How much free time do you have in your day? Ye - if you’re like me the answer is somewhere around the minus 5 hours, right?
Time is your most precious commodity and this rings even more true when you own a business. However, as a busy business owner, it is incredibly easy to completely lose sight of everything that isn’t your business. I totally understand; your business is your baby and I know what it feels like being so consumed with hitting the ground running, growing and thriving in today’s competitive market.
You’re seeing the pattern but are you seeing the limit? There is a ceiling and it’s not as hard to hit as you might think and it’s called total burnout.
I have experienced the extreme of this and funny enough it’s something I am seeing more and more of in the ‘entrepreneurial space’ and the reason is simple: we are so in love with what we do that we forget to step away. So we block all the other ‘stuff’ out.
And what I want to get at in this blog post is just how important that stuff is not just to your health but to your business! Because a healthy you means a productive you, a happy you, an organized you….shall I go on or do you see what I mean?
Your body is amazing – you have ten systems (cardiovascular, digestive, skeletal etc etc) running in sync 24 hours a day. It’s pretty fricking amazing when you think about it. Well in today’s day and age, we are doing an awfully great job at abusing it and driving ourselves into the ground.
Well, not today! So I am not going to overburden you with a detailed description of how your hormones work or lay out a diet plan or tell you to cut out a million foods. There is no magic solution and I hate this constant focus on taking things out.
So let’s flip it on its head and add things in instead. I know you have no time and I know you can’t eat broccoli and chicken for the rest of your life….and I promise the next few steps don’t involve any of that. I think you might be pleasantly surprised BUT I also need you to promise me! PROMISE ME that you will do your homework: Take the next five weeks to add each of these into your routine. Once week five comes around, take a minute to reflect on how you feel. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Week 1: The magic of the Jam Jar.
This jar has many, many potential uses to help you hack your health:
- Meal Hack: You might have noticed the jam jar recipes are all the rage right now, and for good reason! One jar, one meal, minimal mess. I use the jar every day for making a chia seed pudding, sometimes I make a salad to take to work and there is nothing like a bit of fancy flavoured water in a jam jar with a straw to really feel like a boss. So step one is to grab yourself a jar. But let’s go one further….enter the antioxidant jar.
- Antioxidant Boost: One really easy way to boost your immune system and support your body is through micro nutrients and antioxidants…..These guys basically give your body nutrients to fight the bad guys ‘free radicals’. Free radicals are also responsible for the ageing process. Some foods you can look at – supergreen powders, vitamin A, B, C, D, E, K, maca, lucuma, turmeric, pitaya, acai, goji…etc etc etc. Well to add fuel to the fire, it’s best to rotate these nutrients as much as possible to get the full spectrum which is why I love the jam jar! Grab a few basic varieties of vitamins and mix it all up in the jar. Dip in for 1-2 pills a day and you’re good. As you collect samples just add them into the jar. Don’t fret to get all of these in one go, just a few basics like vitamin B, C and E and you’re good. Make sure to store it in a dark, dry spot just so the light or heat doesn’t damage the vitamins.
- Mindset Hack: Grab a jar and some paper cut into strips. Take an afternoon to get this set up and scribble your thoughts on the paper strips. I like a mix of inspiring quotes, mini adventures, date nights and jokes. Once done, just decide when you will reach into the jar – weekly, when you’re having a bad day etc. Nothing like humour, curiosity and inspiration to calm the mind.
Week 2: Sleep, sleep, sleep.
I wish people would realise how important a good sleep routine is. We spend a third of our lives asleep and for really good reasons; your body uses sleep to detoxify and regenerate. In Chinese medicine, certain hours are dedicated to certain systems meaning that if you periodically wake in the middle of the night at a certain time, it may indicate a weakness in some system. E.g: waking between 1-3am can be a sign of your liver being a bit overloaded with either toxins or even negative emotions.
The sad reality is that humans now sleep less than ever before at an average of just six hours. Not only is it because of things like working overtime and being exposed to computer screens/blue light non-stop, but we are also desperately trying to ‘keep up with the Jones’s’ and fill up our day to the brim.
Lack of sleep can literally kill you – no seriously, you can only survive something like five days with zero sleep which is nearly six times faster than you would die from lack of food. So ye sleep deprivation is extremely detrimental for health, even more so because it affects many areas of your body.
