Pilar Gerasimo on how we can safeguard our vitality while living in a cultural context that often stretches us well beyond our natural capacity.
I recently had the pleasure of giving a lunchtime talk — “Staying Healthy Under Pressure” — for the ABC News team in New York City. As it happened, the day I presented was the same day the United States announced the easing of sanctions against Cuba.
It was, in other words, a breaking-news day. I remember from my brief sojourn at the Huffington Post what those days are like: Totally nuts.
There’s the pressure not just to get the story right and to get it out first, but to do all this while also producing whatever daily projects still have to get done, and while working with folks who are laboring under precisely the same pressures.
It’s a scenario to which virtually any hardworking person can relate. We are all pulled in so many different directions — work, home, family, community. And in the midst of all this, we also have to be thinking about our health.
Because let’s face it, once our health starts to go, we’ve got a whole new set of crises on our hands. And all of those important things we have to do can suddenly get a whole lot harder.
This, I think, is one of the central conundrums of our time: How can we safeguard the vitality that is so critical to our effectiveness while living in a cultural context that often stretches us well beyond our natural capacity?
I wrote about this head-scratcher in my Revolutionary Acts column this month. I also talked a bit about it with the folks at ABC. Here are 10 survival tips I shared with them:
1. Take three minutes in the morning for you. Before you check your handheld or turn on any other electronics, light a candle, take some deep breaths, set your intentions, check in with your body-mind. Having even a few moments of sanity first thing in the morning can change the way you relate to the rest of your day.
2. Make and eat a whole-foods breakfast. Try the smoothie on page 20 or my “Quick-Trick Snack Stack”. Either one will fuel your body for hours and give you the nutrition your brain and body need to sustain their sanity.
3. Take your vitamins. Your body goes through B-vitamins at a faster clip when you are stressed, and being short on essential nutrients can radically diminish your mental and physical capacity. So even if you’re eating a healthy diet, it’s wise to supplement with some basics. (A multivitamin, multimineral, B-complex, vitamin D, and essential-fatty-acid supplement is a good combo for most.)
4. Keep a protein drink mix and healthy snacks at work. Blood-sugar crashes and carb cravings will become a thing of the past, and your brain will thank you for the extra amino acids.
6. Set a timer to trigger 10- to 15-minute breaks every two hours. This will help keep your body’s ultradian rhythms on an even keel, priming your body and brain to operate at peak effectiveness throughout extended days.
7. Take a weekly yoga, meditation, or relaxation class. The more your sympathetic (fight-or-flight) nervous system is activated, the more you need to cultivate your parasympathetic (rest-relax-digest-and-connect) nervous system for balance.
8. Keep a water bottle with a splash of juice or a slice of cucumber within reach at all times. That little touch of flavor sets up a “return to substance” relationship between your brain and the water. You’ll drink more, stay better hydrated, and function better as a result.
10. See symptoms as signals for change. If you’re doing all of the above regularly and still suffering, trust that that’s your body’s way of letting you know its needs are not being met. Make it your business to find out what shifts are necessary for you to create and maintain optimal health. Then do those things.
I realize that last suggestion is a doozy. Frankly, none of us comes into this world prepared to live the way we are living now. Learning the skills necessary to survive and thrive can become a lifetime endeavor. We created this Take Back Your Health issue as a companion guide of sorts. I hope you find it helpful.