I have been pretty stressed lately.
My company is going through a lot of internal changes and the pressure is really high to perform. I’m also constantly mulling over my own entrepreneurial ventures and, of course, I have the vice of any type-A personality where I torture myself with an overwhelming flood of thoughts until I can’t seem to breathe. Then add on excessive business travel, too many obligations and engagements, and a lot of seemingly easy things that also don’t go your way and your stress is at an all-time high.
I was pushing myself really hard.
Pushing myself to meet every meeting and every client need.
Pushing myself to do the most possible to propel myself forward in terms of self-development and entrepreneurship.
Pushing myself to meet every obligation from my friends and family.
Pushing myself to take care of my health and exercise.
All good things, right?
Well, all this pressure that I was placing on myself eventually erupted on Wednesday night. At around 7pm, I decided to sleep early because I wanted to make it to a 2am call with our global team. Around 8pm, I woke up with a searing headache like there were little goblins trying to build the next Manhattan skyline in there. I was sweating through my clothes. I felt nauseous. I was burning up.
I continued to get up continuously throughout the night, only managing to get out of bed to run to the bathroom to throw up. I tried to rehydrate myself but as soon as the water touched the back of my throat, I was kneeling over the toilet hurling again.
This nightmare lasted for about 4 days. Non-stop vomiting, non-stop headache, non-stop fever. It was hell.
I could see emails piling up, clients messaging me, people asking me for favors. I couldn’t even muster up the energy to pick up my phone. I had to just hope that nothing disastrous would happen.
And of course, nothing did happen.
And this incident really made me reflect on the role health, wellness, and balance played in my life. I was so caught up in pushing myself and making sure I milk every moment I had to the best of my ability that I was completely running myself to the ground.
Sure, you always hear highly successful people talk about balance and avoiding burnout but that mentality never fully resonated with me until I realized the amount of stress I was putting my mind and body through had put me in an almost comatose state of feverish haze for 4 days.
I felt ashamed, in all honesty. To have treated my body in such a reckless and disrespectful way. It made me realize that I had to consciously weave balance into my life. I had to have downtime and not drive myself crazy. There really is no glory in working yourself to death.
So that is my really long-winded way of saying, I’m sitting here to reflect on how I can restructure and reorganize my life to make more room for health and wellness. And also to reflect on what health and wellness mean for me more specifically.
I think that’s another important idea to grasp. Health and wellness is NEVER a one-size-fits-all kind of situation. You always need to be listening to your own body and tailoring your habits to what your body responds well to.
Here are the 5 habits that I want to start incorporating in order to make sure a physical breakdown of this nature does not happen again.
1. Designated Downtime
This is not groundbreaking but it’s actually hard to implement for me. Because I do have a day job and that day job often spills outside of the regular 9–5 hours, I mostly rely on weekends to do things for my business. But this means that I’m truly going 24/7 and we all know that that’s a one-way street to being completely burnt out.
So I’m designating Sundays as my downtime. I know a lot of people choose Saturdays but I still chose Sundays because it’s the end of the week and the day I’m usually feeling both fatigue and anxiety. I feel tired from the week I’ve had and anxious about the week coming up. So on a day when I’m feeling so many emotions, I want to take this day off to give myself some time to wind down and help gather my thoughts.
Some clear outlines for what can and cannot be done during this day:
What I can do is journal, review the week, reprioritize for next week, read books (but not about business, marketing, entrepreneurship, or self-development), clean the house, watch TV or movies, hang out with friends or family, take a nap, run errands, etc.
What I cannot do is actively work (day job and business related), actively learn about something that is a part of my goals (e.g. marketing, productivity, technology, etc.), make a never-ending to-do list of a bunch of crap I have to do that day, etc.
I want to make this day officially CLOSED FOR BUSINESS.
I do believe that, in the long run, this really would be beneficial not only to my wellbeing but also to fueling creativity and sparking ideas that I normally wouldn’t have gotten if I was in a productive mode all the time.