And while most of us skip sleep in a desperate effort to get more done and be more productive, it has the reverse effect long term. Your ability to think clearly is down regulated as is your memory, information processing and decision making.
So, what can you do? Well a lot.
- Assess: You can use your iPhone to download the app sleep cycle and first get an idea of how you currently sleep or just take some notes this week and review at the end. Obviously not entirely accurate, but good for a basic picture.
- No technology: Blue light exposure at night can mess with your melatonin production. To explain, we should be exposed to blue light in the morning to wake us up and raise cortisol which is naturally highest in the morning. This exposure should peak at noon and then the red light takes over as cortisol winds down and melatonin increases. Pattern look familiar? Yes it’s your circadian rhythm which is tuned to how the sun rises, peaks and sets. Technology does wonders to really screw with this because it adds artificial blue light. Try set a rule to turn off all technology an hour before bed. You can also install f.lux on your computer which will tune itself to the time of day and naturally block blue light on your computer screen. Also, you can set up ‘night mode’ on your iphone/android (it’s in settings under display/brightness) to do the same. For an extra bonus, set up an automatic airplane mode on your phone so you don’t get any unwanted emails late at night that might suddenly spike your stress!
- Set the scene: Your bedroom is your sacred space to sleep and you can do a lot to make that environment more welcoming to a good night’s rest. First off, you want to make your room as dark as possible. If you have (or can get) blackout blinds, that is amazing but you can start by just taking all technology out of your room and in this way also remove those ‘stand by’ lights (yes they have impact). Next you want to keep temperature around the 20 - 21 degree mark. Being too hot can make you toss/turn/sweat – not good. Finally, change your sheets once a week to keep the bed fresh.
- Alarm Clock: Waking up to loud sudden noise is not ideal for your stress levels. It’s also not natural. You want to wake up much more gradually and there are multiple tools to help you do that. You can just start by picking a more gentle sound or get apps like ‘sleep cycle alarm clock’ that will gently nudge you half hour before it’s time to wake up. I personally love the Wake Up Light Alarm Clock. Once you set the alarm it basically starts to naturally bring light into the room in the lead up to that time. You might not realise because you’re sleeping, but this light brings you out of sleep naturally.
Week 3: Hack the Kitchen
Nutrition is such a broad topic with so many nuances and the media does a great job at confusing the hell out of us by preaching this and that diet – keto, paleo, fasting, 5:2, vegan, raw etc. There is a time and place for each of these and there are people who thrive on some and not on others. My biggest tip – just stop. Stop trying to create so many rules and just focus on your basics: protein with every main meal, at least 2-3 cups of veggies with main meals (if you don’t have any at breakfast, make it up in your snacks) and some good fats (1-2tbsp per main meal). From there, keep it simple. Yes maybe a raw sprouted bean salad with wild salmon is incredibly healthy, but if it’s not realistic to soak beans/source wild fish etc….don’t do it. Meal prep is one of the best ways to keep you on track during the week so try the simple tricks below.
- Ice cube tray: You can use this wonderful item to prep herbs and/or broth ahead of schedule. If you make a batch of broth (or have some left from your crockpot) just divide it into your ice cube tray to cook with later in the week. You can also par steam kale and spinach and then squash into the tray to freeze and use for smoothies. Finally you can divide out lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and chopped herbs to help add flavor to your water (hot or warm). Make these up once a month and you’re sorted for 30 days.
- Chopped veg and frozen grapes: The hardest part of getting more fruit and vegetables is sometimes the prep work involved. So do it in batches! I love to pre-cut celery, cucumber, carrots and peppers and separate into bags to eat as snacks. I also precut and chop my smoothie items, bag and freeze them ahead of time. Finally, frozen grapes are the absolute perfect snack to have to hand if you’re feeling peckish. Seriously, remove plastic and just put them in freezer.
- Nutribullet: This is a life saver for my mornings. Just make a smoothie and zero mess. Now, some common mistakes with smoothies: too many fruits (stick to just 1-2, ideally mixed berries), fruit juice (big no no – poor quality and very high in sugar, try coconut water or dairy free milk instead) and zero protein (you need protein for focus, muscle toning and balanced mood – try hemp/chia/flaxseeds/full fat yogurt or protein powder).
