Today I would like to talk about the obvious … the everyday routine, or should I say lifestyle, which will put you in a position of strength to absorb better the challenges coming at you. Or in other world, which can save your A** when shit hits the fan!

I am talking about a holistic approach to Mental & Physical Well-being.

Why is it important?

Chronic stress, which can evolve into Anxiety Disorder, Depression, Burnouts, comes from accumulated stress which our body and mind are not able to absorb. As we go down the path of exhaustion for instance (which leads to burnout), it becomes harder and harder.

But you can prepare. Having a healthy lifestyle will provide a strong base, from which you will be able to better take on what ever challenges are thrown your way. Bear with me …

Remember, we are all able to deal with stress, as long as our body is able to turnoff the stress response once the actual trigger has passed.

What do I mean by “holistic wellness”

It is summarized by Dr Greg Wells in his book “The Ripple Effect” in 4 simple, fundamentals, obvious, yet so often understated words:

Sleep, Eat, Move and Think

Simple. Dr Wells summarize the link between those 4 simple life essentials as follow:

If you sleep better, you will eat better

If you eat better, you will have more energy

If you have more energy, you can exercise better.

Exercise improve your mental health, which allows you to think, learn, and use your full brain power.

What is the link to stress?

Stress can be nutritional, emotional, it can also be physical. By adopting a healthy lifestyle, where you make sure you nurture those 4 fundamentals, you reduce the sources of stress (like stress from lack of sleep, nutritional stress from toxins …), you also are better equipped to deal with stress when it comes..

Let’s dig in a little bit

#SLEEP

Let me put it this way, Sleep is probably THE most important part of your daily life. It is the ultimate nourishment for your body. Recovering is becoming more and more important. You can push yourself, you can deal with stress, as long as you allow recovering time, and sleep is your recovery.

See previous post on sleep & tracking sleep

You should have at least 7h sleep a night according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But it is not only the quantity of sleep you get, but also the quality of it. Anybody ever woke up feeling tired as if you didn’t sleep although you did? 

Based on Patrick Holford health survey, 43% of the population surveyed wake up feeling tired.. 

In a nutshell, when you sleep, your neurons grow. Deep sleep provides muscle recovery, this is when you grow, repair, go into DELTA waves. REM Sleep, which represent up to 25% of your sleep, is when you dump all your memories of the day – it helps you remembering, and free up for the next day.

Problems sleeping are often referred as insomnia and can be anything from difficulties falling asleep, waking up often and enable to get back to sleep, waking up tired etc …

Lack of sleep is linked to Weight gain, More inflammation, worse cognitive functions. It is pretty common and unfortunately makes you more prone to stress and increases risks of poor health in the long term.

Athletes who get less than 6 hours of sleep increase their risk of injury by 50%!

So a good night sleep will set you up for the day by:

  • Eating better. When you sleep well, you don’t crave as much “junk food”. Sleep deprivation has been shown to decrease leptin, a vital appetite-suppressing hormone. Leptin acts as a sort of internal fuel gauge, so when it’s thrown off by abnormal sleep patterns, it’s harder to regulate when you need to eat.
  • Being physically ready to exercise (thanks to muscle recovery).
  • Cognitively ready to learn . Boost your memory: Take a break: Time out improves your unconscious processing of information. Sleep will settle learnings into your memory.

#EAT

Nutrition is the foundation for human health and performance. It is your fuel! 

  • We now use food to prevent and treat chronic illnesses
  • As an example, your brain needs Omega3, DHA to build connection between your neurons.  
  • Understand which food you need, and within that, which food works for you. Nutrition is very personal

Eating a healthy, balanced diet will provide you with the physical and mental energy that you need.

Watch your Blood Sugar level. Stimulant have a similar outcome to stress reaction. It triggers the release of Cortisol, which release sugar to your blood stream and then Insulin kicks in to bring that sugar into your cells. So similar effect to pure sugar. But that High means then levels go down and you experience cravings. So you go again for it, but slowly, the reaction is not the same and it takes more and more stimulant. This is because your system is adapting to it and release less Insulin. The one thing to really watch out for is sugar, and especially sugar high. Intake of stimulant such as coffee, carbs with high glucose in it, stimulate your system and can create Glucose peaks, which can be responsible for afternoon tiredness. Who doesn’t reach out for those carbs at 4pm to keep going? This is the worse habit. Best advice I was ever given is to reduce caffeine and always have snacks which include carbs with protein, to slow down the release of glucose.

#MOVE

Exercising has many benefit. And it doesn’t need to be as much as you think. No need to train for an Iron man when it comes to boosting your mood or your cognitive functions.

20min exercise can improve mental functions for 15h

  • Daily walk or small exercise improves your mood. You don’t have to feel like it. It is all about consistency remember. You need to make it a habit.
  • Nature walks improve Problem Solving
  • Walking leads to creativity
  • Your brain shuts down if you sit too long. So get moving

When the mood is low, motivation follow actions rather than the other way around. When you put the action first, the mood will follow. 

Exercising is not about physical challenge (although it can be), it is also about your mental health, getting natural outdoor light, clearing your head while increasing your heart rate … you get all of that … and sometime you get inspiration.

#THINK

If you do all first 3, it all comes together, and your brain comes to life

THINK is about having your brain firing on all cylinders. 

Although the brain accounts for just two per cent of our body weight, it uses around 25 per cent of the body’s oxygen supply, nutrients and glucose (as fuel), all of which are supplied by constant blood flow. So efficient brain function requires us to be highly aware of our physical condition.

This illustrate how important exercise (oxygen) and food (nutrients and glucose) are in order to make your brain function.
  • You want to work smart, not hard.
  • Think is about constant development and learning. Learning makes your brain work. The brain is an organ which needs to be trained. Memory is a good example of that. We assume that as we get older, our memory gets worse. New research doesn’t agree. 

⅓ of our memory is determined by biology and genetics. The other ⅔ is up to us, and is within our control. You need to train it. 

‘Neurons that fire together, wire together.’ Learning is the process of creating memory that can be automatically recalled when the same or similar circumstances arise in the future. The more we learn, the more memories we store.

Learning will enhance your brain and your brain connections.

“Prevention is better than cure”

Start changing your lifestyle today based on what neuroscience, nutrition and other research are telling us.