morning (yes, 10 minutes a day can be sufficient if done properly).
- All home based work is conducted using the Pomodoro Technique which revolves around 25 minutes of ultra-focused, uninterrupted work with a 5 minute break. That break can be used for anything and everything. In that five minute break I sometimes juggle, knock out a few pushups/sit ups/ drink water, go for a short walk with the dog (The beagle Penny Lane!!), check social media. You can take it a step farther with something like The Action Game , which I was introduced to while working out in San Francisco.
- I have actively reduced the number of hours spent in my car to about half of the previous total. That means less commuting and prioritizing the need to “go in.” It also means less back pain.
- Email gets checked after 10 a.m. and I do not allow myself to spend more than 30 minutes in response to any email. Email gets checked again at 3 p.m. in the same manner. Tim Ferris writes about the benefits of scheduled email checks in his books/blog.
- Phone stays in “Do Not Disturb” mode until 10 a.m., while eating, after 9 p.m. and all day on Saturday and Sunday.
- Lunch consists of high protein and vegetable dense meals ( the occasional Chipotle or Chic-Fil-A goes down. Chipotle is still Chipotle and its amazing!)
- I mediate for a minimum of 5 minutes a day (sometimes in the 5 minute break when utilizing the Pomodor Technique). The benefits are immediate and truly endless (namaste).
- Alcohol is only consumed in moderation on the weekends! Yes college friends I only drink on the weekends!
- I continue to keep a daily journal of my day and the food I consume as I make a conscious effort to be better each and every day! I do maintain the belief that if we aren’t getting stronger we are getting weaker. Homeostasis is rare in the quest for success.
By making these changes, among several others, my productivity has skyrocketed, I feel better, look better (in my mind which is all that really matters according to people like Meghan Trainor), and I am definitely a much happier person! I challenge everyone, who I wholeheartedly thank for reading this far, to take a magnifying glass to their lives and try to make any necessary changes to ensure that you are as healthy and happy as possible. You owe it to yourself!
If you need help freeing up time, shoot me an email and I will be glad to point you in the right direction!