***Note: This post was obviously written long before COVID-19 emerged and affected our daily lives so fundamentally. That said, its contents are more important than ever! Following these simple steps is essential for keeping our strength & sanity.***
Ever felt busier than ever but without much to show for it at the end of the day? Ever pushed yourself to just work more, and harder, to the point that your body breaks down from stress, exhaustion, and emotion? I sure hope not. But I have…more times than I’d like to admit. That finally led me awhile back to stop and seek out expert advice for how to not just survive my crazy days, but actually prevent them from getting so crazy in the first place. And you know what? It turns out it’s actually pretty easy to build “success” in from the beginning if we just follow some simple, scientifically-proven steps.
No matter how overwhelmed you are right now, getting back to basics with each of these items should help you feel better in a week or less.
***Sidenote: None of these things is rocket science, per se. But are we really doing them day on a consistent basis?!?! That’s the tricky part. 😉
#1: MAKE SURE YOU GET UP AND GO TO SLEEP AT THE SAME TIME EVERY DAY (ALLOWING ~8 HOURS OF GOOD SLEEP IN BETWEEN).
Why? We all have a natural circadian rhythm. Our body works best when we stick to the same schedule. Sleeping even an hour less than your body needs can mess you up for days afterwards, and sleeping different amounts each night results not only in the equivalent of being jet lagged but also a cumulative sleep deficit over time. Without adequate restorative sleep, both physical and mental health suffer severely. [Sources: The National Sleep Foundation; Mental Health America]
#2: IDENTIFY YOUR PRIORITIES. ALLOW CERTAIN THINGS TO BE LESS THAN PERFECT (OR TO SLIDE ALTOGETHER) IF THEY ARE NOT AMONG YOUR VERY TOP MOST IMPORTANT ONES.
Why? Sweating the small stuff (the little stresses of everyday life) is associated with major health problems and increased risk of premature death—more so than stress from big life events like divorce, illness, job loss, etc. [Sources: NPR; Washington Post]
#3: REAFFIRM YOUR BOUNDARIES (OR SET SOME, IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY). WHAT ARE YOUR NON-NEGOTIABLES?
Why? We are all worthy of love and belonging, independent of what anyone else thinks or says. We can’t help others unless or until we first help ourselves. We simultaneously need to take personal responsibility for our own situations and avoid relying on anyone else to “fix” things. Moreover, without strong boundaries, we risk unnecessarily taking on other people’s problems and/or being in unhealthy relationships. [Source: Psychology Today]
#4: BE GRATEFUL.
Why? Gratitude is consistently linked to greater happiness, better relationships, and improved health. [Source: Harvard Medical School]
#5: GET FULLY DRESSED (WITH REAL CLOTHES, SHOES & EVERYTHING)—EVEN IF YOU DON’T PLAN TO LEAVE THE HOUSE.
Why? How we feel about ourselves (including our appearance) affects our outlook on life. It’s proven that feeling “put together” has a snowball effect that gives us a “can do” attitude and motivates us to get more done. Being dressed not only sets the tone for the day, but also shows we care about ourselves and makes us prepared for anything, ready to take on the world. [Sources: Psychology Today; Inc.com]
#6: DRINK A TON OF WATER (AND LITTLE ELSE).
Why? It is sooo imperative to stay hydrated for myriad reasons, not the least of which is proper circulation and metabolism. But on top of that, being dehydrated makes us significantly more likely to feel stressed. [Sources: Journal of Neuroscience; WebMD; Breaking Muscle]
#7: EAT ONLY REAL, UNPROCESSED FOOD.
Why? Processed foods are designed to make you addicted and contain artificial ingredients your body can’t digest. Processed foods increase risk of weight gain, leaky gut syndrome, cancer, and mental health issues. [Sources: The British Medical Journal; University Health News]
#8: MINIMIZE YOUR SUGAR INTAKE.
Why? Too much sugar raises blood pressure, increases chronic inflammation, and leads to heart disease. Too much sugar is also linked to increased depression, worsened anxiety, and decreased memory and learning ability. [Sources: Harvard Medical School; Psychology Today]
#9: SPEND TIME OUTSIDE.
Why? Even a little bit of natural sunlight boosts Vitamin D levels, combats stress and depression, boosts immunity, improves concentration, and elevates mood. [Source: Harvard Medical School]
#10: GET AT LEAST 20-30 MINUTES OF EXERCISE (VIGOROUS WALKING, ETC.).
Why? Exercise boosts mood and energy, helps us sleep better, decreases disease risk, controls weight, and—crucially—reduces stress hormones (adrenaline and cortisol) while releasing endorphins to make us feel “high.” [Sources: Mayo Clinic; Harvard Medical School]
#11: SMILE. LAUGH. INVITE JOY.
Why? Not only is it proven to make us happier (as opposed to smiling because we’re happy), but it automatically lowers your heart rate and reduces stress. [Sources: Scientific American; The Wall Street Journal]
#12: RELAX. TAKE A DEEP BREATH. ROLL YOUR SHOULDERS. LOOSEN YOUR JAW. UNCLENCH YOUR FISTS. GIVE BOTH YOUR BODY AND YOUR MIND A CHANCE TO DO NOTHING.
#13: TURN YOUR DEVICES OFF. NOT JUST ON SILENT, NOT JUST TURNING OFF NOTIFICATIONS…COMPLETELY OFF.
Why? On top of potential negative health effects linked to electromagnetic radiation, phone usage is scientifically shown to negatively affect mental health and stress. [Sources: World Health Organization; Time Magazine; Anxiety.org]
#14: STRIVE TO HAVE MORE REAL, LIVE CONVERSATIONS PER DAY THAN YOU SEND TEXTS AND SOCIAL MEDIA MESSAGES.
Why? Research confirms that real interactions and connections decrease stress and increase life satisfaction. [Source: Psychology Today]
#15: SHOW A KIND GESTURE TO SOMEONE—IDEALLY SOMEONE LESS FORTUNATE THAN YOU.
Why? Helping others releases oxytocin (the pleasure hormone) that makes us feel more happy and fulfilled. [Source: Mayo Clinic]
#16: DO SOMETHING YOU ENJOY: READ A LITTLE BIT OF A BOOK, LISTEN TO A FAVORITE SONG, FLIP THROUGH OLD PHOTOS, SNUGGLE WITH A LOVED ONE, MAKE A CRAFT, ETC.
Why? People who engage in meaningful activities live longer, are happier and less depressed, and have better mental functioning than those who don’t. [Source: National Institute on Aging]
#17: COMMIT TO A BETTER TOMORROW. AND AN EVEN BETTER DAY AFTER THAT.
Why? Negative self-talk is extremely detrimental, while positive thinking has a plethora of proven mental and physical benefits. [Source: Mayo Clinic]
AND #18: GIVE YOURSELF CREDIT FOR SHOWING UP AND TRYING.
Why? Life can be hard! But you’re doing it! Good day or bad day, you’re determined to push forward. And that deserves plenty of applause right there. You got this! 😉
To build a foundation for success, make sure these simple things are part of your everyday life!
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