So I suppose that I should start with the basics that everyone knows but often overlooks. Granted they are super basic but we often forget about them because they’re so simple and yet they can wreak havoc when neglected.
I often underestimate the power of a regular sleep schedule, nutrition, hydration, and outdoor sunlight. Yet when I abide – I feel so good. Why so quick to forget… no idea? It probably has something to do with the fact that our brain remembers negatives more than positives and we don’t focus on things that are going well. Call it evolution or survival. …
But in all seriousness when we don’t get enough sleep adenosine actually builds up in our brains and caffeine might temporarily sit on those receptors but adenosine still continues to build and build until we can no longer stay awake. Sleep deprivation can actually kill us! That’s why I like to stress the importance of sleep and sleep hygiene. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with sleep hygiene but it basically is the premise of not doing anything in your bed other than sleeping, sleeping in a dark and cool environment, and trying to sleep regular consistent hours that are a minimum of seven hours. In all honesty I don’t really know anyone that requires less than eight. We just fool ourselves. Sleep can also affect the way we are able to handle stress and a major way.
If you wake up hot in the middle of the night, (that’s also something you should mention to your PCP) you can look into a cooling blanket. People who deal with hot flashes/night sweats love them. They can also be great for anyone who just wants to sleep better.
Simply being outdoors and in nature regardless of sunlight also has profound effects on our stress response. So much so that in certain areas of the world there is a thing called “nature bathing” in which you simply just sit outside. (Not naked in case you were wondering).
When possible 5-15 minutes of sunshine first thing in the am helps set our circadian rhythm.
Exercise is another often overlooked but incredibly helpful habit for stress response. It enables us to fall asleep faster and obtain a more restful sleep. It also changes our brain chemistry in ways that we are able to handle more stress. 20 mins 4 – 5 days a week typically does the trick and it takes affect almost immediately. The nice part about this is that if you fell off the bandwagon you can just get right back on.
Beyond the basics
This I think is the fun and interesting part. ..
Starting with a few favorites
-Telomere health / multitasking
Mindfulness practices such as the audiobook how to meditate by Pema Chodron are crucial to mental well-being and enduring the condition we call life.
Despite societal pressure to get as much done as possible in the shortest amount of time , multitasking is not only proven to be less efficient but it is also actually bad for our brains, cognitive ability and our telomeres. Telomeres are a whole other topic that you can start with a Google search and we can have a whole separate chat at another time.
Lastly I will touch on Decision fatigue which sounds ridiculous and made up but is very real. Interestingly, people like Steve Jobs do not wear the same thing every day because it is iconic. They wear the same thing every day because they realize that their brain has a decision capacity on a daily basis. If you automate as many processes as possible and habituate as many practices as you can- you leave your brain enough power to make the real decisions that it needs to every day. We all know that awful feeling we get when we have decision fatigue and we just can’t make a decision.