- Crockpot: I am obsessed with this. Obsessed. Why? I throw a load of stuff in, turn it on and I have both my dinner ready for me when I get home and leftovers to use up later in the week. I love to put in whole chicken and make broth out of the juice. I also add in chicken fillets on kale, carrot, broccoli with mustard and spices. It’s endless – you can make chili, pulled pork and even porridge.
Week 4: Spice up your life
By far the easiest thing you can do to boost the nutrient content of your meals is adding fresh herbs and spices. These nutrient powerhouses contain a myriad of nutrients, antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Here’s just a few of my favourites:
- Chili Pepper
Week 5: Least Mode for the Win.
While nutrition is key to good health, you simply cannot ignore stress. Your nervous system has two sides: sympathetic and parasympathetic. The sympathetic system is your ‘fight or flight response’ and prepares you for battle. The parasympathetic system is the other side; the relaxed state that helps you rest.
The key problem is the chronic overuse of the sympathetic state namely because we no longer worry about a tiger attacking us or going to battle with a neighboring tribe (think short term stress). No, instead we have bills, debts, job pressure, keeping up with the Jones’s etc…..all these things we stress and mull over daily. This is only compounded further by our 24 hour connectivity and as a result we are now seeing more and more chronic autoimmune diseases, thyroid disorders and a relatively new area (or at least the term is new) of adrenal fatigue and total burnout/cortisol flatline.
Without getting into it too much (check out Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers if you’re keen to learn more) the key problem is too much sympathetic and not enough parasympathetic. Just think about a really stressful event you had in the past (the one most relate to is a time you were public speaking) and how you felt – sweaty palms, heightened senses, need to go to the bathroom, lack of appetite….these are all really useful if you’re preparing for battle. Your body basically shifts all the blood flow to your muscles and stops all other processes like digestion and reproduction. And think how tired and relieved you felt after the event. Now imagine this going on all the time over hours, days, weeks, months and even years.
And guess what most people do when they feel a bit down or especially women when they want to lose weight? They are already running in overload and in an effort to do better, they start to cut calories and exercise at high intensity or high volume (chronic cardio every day kind of thing) because every girl wants to be pouring sweat after every session. Both steps add even more stress and increase the load on the sympathetic system even more.
If don’t feel your best right now, I want to start by boosting the parasympathetic side first – deep breathing (Headspace App), walking (10k steps per day minimum), stretching/yoga are all key to stimulating the relaxation your body needs and craves. I like to schedule 5 minutes in the morning and evening to journal or do my breathing exercises. I also set a timer for every hour to stand up and stretch. Increased blood flow around the body helps transport nutrients and oxygen which are both needed for a healthy metabolism.
For optimum digestion, I ask that you turn off all technology and step away from the laptop. Put the plate of food in front of you and take 10 deep belly breathes before you start to eat. Your meal should take time and you should be chewing each bite around 20 times and trying to put down your fork and knife. Remember, food is not just what you put in your mouth – food is that which you eat, digest, absorb and assimilate. Those latter three are all to do with how healthy your gut is to be able to break down the food you eat and get it to the cells.
Ok there you have it – five things you can address for a healthier you. I encourage you to work this into your schedule gradually. Take five minutes now to map out the next five weeks and decide what you can add each week. Start with the low hanging fruit – maybe you already walk 5k steps so now up that to 10k daily.
This post was crafted by our friend, Lyda, at The Primal Rabbit.
Lyda Borgsteijn -- BSC, DIPNT, MNTOI, BTEC, ITEC
Owner & founder of The Primal Rabbit; Certified Nutrition Consultant; Creator of The Reset; Coach; Speaker & Co-Owner of CrossFit Solas.
I am a Certified Nutrition Consultant & I specialize in paleo nutrition, blood sugar regulation, digestive health, fatigue and energy balance. Health & Wellness begins from within. I don't believe in fad diets, quick fixes or supplementing your way skinny. Instead, I passionately believe in bringing food back to basics and understanding how to get the maximum nutrition from every tasty mouthful of real food. My approach is based around Paleo/Primal/Weston A Price. This way of eating isn't a 'diet', it's an exploration of history, nutrition, the human diet and most important our health. Paleo is just a term that helps us define real food and that's exactly what I put at the forefront of my thinking.