We’ve all heard (and don’t forget experienced!) that major life changes like getting married, giving birth, moving or starting a new job can be unbearably stressful. But it isn’t always the big transitions that take the heftiest health toll. Day-to-day stress – the kind you ignore that accumulates over time – can create detrimental health effects on your body.
So, the next time you begrudgingly roll out of bed at 6 a.m. because you’ve got two kids to feed and drop off at school before you head into the fray of congested traffic and board meetings, think about taking time to undo all the pent-up tension with some of the terrific tips that can be found at the following handy websites. 20 minutes a day of “love insurance” (as in lovin’ your own life!) makes all the difference!
My favorite suggestions from around the web this week:
“Talk to yourself.”
“Attempt to Control Absolutely Everything.” (They’re kidding, of course.)
“Enjoy Life’s Little Luxuries”
Fight Stress! (Who’s biased?)
“Be passionate – About how your work improves people’s lives.”
Your Brain on Multi-Tasking
Technorati Tags: stress
The Tuesday 10
It’s easy to get lost in the details – organic or local? wild or farmed? fresh or frozen? – and to me it seems like the majority of health news out there is just obsessing over the minutiae. No wonder we give up and go back to our old habits.
The little things can matter, but on balance, it’s the consistent application of a few simple lifestyle changes that count. Make a few very basic – but significant – healthy changes, and the little things tend to take care of themselves. Or no longer matter so much.
Here are ten simple steps to better health that you can implement, starting right now:
10. No More Rules
First things first: no more worrying about the so-called Holy Grails of Health. Here’s what I’m talking about: Water. Coffee. Breakfast. Sleep. Following the pyramid. Fat. Sunlight. These supposed hard-and-fast rules of health cause more stress than the actual things. How about trusting your body enough to know what’s right for you? You’re up for the challenge, I guarantee it.
9. 90/10 or 10/90?
A lot of us focus on rules, numbers or specific amounts in an attempt to lose weight and feel healthier. We vow to eat a certain number of calories, for example. Even Uncle Sam falls for the magic of numbers (the failed 5-a-day vegetable campaign that is now being retired). But getting healthy is about being healthy. 90% of your regular habits and 10% of healthy habits added to that is just not a recipe for health. It’s got to be the other way around.
8. Eat something green at every meal.
Pretty easy! It should be at least half of the portion size, plate, cup…
7. Absolutely cut out the sodas and sugary drinks.
Yup, they have to go.
6. Don’t eat anything that comes in a box, bag or package.
I’m not talking about a bag of frozen broccoli or a jar of almonds. I’m talking about processed, packaged, preserved foods. This is a big commitment. It is tough. But there is just no way you can be as healthy and fit as you want if you don’t stick to this most of the time. You can cheat (we all do). But keep that 90% in mind. Keep it fresh.
5. Eat meat that isn’t so processed.
Vegetarians don’t have to worry about this too much (unless you’re eating lots of processed mock meats). Fresh, clean, lean chicken and fish is going to do wonders for your health in the long run – you’ll help prevent cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease. Sausage, bacon, deli meat, processed meats, on the other hand? Carcinogen special.
4. Eat a salad – every day.
So, I’m a little obsessed with my daily salad. But it’s such a no-brainer! You can even enjoy some goodies on it (nuts, a little cheese, dressing). Who said humans were meant for burritos and sandwiches?
3. Fight stress.
Whether it’s with a run, meditation, yoga, prayer, or a hot bath, find something that makes you feel completely relaxed, and do it a lot. Think of it as your 20-minute love insurance – as in loving your own life! Do this consistently for two weeks – most of us don’t commit to making ourselves feel great on a long-term basis. Try this out, and you will feel flat amazing. It may be the most important thing for your health.
2. Rethink the workouts.
Don’t do it if you even remotely dislike it – you won’t stick with it (who would?). My secret? Just put those sneakers on – that’s literally 90% of the battle. So, don’t think “I have to work out!” Instead, think, “I have to put my shoes on!”
1. Don’t worry.
Most of the stuff circulating in the media is old news with shiny new sprinkles on it. Or it’s based on a press release or a biased study. I’m not saying you should ignore information – by all means, educate yourself. But the general idea with a lot of “news” is to frighten the living daylights out of you so you’ll buy something. You’re doing pretty well, actually. So don’t worry – just keep learning and doing new things. It will all add up.
