There are times when we all start to feel tired and a little disconnected from the world. We juggle multiple tasks, responsibilities and obligations and forget to take care of the basics.
When we are stressed and tired, it’s the best time to get back to those basics!
We don’t take the time to eat well, exercise and spend quality time with the people we love. We literally don’t stop to smell the roses.
How do you turn the vicious cycle around and feel better? Let me remind you of those “basics” that are first to go out the window when we get busy:
1. Prioritize your TO-DO list
Get rid of tasks that take more time than they are worth. We all have tasks like that. Things that we think we should do but that don’t really add value to our lives. You don’t actually HAVE TO hoover every day. Your partner or kids can help with the chores. You don’t have to be perfect! Learn to ask for help.
Cut out appointments and tasks that you are doing out of guilt or habit that you don’t actually enjoy. We take things on for other people to help them out or to support them and somehow, over time, those things become a sort of “responsibility”. Something that we continue to do simply because we started it. Helping someone out is the nice thing to do and it makes us feel good, but don’t let it become another stressful “TO DO” on your list.
Always do your most important and time-consuming tasks first. Do all the things that take the most concentration or effort first. If you can get the hard work out of the way first, everything else seems easy.
It’s the “Eat that Frog” principle. It’s a quote from Mark Twain. Apparently, Mark Twain once said that if you eat a live frog first thing in the morning, you can go through the day with the satisfaction of knowing that that is probably the worst thing that is going to happen to you all day long.
There is a great book by Brian Tracy called “Eat that Frog” that helps you to be more productive and to prioritise your tasks. You can find it on Audible here.
2. Eat Properly:
You’ve heard it all before: “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, “watch that sugar”, “Eat your veg”…It’s all true, may as well do it.
Eat your breakfast: It’s important to kickstart your metabolism and supply your brain with nutrients before you start your day.
Caffeine and sugar may pick you up in the short term but by 10AM your brain is screaming for something to work with.
Don’t feed it another load of sugar from the vending machine. Try some nuts or fruit with that 105th cup of coffee.
- Beat the afternoon slump: Ever felt sleepy after a fatty meal at lunchtime? That is because fatty foods stiffen blood vessels and affect oxygen absorption. Lack of oxygen can make you sleepy and irritable which also impacts your productivity. Take a sandwich to work for lunch or get some soup instead of fatty chips and a burger.
- Don’t turn to caffeine and sugar in the late afternoon: Sugar and caffeine will only pick you up briefly during your afternoon slump. Drinking coffee or energy drinks later in the day will also affect your ability to fall asleep at night. Try fruit or nuts instead with some herbal tea.
I don’t like fruit, but I like sleeping so I try to eat them instead of more coffee and a biscuit.
3. It’s your A$$, YOU move it!
Human beings were made to move. Our bodies aren’t optimised for long periods of inactivity. We don’t just become overweight, we also lose muscle mass, bone density, develop diseases like diabetes and become depressed.
Exercise gets oxygen flowing through the body: It also increases dopamine and endorphin levels for a feeling of wellbeing and energy.
When we sit still, we tend to slump and breathe shallowly for hours at a time. We starve our body of feel-good hormones and oxygen.
- A fit body is more efficient: Tasks are easier to perform because it takes less energy to do them. Everything feels less tiring. When your body is used to work and movement, it is simply more efficient at performing everyday tasks.
- Change your mindset: Ever notice how new activities just seem to come naturally to people who move and exercise all the time? Their body knows how to handle exercise because it’s used to it. That can be you! You can be that person who tries a new activity and enjoys it instead of feeling self-conscious. Start with walking and something like yoga or pilates. Walking helps with cardiovascular conditioning whereas yoga and pilates will help by training your core and balance. Yoga is also great for stretching out muscles that have become stiff due to a sedentary lifestyle.
4. Drink your veggies
You know those strange people who walk around with kale and carrot smoothies? They might have a pretty good idea.
Vegetable juices release their nutrients a lot faster than cooked or whole ones. Your body has instant access to everything it needs and you will feel an almost immediate energy boost. They don’t always taste wonderful but I like to add frozen berries to mine to make them more palatable.
Vegetable smoothies are much better when they are extra cold. Like a vegetable slushy….weird, I know, but fake it until you make it.
If you feel a cold coming on, drink your veggies to boost your immune system, mood and energy. This will help your body to fight the infection and get you feeling better sooner.
5. Drink water
Fatigue is one of the first signs of dehydration. Our body needs water or blood circulation slows and deprives the brain, muscles and other tissues of oxygen. Water also helps us to eliminate toxins from our bodies.
