I know for me this idea started out as being a joke. A few years back my wife would ask me about making an effort to take better care of myself and I would laugh at her and say: “Have you seen how insane my schedule is?”
Yes, it was true, I wasn’t ready to listen to her or anyone telling me that I should make time for myself, but back then when I was working 60 hours a week, I really did need to make time for myself. With whatever little time I did have, I would spend it eating poorly or watching mind-numbing television. I didn’t know it back then, but what I was trying to empty out my mind. My need to empty out my mind and separate myself from working long hours was actually a good idea. The tools or the means I chose to “unplug” from my job were poor. Usually I would end up watching violent television shows with very little dialogue. During those days off, I might have only grunted a few words and lounged around all day.
Some of you may think I am exaggerating, but really it’s not too far from the truth. It took me a long time to figure out that the outlets I was using to “empty out my mind” were all wrong. The truth was that I knew better, and I was choosing to ignore that fact. This had become a sort of routine for me, and I quickly began to see that I had to stop doing all this if I was going to have a good relationship with my wife and have any relationship at all with my kids.
I am not at all saying that the things I do will work for you at all. All I am showing you is what I do to unplug and manage the stress I have throughout the week. Managing my stress throughout the week allows me to better at work and home. It also allows me to act more “human” when I am at home and spending time with my family. I believe the key is to give yourself time throughout the day. Even if this means you only have 20 minutes of free time at any given period in a day. The key is using the free time you have throughout the day effectively.
1. Workout at least 3-5 times a week
We were never meant to be sedentary beings and sat around all the time can not only cause damage to our bodies but also stop us from having an outlet to relieve our stress levels. I try to work out at three times a week no matter what my schedule. Many studies suggest that exercising even for a limited amount of time helps improve your overall health.
2. Have a positive outlook on life.
This was something that was very difficult for me to adopt. I had developed an awful habit of looking at how awful the present looked without because situations and circumstances can always change. I know a lot of us like to live in “reality” and for too many of us that means being hard on ourselves or our loved ones. I know this because I use to want to live in this sort of “reality’ myself. The truth is having a pessimistic view on life has an impact on your mental and physical health. Always view life with an understanding that there is always light at the end of any tunnel. Things will never stay the same any matter how dire or painful they look right now.
3. Figure out a way to make healthy food choices.
Out of all the things I did in order to lessen the stress levels in my life, this was actually the hardest. It’s easier to eat what tastes good at that moment when stress levels are at their highest. Of course, this is the wrong thing to do, but for me a hamburger, fries and coke are the things that callout my name the loudest during a stressful period. Like a tractor beam I am attracted to fast food meal, and it took a lot of efforts to rid these things from my diet. If you are having trouble with altering your diet, I will suggest imagining yourself in a world where you wouldn’t be eating things that are bad for you. What would you start to look better if you eliminated those foods from your diet? What would your body look like then? How would you feel? Would you feel better or worse?
Meditation is something you can do anywhere, and there is overwhelming evidence suggesting that it can indeed have positive effects on your health over the long haul. I have gotten into the habit of meditating when I wake up and before going to bed. I find that’s it’s a great way to empty my mind and not overwhelm myself with all the things I need to get done throughout the day. It’s terrible to be stressed out about all the work you have to do before the work day has even begun.
There are other things that I do in addition to what I have discussed here, but these are the major things I do to cut down on the stress that I am having throughout the week.
If you have any questions on how to better manage your stress or lifestyle, you can always call my office for an appointment, and I would be glad to assist you.
Dr. Shah, MD