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A Monday Moment
I just had a funny email exchange with friend and fellow Apple “D” (in case her boss is reading…sheesh). We were catching up on our weekend adventures, and she capped the conversation with “Well, I guess I better stop emailing and get to work. You mean I’m not just here for the free internet?”
This is an interesting, if inadvertent, revelation of the problem with work in America today. I’m going to share my thoughts about it, because I think the impact of work on health is sorely overlooked on a lot of health blogs (and that’s what my Monday Moment is all about – plus, it gives you five minutes to slack off). Food and fitness are arguably the most important factors in optimizing our health, but what are we gonna do with that healthy body and mind? We spend most of our time at work, so this is important.
Just who is doing all this blog writing, reading, linking and bookmarking? In a society where IM has become a verb, just how productive are we? (Hmm…wonder what those Bees are up to…)
It’s amazing how blogs and chats and forums are so massively successful in terms of participation. We are a pretty overworked society – no wonder people are IMing (my grammar teacher is turning in her grave right now). No wonder people are signing up for Ambien and Lunesta like it’s candy corn. There’s no time to chill out, chat, and just be.
Entrepreneurs and business brains alike fret over the lack of productivity with workers, but so far, only a few companies get it (“D” hit the nail right on the head). I’m not sure what the source of the problem is, but I’ve got some ideas:
- Literally depressing lighting.
- Too much to do – and too much busy work.
- Face it, work can feel like a prison. Just like school, workers have rules, procedures, and systems to follow. If you need a nap, want to work in a different way, or just have an idea, you might as well be an alien. No wonder people are stressed out and bummed out – they’re micro-managed to death.
- Furniture and space are boring, standardized and offer little privacy.
- Being made to feel like a kid, instead of a man or woman of value.
- Feeling pointless, in short. But when you comment on a blog or join a forum, suddenly, your voice matters. Is it any wonder we’re all talking? We’ve all got something to say!
No wonder people are having a surreptitious blast with the internet. As a business owner myself, I’m baffled by the way things are done in America. Have we forgotten that business is really just people hanging out and doing stuff? (Operative word being people).
And what’s with playing dress-up? I like a fine Italian suit as much as the next man, but there’s something macabre about the whole world of work we create for people. Who designed it this way? And why fight people’s need to hang out, chat, and eventually get around to doing some necessary stuff? The current corporate structure is so discordant with human nature and health needs, and the strange thing about this is that it doesn’t have to be that way.
We spend most of our day at work, so shirking a healthy work life is going to be a disaster for your overall health – it’s just a matter of when. If your boss isn’t flexible, tell him (or her) that I said it’s for your health.
In the meantime, here are 5 ridiculously easy, really effective tips for having a productive, healthy, relaxed week:
- First step: Do less to do more. This means learning to say “no”. That’s not a sign of weakness – it’s smart and honest. Another thing: leave at 5. The world won’t fall apart (it won’t), and working smart is more important than working a lot. I admire guys like Seth Godin and Ricardo Semler because they’ve been talking about this issue for years. Eventually it’ll sink in and we’ll all be healthier.
- Second step: Go to bed one hour earlier every night this week, starting tonight. Make sure it’s at the same time.
- Third step: Turn off all PDA’s and phones during lunch and after 5. Period.
- Fourth step: Choose something simple you do daily, and do it differently every day this week. The change in routine shouldn’t add work or be stressful – it should serve to refresh and invigorate you. If you check your email constantly, just check it at a few designated times daily. If you normally eat at your desk, eat at the local Starbucks instead. If you always roll in to work at 9, try 8:30. If you typically communicate with someone via email, pick up the phone instead (I am a big fan of the phone instead of email – I think it connects people and more gets done, which ultimately makes everyone less stressed out). If you typically experience a post-lunch coma every day at 2 and find yourself doing nothing, try “doing nothing” in a better way – try some yoga stretches, do some push-ups, call your spouse to say hi. Oh, and cut down on the carbs, by the way.
- Fifth step: Create your own productivity task plan for the week. Keep it simple – no more than four or five tasks a day (because, like David Allen of Getting Things Done fame explains: every task has its own subset of tasks). Stick to them. You can refine as you get better at it. This will take the stress out of the equation because you’re emptying your brain onto a pad or into a spreadsheet. It’s different from a to-do list, though, because it’s a weekly system that focuses on the most important tasks and organizes them in a productive, effective way. Check out blogs like Zen Habits and Genius Types for great ideas.
