Years ago, I created a presentation which I called, “The 7 Habits of Highly Fit People”. The title borrowed from the seminal Stephen Covey book. I love that book, and highly recommend it. It is one of my all time favorites for personal development. The purpose of my presentation was to give the audience a framework for developing and following a successful fitness lifestyle. However, I have revised my thinking a bit. I no longer use the term “fit” in this regard, opting instead for “well”. You see, a person can be fit without being well. And since my focus is on Therapeutic Training, I have changed the title of this work to “The 7 Habits of Highly Wellthy People”. Most of you know by now that my desire is for each and every one of you to join me in my journey of strong health and vitality. It is my raison d’etre. I know that you don’t have to be and do what everyone else is and does. We can be different. All it takes is strict adherence to simple principles. These principles guide me in my wellness journey, and it is my hope that you adopt them. I have modified my original list as I have grown and experimented. So, here are the 7 habits, continuing with habit 4:
Manage Sleep and Stress!
“What if I were to tell you that you could add an additional hour to your day?”
That is how the presenter started her talk. She had my attention right away, because I, like so many other people, simply did not have enough time in a 24 hour day. That was over 15 years ago, and that presentation made me think. Then I came to a profound realization — Ultra successful people have 24 hours in their days! Wait! These people have the same number of hours in a day as I do?? So then why such a huge difference in productivity? Good question. Of course, the answer was time management. Many people have the paradigm that it is possible to save time. However, I learned that you actually can NOT save time; you can, however, learn to spend time more wisely. Because time ticks away no matter what we do, you WILL spend it, like it or not. You can’t save any of it. So, the only question is HOW will you spend it?
Most humans need to spend approximately one third of their lives sleeping. Some need a little less, and some need a little more. But there is no question that adequate sleep is ultra important. And by the way, if you are not human, then this may not apply to you. But if you are human, then please read on…So, where was I? Oh yes. If you don’t get adequate sleep, your brain (command central) will inevitably falter. Your comprehension will decline, and you will have a hard time learning anything new. You will also have a hard time expressing what you already know. You will become irritable and much less happy. Your hormones will get out of whack, causing muscle loss and/or fat gain. And these are just the minor problems! On a more serious level, your immune system will become compromised, which will expose you to a variety of breakdowns at the cellular level, leading to diseases including cancer and dementia.
Habit 4 includes both sleep management and stress management because these two items are usually tied together. If you aren’t managing your stress, then chances are great that you are also not getting adequate sleep (no matter how long you are actually lying in bed). And if you don’t sleep well, then you will be stressed physically, mentally, and emotionally. So, here are three simple keys to stress management:
- Have a plan — This is all about organization. This means setting your priorities, and then organizing around those priorities. If life is hectic and you are always short on time, then guess what that does to your stress level?
- Practice PMS — No matter what, keep smiling. Don’t let your mood be determined by the weather. Adapt and find joy in all conditions;
- Do more of the things that make you happy — We all have things that we enjoy. For me, that is primarily comedy. I love comedies, and I love to laugh out loud. So, this is my go-to medicine. What is yours?
And here are some tips for good sleep management. (NOTE: In Habit 3, I said you should sacrifice sleep in order to learn to start your day early. Why would I say this if I am also saying sleep is so important? Think about that.):
- Have a shutdown process — Give yourself time to “get ready” for bed; an hour if possible. Try to do the same things each night. Think of the airplane pilot. He has a checklist that must be followed before every single flight, which he follows no matter how experienced he is. Do you know why? A shutdown process tells your brain that it is time to sleep;
- Go to bed and wake up about the same time each day — Plus or minus an hour. This will help to keep your circadian rhythm in check. Of course, there will be days that you will need or want to go way outside your normal window. So what? Do it!! There are times in which I stay up all night to work on a project. Balance is about being able to go outside of health windows. The key lies in what you do most of the time;
- Make your bedroom dark and cold — These two conditions have been shown to be optimal for good sleep;
- When in bed, do some deep breathing with progressive relaxation — Simply control your breath and breathe into your lower abdomen. This evokes the parasympathetic nervous system, which relaxes you. As you do this, visualize relaxing your body starting at your feet and working your way up. Imagine your body sinking into your bed
These are habits that I have learned aver the years, and continue to practice and perfect. It is an ongoing practice. Have a great day, and an even better tomorrow!
Habit 4 — Manage Sleep and Stress!
Remember my vision for us — We will age together! But we will be different from previous generations. I want us to be functional centinarians, free from the chronic diseases and pains so common today. Aging is mandatory. Maintaining functional fitness and vibrant health — well, that’s optional!
If you have any questions, please do flip me an email. See you soon!
To Your Health!
Jeff Wooten, “The Body Mechanic”