We glorify being 'too busy' but how is living a life in fast-forward affecting our health?
In our day-to-day lives, it can sometimes feel like we're always 'on'. We're tuned in to social media, the news, work, gossip, our phones are always at the ready. So it can become a real challenge to turn 'off'. I know myself that when I'm working, I can find it hard to take a break and sit quietly eating lunch. It feels like I'll miss out on jotting down an important idea or I’ll think about the emails that need answering. In reality, there is always something that needs to be done.
But what are the constant strain and 'hustle' work ethic doing to our health? And how can we slow down and implement a little self-care each day to nourish our soul?
When we're working hard, we rely on our sympathetic nervous system (SNS) to see us through. This SNS is known as fight-or-flight mode, a state of stress that was only designed to see us through life-threatening scenarios. Unfortunately, our body cannot tell the difference between life-threating and work-related stress. If you're under the pump at work, your body naturally falls into this supremely heightened state of stress, preparing you for the worst.
You can imagine that in this fight-or-flight mode, the everyday functioning of our organs and systems are impaired. Our SNS is not designed to sustain us long term.
When our SNS is functioning without a break we don't digest our food properly, nor do we absorb many nutrients which is why excess stress changes our bowel habits. Most of my clients find that when they're stressed they get the nervous runs all day - this inevitably leads to nutrient deficiencies as our body is not soaking up any of the nourishment from our food. Iron for women is often the first nutrient to be become depleted, causing fatigue, low moods, 'foggy brain' and sugar/carbohydrate cravings for instant energy.
When we're stressed our immune system takes a hit too. We burn through key nutrients like zinc, B vitamins, and vitamin C as they supply us with energy and sustain our immunity. This leaves us more susceptible to illness, making us more stressed as we don't want to take the time off work.
We struggle to sleep when we're living in our SNS and our cortisol levels are compromised. We might fall asleep easily but find ourselves waking with a sudden surge of energy, unable to quieten our mind. Or we might toss and turn all night or take hours to fall asleep. This further heightens our fight-or-flight state, as rest is the absolute key for calming and rejuvenating our mind.
Can you identify with any of the above? Do you see yourself getting caught up in the hustle bustle mentality?
I know I have! When I first began my business and was still studying I would get burnt out easily. But I would still force myself to get up and go the gym in the morning to do some grueling unnecessary workout before heading back to the stress of study or work all day. I would worry myself sick and catch any virus or cold going around. I knew something had to change and now I'm happy to say that so much has. I no longer long for the hustle and am quite content with the flow of my work-life balance. I haven't got it nailed yet but here are a few key changes that I've made to my lifestyle and routine, which lead me to a much healthier state in all aspects of my life.
I like to think of them as my self-care routine. I've separated my routine into 3 separate categories: mind, body & soul. I try and pick one thing from each category per day to really make sure I'm resting my sympathetic nervous system (fight-and-flight) and activating my parasympathetic nervous system (rest and repair).
Morning visualisations - before moving a muscle in the mornings, try visualising your day ahead of time, imagine all the good that will come to you. Positive visualisations lead to a positive mood and an optimistic outlook. Plan for things to go well for yourself each day.
Replace your negative thoughts with positive ones. Don't feel like going to work this morning? Focus on what you do like about your work instead, even if it's just the people who surround you. Focusing on the good feels good.
Get enough sleep - ideally 8 hours each night. Less than 8 hours sleep and you likely won't have the energy, motivate or spirit to complete any self-love routines! Prioritise bed time.
Practice yoga or stretches - even 20 minutes makes a difference. I find practicing yoga at night dramatically improves my sleep.
Deep breathing exercises where I focus on inhaling breath into the bottom of my tummy so that it fully expands than when I exhale, I focus on contracting my rib cage so it feels like I'm breathing out every last bit of air - reduces my stress after just 5 breaths! Practice this before bed for a restful sleep.
Morning walks, preferably in nature, always put me in the best mood
Practicing gratitude before you start your day. Before you leave your bed, think of 5 simple things that you are grateful for. It could be your bed, the safety of your home, your job, your family. Focus on what you have that brings you joy.
Meditation or taking simply 5 minutes out of the day to sit alone and breathe
Reading soulful books or listening to inspiring and calming podcasts.
About Jackie Morgan
Jackie Morgan is a qualified Nutritionist BHSc (Nutritional and Dietetic Medicine) who graduated from Endeavour College of Natural Health, Brisbane in 2016. Jackie has both clinical and public experience, currently practicing as a Clinical Nutritionist in her own private practice Well Hub Nutrition with a special focus on the Ketogenic diet and helping women heal their relationship with fat.
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