You can do this however you like, but the point is that it should make you feel relaxed and give you a sense of accomplishment. If it feels like a task itself, you’re not doing it right. (And make sure your feeling of accomplishment isn’t in creating your weekly system – this is just a tool to actually accomplish what is most important so you feel less chaotic, distracted and stressed out and have more time to cook great food, work out, and live your life. Now that is health.)
Soothe your stress: restrain any road-rage tendencies this week. Put yourself in the other person’s bucket seat. Find a better outlet for any pent-up frustration (it’s amazing how good it can feel to teach a big batch of vegetables a thing or two – chop them up and into the wok they go). If that’s too domestic for you, get outside and go for a run, or pump your favorite music.
Still fuming? Yell about it with a friend until you both start laughing. Channel your anger into humor, amusement, indignation, and positive energy. A little anger is perfectly normal and O.K. – if you express it and use it properly.
Introducing a new feature at Mark’s Daily Apple:
Sara Shops (it’s a tough task, but she’s up for the challenge.)
I recently took to yoga and have had quite a bit of fun (make that hip pain) finding the ideal mat. I’ll spare you the pain and eyebrow-raising I endured by sharing my newfound knowledge of rubber rugs with you.
In case you’ve never tried yoga, or think it’s for hippies or Madonna, I highly recommend it. Not only will you glow like a little glowworm, you’ll feel relaxed and loose. Bonus: you’ll lose a few pounds around your middle after just a few sessions (yoga really does massage your organs and flush toxins). It can be pricey, but I’ve managed to find a few spots that offer great package deals, and I even learned about a group that gets together for free – and apparently, this goes on all over the place. Cool!
There are many different types of yoga, of course. Personally, I’m loving good old hatha for increasing my flexibility and sense of relaxation. Although, the two hours being pushed and prodded in iyengar by a very serious husband-and-wife team – easily in their 70s – was more entertaining than anything the Wilson brothers have come up with lately. He was good cop, she was bad cop (I’ve never been so intimidated by someone who weighed, at most, 85 pounds soaking wet).
On to the mat. Not knowing if I would want to stick with yoga, I chose the cheapest mat available. Not a move I’d suggest following (unless you want to put up with some smirks and a lot of pain). After the first session, I knew that I would definitely want to stick with yoga. Unfortunately, I also stuck to my new mat. Though it only cost about $15, the lightweight, all-synthetic foam was far too thin (only about 1/8″) and not nearly squishy enough. Being so thin (the mat), all my joints ached like the dickens the next day.
So, I upgraded to a vinyl sponge mat for $25. This one was a little more generously proportioned (72″ instead of 68″) and is the standard mat most folks go with. It’s still just 1/8″, but it’s squishy, waterproof, and closed-cell non-Latex (this just means it’s better for you because it won’t harbor bacteria). It also has a nice meshy grid that helps you grip. However, after a few weeks with this guy, I was seriously hurting. Maybe my joints are a little too princess-and-the-pea, but I decided to see what else was available.
I began really investigating the world of yoga mats. All yoga mats break down with use, which actually tends to make them more comfortable (sort of like shoes). And there is a mat for everyone: there are breast cancer mats (a mat for every cause), organic mats made of jute and bamboo (ego-friendly!), temperature-sensitive mats, travel mats, microfiber mats. There are probably even mats that read your mind (ok, maybe not).
The eco-mats are typically made of a thermal plastic elastomer that contains nothing chemical, synthetic or metal. A lot of instructors I asked are really into this new material (prices tend to be a little higher – around $40-60). I wasn’t as sore after using it, and I did feel very, well, close to the ground, but it just wasn’t squishy enough for my tastes. I’m willing to give up a little grounding to feel completely comfortable.
After spending many hours of eye-glazing surfing at various web sites, I decided my best bet would be visiting a few different stores. The private yoga boutiques had the latest organic, eco and super-comfy offerings – but at really high prices (no surprise there).
Eventually, I settled on a mat from Big 5 that didn’t even claim to be a yoga mat. It’s a meshy, waterproof, 1/4″ wonder that is so comfortable, I could hug it. Though this $40 wonder didn’t come with any special marketing or branding, a similar one is available online (and for much less).
Various instructors suggested different mats, but they all agreed on one thing: my initial selection was totally inferior. If you’re new to yoga, I suggest borrowing a mat (just clean it!) until you know if yoga is for you. Then be sure to splurge on the most comfortable mat you can afford. It’s well-worth it.
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