If you're reading this then you are probably a very successful, highly driven individual who won't settle for anything less than your very best.
You have probably been operating at full speed for the last 10 years at least in order to build your career and set yourself up financially.
You are also probably feeling the effects of this lifestyle on your health. The issues I see the most are:
- Poor sleep which leads to lack of energy, concentration, productivity and mood.
- High stress levels which causes fat storage around the midsection, muscle wastage, decreased libido and a compromised immune system.
- Sedentary lifestyle - sitting at a desk all day which will cause poor posture, limited mobility, excess weight gain and increased risk of injury.
- Terrible eating habits which compound all of the above.
It doesn't matter how successful you are or how much money you make if you aren't able to enjoy it so let's talk about 5 key things that you need to get on top of to start improving your health and getting your drive back to become the high performing executive that you once were.
Contrary to what you might think, jumping straight into intense exercise might not be the best thing for you. Because you are so stressed, doing hard exercise will just dig you into an even deeper hole. It takes time, rest and recovery in order to adapt to the stress of exercise and if you aren't getting the rest then your body will not adapt as you would want it to. Your immune system is probably compromised as it is and intense exercise will just accentuate that.
Sleep will impact absolutely everything in your life, not least of all your body composition. If you are not running on rest and recovery, then you are simply running on stress hormones.
Studies have shown lack of sleep to be linked to increased ghrelin (hunger hormone) decreased leptin (satiety hormone) and impaired cognitive function. On top of this it can deplete your neurotransmitters such as serotonin which can make you crave carbohydrates throughout the day.
This is really just scratching the surface but understand that improving your sleep is the number one tool you have in your arsenal to reclaim your health. You MUST aim for 7 hours as an absolute minimum. If you are currently way below this then simply aim to increase your amount of sleep by 15 minutes per night. This will add up over time and pay dividends with your health.
Here are a few tips to help set up the right environment for a good night's sleep:
- Cut your water intake 2 hours before bed so that you aren't getting up during the night to use the toilet (we are looking for uninterrupted sleep)
- Put your phone on aeroplane mode 2 hours before bed and limit your screen time (no emails, messages or social media) as this will stimulate dopamine in your brain and mess with your circadian rhythm - If you absolutely need to use your computer then download the app f.lux which will take the blue light out of your screen which is what stimulates the brain.
- Cut your alcohol before bed - this may help you fall asleep however it will inhibit deep sleep and make for a poor night's rest.
- Cut out any light in your room - clocks, phones, lamps. You want to have a completely dark environment to promote sleep.
MANAGE YOUR STRESS
You are never going to be able to just remove stress from your life so you need to be able to manage it.
Prolonged elevated cortisol levels are linked to a whole raft of health issues including obesity, high blood pressure, reduced libido and cardiovascular disease.
Whilst exercise is a great stress reduction tool (which I will cover) things like meditation, deep breathing and keeping a grateful log can be really effective ways to manage your stress.
You have most likely been in a sympathetic (fight or flight) dominant state for the last few years and simply breathing deep can activate your parasympathetic nervous system and get you out of that mode. Try this exercise at the end of the day:
- Breath in for a count of 5 seconds and hold for 2 seconds
- Breath out for a count of 5 seconds
- Repeat 10 times
You may be surprised how effective this strategy is!
Another good app to download is Headspace which is a meditation app. It is super easy to use and will take you through guided meditations - you can start with just a couple of minutes per day.
The food that you put into your body is not all about looking good. This is the fuel that is getting you through the day.
If you are eating a poor diet, not only will you generally gain weight but you will also suffer from lack of focus, low energy levels and poor mood.
This can all be rectified by focusing on whole, unprocessed foods. You should be aiming for:
- Quality animal protein sources if you are not vegetarian (chicken, beef, lamb, fish) and if you are vegetarian then (Greek yoghurt, nuts, legumes, cottage cheese)
- Fresh fruit and veggies
- Unprocessed carbohydrates (sweet potato, rice, quinoa)
- Good quality fats (avocado, raw nuts, fatty fish like salmon, mackerel and trout)
I cannot stress enough how big an impact your food will have on your performance so start cutting out the junk and you will see a marked improvement in energy, mental focus and mood.
As mentioned in the first point, exercise should be prescribed appropriately.
It takes time and energy to recover from exercise and if you are extremely stressed and rundown to begin with then doing hard exercise creates even more of a stress debt that you have to pay off.
Having said that, exercise (especially resistance exercise) is a fantastic tool to help manage your stress as well as:
- Improve body composition
- Improve sleep
- Increase bone mineral density
- Improve posture and reduce injury risk
- Improve overall psychological wellbeing
It's very important to follow a structured program that is designed specifically for you and if you are coming from a place of poor health then start off light and slowly improve as you go. You don't need (or want) to be breaking records and hitting PB's every session. It doesn't make sense and will be just setting yourself up for injury. Simply follow progressive overload by gradually increasing the effort each week, whether it be by adding more weight, more reps or changing the exercise to make it more challenging.
Mindset is absolutely crucial when it comes to health and fitness.
Firstly, it needs to become a priority. You should be booking your sessions into your calendar and treat them like a business meeting.
Always aim for progress and not perfection. As long as you are making small improvements week to week then that's all that matters. Especially considering you have so many other important things on your plate, it really is a balancing act.
It will be challenging at times and you need to know that and be ready for it. You do need to put in the work and if you come into it with that mindset then you will be a step ahead of most people.
Where the mind goes, the body will follow. The number one thing we focus on at Vision is Emotions because that is what drives people's behaviour so if you get your mindset right, the rest will come.
Take action now and reach out for help.
*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.