It never fails. We fantasize that we'll turn the calendar on December 31, and magically, all of the "stuff" that stressed us out will disappear. We're especially delusional when we check out for a holiday break, until we abruptly re-enter reality with a crash landing.
Now that we're solidly into 2018, do you feel the stress creeping back? Is your calendar filling from ambitious, goal-driven agendas? Are the gray skies and arctic cold air bringing you down? Is that fleeting feeling of calm that lasted one week evaporating? Do you feel your resolutions slipping away?
Here are 5 simple habits you can integrate into your day that will help you stay connected to the peaceful state of mind you enjoyed before you returned to work.
1: Increase Your Water Intake.
Dehydration is linked to depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, decreased cognitive performance, and confusion. This happens because lower water amounts in your brain directly affect the brain's energy output.
In addition, stress causes dehydration. When we are stressed, our adrenal glands produce more cortisol, which dehydrates the body, Adrenal glands also produce aldosterone, which regulates the body's fluid and electrolyte levels. As our adrenal glands fatigue, they produce less aldosterone which results in dehydration.
How to do it: Buy water by the case. Chug several bottles during the day, including one right before bedtime, and one immediately upon waking.
2: Commit to Exercise - That Works for You.
As someone who has been strength training and working out consistently for 35 years, I've learned how to stick to a fitness routine. The most important success factor is to set a goal that works for you. People abandon their fitness goals because they've set themselves up for failure with unrealistic expectations.
Two additional fitness tactics are:
- Finding an accountability buddy or workout partner who is at your level.
- Signing up for classes. The structured time and the group of other committed attendees will keep you motivated. You may also get a better workout than on your own.
Finally, it's proven that people go to gyms most often if they are located less than 7 minutes from their home.
How to do it: Find a gym closest to your house or office. Determine if you are a morning or evening exerciser. Commit to a certain number of weekdays to go. Protect it in your schedule. Think of it as an investment in your future health.
3: Schedule "Mind Time."
I'm purposely not calling this "meditation" because the idea of starting a meditation practice can seem daunting. However, setting aside a few minutes in each day to pause, breathe, and calm the mind does wonders for our well-being.
How to do it: I love the app Insight Timer. 3.2 million people who use it to meditate can't be wrong. You can search for meditations according to length (as short as 1 minute), topic (anxiety, creativity, self-awareness, breathing, sleep), music versus no-music, guided versus instrumental, etc. You can join meditation communities, and all meditations are user rated. I've also downloaded guided meditations from Tara Brach and Deepak Chopra.
Journaling can transform you. It untangles all of the thoughts, ideas, and emotions that form through the day. Your journal becomes a repository for everything you didn't even know you were thinking or feeling.
How to do it: Buy a journal just for freestyle journaling - separate from a productivity journal or gratitude journal. Buy a special pen. Keep them together. Find a special place in your home where you will journal each night, away from any computers/phones.
Create the space to journal. Just start. No one else will see it; it's your special place. Nothing you write is right or wrong. Release any expectation of what you will write and let it flow with no constraints.
5: Read a Non-Business Book.
You probably have a stack of business books to help you be a better leader, be more productive, build better cultures, hold better meetings. hire better, etc. These are not good bedtime reading materials. They don't allow the brain to disengage from work.
When was the last time you read a book that took you away into another world? Or into someone else's imagination?
How to do it: In addition to asking friends to trade books, I regularly scour Goodreads and national best-selling lists for recommendations. Again, just start. If you haven't read for pleasure in a while, it may take some time to get into the flow of a book. But it's worth it!
These habits keep you connected with physical health, mental health, spiritual health, and with the simple pleasures of life. Good luck!