We are the sickest, unhealthiest, and fattest we have ever been as the human species. The number of people who are overweight or even obese is at an all-time high, cancer rates are at an all-time high, and a long list of other diseases are all at “all-time-high” levels.
We are chronically tired, over-worked, under-rested, consume toxic foods and drinks, spend more time with our electronics than we do with our own family and friends. We induce more stress into our lives on a daily basis than we know what to do with, and we are killing ourselves because of it.
Stress used to be a survival response. Humans are hardwired with a flight or fight response – heart rate increases, blood flows from the organs to the limbs (quicker reactions), cholesterol is released (thicken blood to reduce possible bleeding), and the list goes on. It’s an incredibly sophisticated design that works perfectly when we feel we are being threatened, for example when a bear is chasing you.
Unfortunately, times have changed, and we no longer only feel stress due to physical threats (i.e. bears). Traffic, work, relationships, etc are causing us to be chronically stressed. Not only is the chronic stress we are experiencing not protecting us, it is killing us because the system was never designed to be on all the time. “Oddly enough” our organs need blood so our digestive system doesn’t shut down, and a constant influx of cholesterol that thickens our blood isn’t all that great for blood flow.
Stress comes in a lot of forms – mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, and a host of other ways. That is the problem. People in the 21st century have so much more to worry about than just bears.
But we aren’t in the business of making excuses. We HAVE to start making better decisions. Being too stressed out to give ourselves, our friends, and our families the attention and love they deserve is not acceptable. We can do better.
On that note, I want to re-introduce three very simple ways to help you de-stress. Today is the first day of the rest of your life, and there is no better time to start implementing these fundamental behaviors into your lifestyle.
3 Simple De-Stressing Activities:
Taking a leisurely 10-15 minute walk with no technology (including music!) is one of the simplest, no-nonsense ways to clear your head and recharge your system. I’m amazed at how often this super simple exercise is overlooked.
Before work, after work, during lunch…it doesn’t matter. Just get it done. If you have some extra time in the morning, walking is an incredible way to get your head right for the remainder of the day. If you have trouble sleeping at night, I recommend doing this at night about 1.5 hours before you want to go to bed. The point is there are benefits no matter when you do it. You just have to do it!
Focused Work Breaks
I love hearing people turn their noses up at this suggestion because they are “too busy” to even try it while not admitting they already taking lots of breaks throughout the day. Unfortunately, they are using the time to check social media accounts, surf the web, and gossip with co-workers. Why not use the time to better yourself?
And honestly, are you busier than people like Oprah, Russell Simmons, or the guy that runs the world’s largest Hedge Fund?
All of these people (and many more) take focused work breaks and have spoken highly of the benefits they receive from doing so. Bottom line…it gets them results.
Sure they clear their minds, lower their heart rates, and ground themselves, but more importantly for these power players, focused breaks lead to intense focus and drastically improved productivity.
So, what do I mean by a focused work break?
Set an alarm on your phone or email system to go off at two specific times throughout the day – I recommend a mid-morning (~10:30 AM) and a mid-afternoon (3:00 PM) break. If those times conflict with meetings or other obligations, no worries, just choose two times that work for you morning, day, or night.
Find a place that will be distraction-free for 5-20 minutes. You can close the door to your office, find an empty conference room, or even go outside. Turn off your computer and put your work and cell phones on silent.
Next, sit in a comfortable position (it does not have to be cross-legged), and just take deep breaths inhaling and exhaling through your nose. You don’t even have to close your eyes if you don’t want. Start with five minutes, and work your way up to twenty as you get better at it.
This is going to be tough in the beginning because you will feel like you should be doing something. Fight the urge, and focus on your breathing.
This goes hand-in-hand with the two suggestions above, but you have to get away from the technology both at the home and the office. We have to break this cycle of running to technology for everything.
Electromagnetic stress is real, and it does affect mind and body. Learn to purge yourself from technology throughout the day and you will feel better. I am by no means saying you are not allowed to use technology at all, I am just saying you need to take breaks.
You will be amazed at how much work you can get done if you simply shut off your computer for 1-2 hours, put your phone on silent so you can’t be disturbed, and/or only check your emails during certain times throughout the day.
Set a time in the afternoon (mornings are typically more busy in an office setting) where you are not allowed to be on your computer or your phone. Start with 30 minutes, and work your way up to 1-2 hours over the course of a few weeks (for example, by adding 5-10 min/week).
Take Care Of The Basics
There is a lot of confusion and noise in the health and fitness industry these days. There are countless gadgets, pills, drinks and who-knows-what-else available for purchase that will guarantee you less stress.
Don’t waste your hard earned money on that crap.
Oftentimes the best solution is the simplest one. Take a walk, breathe slowly, and be mindful of what is going on around you. It can be that simple.
How do you currently handle being stressed out? Have you found methods that work for you or are you still in search of ways to de-stress? I’d love to hear your comments below, and I’ll do my best to answer any questions you may have.