Studies suggest that even mild dehydration can impair both mood and concentration. It also increased the frequency of headaches.
Not drinking enough water can also lead to constipation and other digestive discomforts. Few things make you feel as awful as bloating and constipation.
6. Think about your posture
Bad posture puts a strain on muscles and restricts breathing: When we slouch, we literally restrict the space around our lungs. The chest cavity collapses and you round your back. This not only deprives the body of oxygen but puts a strain on the spine and neck.
Stand and sit up straight like your mama told you!
Sitting or standing up straight as if you have a string on top of your head pulling you up to the sky, engages the core muscles and allows you to breathe more deeply. A rounded back will eventually result in back and neck pain.
Remember to breathe properly: While you work, take the time to look up and breathe deeply every twenty minutes or so. It not only brings oxygen back to the brain to help with concentration but by looking away from your computer screen you allow your eyes focus on something in the distance which is good for your eyesight and prevents headaches.
As a side note: If you get frequent headaches at work, have your eyes tested. It’s important for those of us who stare at a computer screen for most of the day.
7. Herbal tea without caffeine
I NEED my coffee, it’s not really negotiable. The coffee machine is pretty much the first thing I switch on in the morning. I try to have my last one at lunchtime though. If I have them any later than that I have trouble sleeping.
Herbal teas are a great alternative to coffee later in the day. Green tea is an old favourite but it still has a bit of caffeine in it. I prefer Rooibos tea because it doesn’t contain any caffeine and has many other health benefits. It is packed with antioxidants and has a sweet taste that keeps my sugar cravings at bay. Read more about the health and beauty benefits of Green Tea and Rooibos Tea.
8. Limit alcohol intake
I know, to some of us that glass of red helps us to relax after a long day or to wind down at the weekend. If you can stick to a glass or two at the weekend, that’s great, but using alcohol every day has a few unfortunate side effects:
- Alcohol has a sedative effect, which is why it helps us to relax. Unfortunately, that sedative effect only lasts for so long.
A few hours after you have your glass of wine, the alcohol raises the epinephrine levels in the body which increases heart rate and wakes you up. That is why we don’t really have a good night’s sleep if we have been drinking.
- Alcohol also relaxes the throat muscles which increases snoring and sleep apnea (Interrupted breathing during sleep). You’ll wake yourself and your partner.
- It’s also a diuretic so you will wake up to urinate more frequently during the night.
We all know that there are consequences to drinking too much alcohol:
- it’s usually full of sugar and empty calories so we put on weight
- it’s bad for our digestive system if we drink too much because it irritates the stomach lining and intestinal tissues.
- it’s been linked to some forms of cancer and liver disease
- it raises our blood pressure
Drinking in moderation isn’t a bad thing but make sure that you understand what moderation means. There are guidelines everywhere. Take the time to read up on what is healthy and what is not.
9. Get enough quality sleep
If you are serious about feeling better and getting healthier, you will make sleep a priority. Stress can make it very difficult to fall asleep at night. Many people complain that it is as if “my mind won’t stop working”. There are a few simple steps you can take to train your brain to sleep.
Create a bedtime ritual: This can include going to bed at around the same time every night. Having a bath before bed to relax, reading in bed, lighting candles or listening to soothing music. You need to wind down, so keep your ritual very relaxed and soothing. We can’t all get 8 hours a night but try to get the best quality sleep in the time that you do have.
No electronics before sleep: Ban phones, laptops, tablets and TV’s from the bedroom. The light from your phone signals your brain to wake up. The constant stream of information will keep your brain engaged instead of letting it wind down and go to sleep. Read a book instead, listen to music or meditate.
Create a dark, cosy atmosphere: Darkness triggers the production of melatonin in our bodies which makes us sleepy. Turn down the lights before bed and keep noise to a minimum. Click here for a full article on how to sleep better.
10. Go outside and play
You need fresh air and sunlight. Humans need to be outside for at least a few minutes every day. Fresh air energises the mind and body and sunlight is important for the following reasons:
- The production of vitamin D helps brain functions and enhances the body’s ability to deliver oxygen to organs and muscles.
- It strengthens the immune system
- It prevents seasonal affective disorder (SAD) which is a form of depression due to lack of natural light.
- Exposure to sunlight increases the release of serotonin which boosts mood and energy.
I know it’s hard to be disciplined when all you want to do is get a takeaway and finish a bottle of wine after a wreck of a day. Try to incorporate these simple steps into your routine one at a time until you start to see results.