2. The 6-Hour Day
Marina Mogilko has been someone I’ve been loving to follow recently. She’s the aspirational co-founder of LinguaTrip but has also been expanding her personal brand through her Youtube and social media channels.
One thing that she had mentioned that really stuck to me was how she says she can usually only be productive for about six hours a day. Which means that she really has to prioritize what needs to be done within those six hours to make sure she’s made the most of her productivity.
I think one of the reasons why that resonated with me so much was because it’s the same for me. And I often find myself focusing on easier, non-important tasks and squandering those precious six hours on things that won’t make as much of a difference.
The frustrating part of all this is that I KNOW I’M DOING THIS. Yet I can’t stop. But in order to preserve my sanity, I decided to start being stricter about working about 6 hours a day — for both my day job and my businesses.
I know that I won’t always be able to abide by this but I want to have this restriction in place so that I’m forced to confront my procrastinating habits and push myself to work on the things that matter.
But the reason why I also want to do this is so I can spend less time working and more time relaxing. It’s like a HIIT workout. You work productively and intensely for six hours and then relax for the rest. You’ll still get an amazing result but with less time invested.
This is not only good for my overall productivity but definitely good for achieving more balance in my life and spending more time taking care of myself.
3. Reducing alcohol intake
I don’t know about you but I’m starting to reach a point in my life where binge-drinking and waking up to hazy memories and an abused credit card doesn’t bring me the same thrill and joy as it used to back in the day.
I’ve done very well cutting down my alcohol intake but I still give in for special occasions where I feel like the party pooper if I don’t cooperate. But I’m starting to reach my last straw and I’m done wrecking my body and self-esteem (and my bank statement) to make sure people don’t think I’m bringing down the party.
I know better now than to make super restrictive requirements of myself, especially when it comes to big lifestyle changes. But I want to tell myself that every time there is a chance to not drink alcohol, don’t. If you do drink, have two cups of water for every drink that you have.
4. Regulating my diet and sleep
These are also areas of my life where, from personal experience, I realized it’s best not to be over-restrictive and over-regulatory when it comes to trying to improve. Instead, I want to give myself general guidelines I can follow easily without having to feel too constrained and stressed.
For diet, I’m not going to say I can’t eat flour or sugar or meat. Nothing restrictive. I want to listen to what my body is saying and give it what it craves and needs. Instead, what I want to encourage myself to do is to eat on a regular schedule.
One of the hardest things about having a busy schedule is that my meals come in random bursts. Sometimes, my lunch is at 11am and sometimes it’s at 4pm. But when you do this, you are putting a lot of tension on your body. So instead of telling myself what I can or cannot eat, I want to just say I’ll eat on a more regular schedule.
Light breakfast at around 10am, lunch around 12:30pm, and dinner around 6pm. I want to give some consistency to my body so it’s not constantly thrown a curveball.
Same goes with my sleeping habits. I’m going to excuse myself from any recurring calls past midnight and make sure I’m in bed by 11pm. It takes me a long time to fall asleep so it’s vital that I get to bed early so I can start winding down. Ideally, I want to say I would read instead of looking at my phone before bed, but I really don’t feel that confident that I can do that so let’s just say baby steps.
5. Low-impact and Easy Exercises
I’ve tried to do a lot of different exercise routines in my life. And I think the ones that make me feel the best at the end of the day are low-impact exercises centered more around flexibility, using your own body weight, and slow movements.
So I want to honor that and focus on maintaining an exercise regime that consists of yoga, pilates, and brisk walking. I think eventually the best exercise is the one that you actually want to do and will do and that will leave you feeling whole and centered.
Don’t get pressured into doing the latest fitness trend even if you don’t feel like it’s for you. Every body needs something different and reacts differently to different exercises. Feel free to experiment but stick to the one that makes you feel the best.
Lastly, I want to say to everyone hustling their ass off, respect your body. Respect what it’s telling you and honor its needs. And I wish you the best in your health journey!