Basic Lifestyle Guidelines
The following list is made up of the 10 big hitters that we address with our clients on a regular basis in an attempt to reduce stress in their day to day lives.
It is not in order of importance; they all interlink, but the first 3 are the big high level elements, 4-6 are our daily essentials, 7-9 form the support network, and I leave 10 out on its own due to its massive importance.
Thousands of studies and books have been written about each individual item on the list, so I’ve tried to capture the essence of each one in a couple of paragraphs to give you a general overview.
1-Balance (Work, Play, Rest, Relationships/Social Connections)
There are 24hrs in each day, it is important that we apply work and rest appropriately.
In today’s world with the technology we have at our disposal, it is easy to work endless hours and lose balance. Here we link into Rhythm and Purpose - regularly reminding yourself of your purpose and priorities whilst trying to align your time with your natural rhythm, should help you maintain this balance.
Social Isolation (loneliness) is a major issue in today’s society. Again; advances in technology means that there is no real need for in person connections day to day to carry out our business. A lack of meaningful relationships and connections adds legitimate stress to our bodies. Make time for those connections and important relationshipsIf on a regular basis - community is one of the main pillars of health.
The earth spins and the sun and moon correlate with our energy patterns - the Circadian Rhythm.
The Circadian Rhythm is factual science - we cannot argue with it. We have evolved to wake with the sun, and begin to shut down ready for sleep as the sun goes down. Working against this by being more active into the evening, therefore shortening sleep (recovery process) means we wake in the morning with less energy. This downward spiral will continue as long as we continue to delay sleep; effectively resulting in us living in a jet lagged state. See ‘Sleep’ for further detail here.
Studies show that increased ‘eveningness’ is directly ssociated with increased risk of a wide variety of diseases and disorders, and all-cause mortality. Simply put, working against our natural rhythm and staying awake long into the night will result in illness and eventually, early death. Scary right?
You will one day die - do what you love - live large.
"Remember your why”. This is key to maintaining both balance and rhythm. It is easy to get wrapped up in our day-to-day; forgetting WHY we’re doing what we’re doing, and before we know it our days are filled with things that do not make us feel fulfilled, and don not serve us in the long term. Unfortunately they also effect our balance and rhythm in the short term, therefore, adding stress.
STOP, take stock regularly (daily journal practices are great here) and keep focus on the things that matter.
Behaviour drives priorities. What does that mean? Well, what do you spend most of your time doing? Like it or not, currently that is a priority. Does what you are spending your time doing align with what you thought were your priorities? If the answer is no you have a couple of options...suck it and accept the current reality, or, maybe its time to make some changes?
Hydration, moving blood and proper digestion are essential daily routines…
Thirsty? Too late, you’re already somewhat dehydrated.
Cellular hydration is a vitally important basic lifestyle piece; easily achieved but so often overlooked. Hydration is an investment for your body; let it slide and its negative effects will last between 48-72 hours.
Whilst humidity, temperature, activity and timing should all be considered for ‘how much?’ hydration, we advise our clients that 2-2.5l of filtered water/day is generally a good starting point.
5-Blood Flow (Exercise)
“Have enough energy to train. Do NOT train for energy.”
That quote links directly to rhythm. Too often people will hit the gym to ‘wake themselves up’, or give themselves a boost. In this instance exercise is having an adverse effect - it is adding stress through an unnatural burst of cortisol. Instead, get your rhythm right and select the right time of day for you to exercise - where natural energy and cortisol are sufficient to support it.
Linking to purpose, remember ‘why’ you’re exercising. Generally it will be for health and wellbeing. Regular high intensity exercise is not healthy - it is a stress, and if health is your 'why' then this does not align. Exercise for health and wellbeing should be fully sustainable (aerobic exercise). Add in some resistance training personalised to suit you, for an exercise prescription that will allow you to thrive in every other part of your life...and look good naked.
Digestion starts with thought - cook, smell, understand.
Your body being in a relaxed state is required to digest food. Sit at a dining table, no electronics, ideally in a social/family setting, take your time and enjoy your food. Rushing your food or catching it on the fly is not optimal for digestion.
Digestion 101: CHEW!! The better you chew the more the food is broken down, therefore the more successfully it is digested. Chewing each mouthful 20-30 times is optimum. Put your knife and fork down in between mouthfuls to maximise chewing and avoiding the temptation to shovel in the next mouthful.
The composition of your gut can change quickly with stress. Altering your gut composition alters the absorption of nutrients and its sensitivities to certain foods. You could be eating the best diet in the world, but if you cannot digest it, what you put in does not matter.
Sunlight is key to the circadian rhythm and regulates our wake/sleep cycles.
Sunlight is crucial for overall health. It protects against inflammation, lowers high blood pressure and improves brain function to name just a few benefits.
We struggle here in the UK generally for sunlight on a daily basis, so when it is here, make the most of it - tie it in with your daily blood flow and get outside for a stroll or jog before work, on your lunch break or at the weekend. Vit-D supplements can help, but nothing is as good as the real thing.
Familiarise yourself with the present moment, so that you get to experience a greater sense of focus, calm and clarity in your life.
Lie awake with your mind in overdrive when you should be sleeping? Training your mind to allow thoughts to come and go without taking you on a magical mystical stress-filled tour with them, takes practice; practice of meditation. It does not have to be ‘woo-woo’ with incense burning and crossed legs, just 10 minutes per day to yourself to do NOTHING. Apps like Headspace or Calm are great for guiding you through this process.
How does food make you feel?
Very simple and high level, but ask yourself this question an hour or so after each meal. Your body will give you pretty good feedback on food quality specific to you.
Generally, avoid processed foods, instead eat whole foods. Vary protein sources and make them locally sourced and high in quality. Eat a wide variety of veg, some fruit, and little starch. Add in good fats such as nuts, seeds, oils, avocado, coconut, etc, and most importantly as we’ve already touched on - limit all other stressors to keep your gut healthy for optimal absorption of all this goodness.
“Being awake is effectively low level brain damage. Sleep is the recovery process to combat this."
If we just ‘slept’ we’d likely not need to concern ourselves too much with the other stuff. It is not a one stop shop, BUT, sleep does buy us lot of latitude in all other areas.
Sleep is vital!!! We know its importance in the circadian rhythm, but how do we get a good night’s sleep? 7-9 of hours of unbroken sleep is the aim. To get that we need to create an environment that is conducive to rest in the evening - less blue light exposure, don’t eat too close to bed, sleep in a perfectly dark bedroom, wear ear plugs in bed, are a few practices that can help.
Sleep deprivation is a relatively new thing for humanity. We have not evolved to handle it. Never before have we 'chosen' not to sleep. The upshot; a lack of sleep has serious detrimental effects…
- Impair insulin sensitivity. A night of poor or missed sleep can make you as insulin resistant as a type 2 diabetic - OVERNIGHT!!
- Increase gut permeability - leaky gut - stomach ulcers.
- Increase systematic inflammation - leads to all modern degenerative diseases.
- Impairs immune function.
- Alters anabolic hormones - loss of gains.
- Casuses cravings through imbalance of hormones (generally cravings for refined carbs).
- Cognitive impairment - awake for 20 hours? Same cognitive state as being over the alcohol limit! The list goes on…
Get in touch if you would like any further information on any of the above, or would like to book a consult to discuss your health and fitness.