I’m someone who is always on the go and I like it that way. I am actually more productive when I’m busy because I know I only have a short time to accomplish what needs to get done so I’m hyper focused. But having this mentality has a huge downside. It’s one where you’re so focused on where you need to go you’re not always aware of what’s happening to your body along the way.
I’ve been known to push myself until I’m just physically too tired to continue: leaving me either exhausted or battling a full-blown cold. Take it from me, running on empty just to check things off your list is neither healthy or motivation to continue with activities that are actually a positive influence in your life.
I make it a goal to workout 4 to 5 days per week, cook and eat healthy meals everyday, find time to blog, read, and have a social life. Cramming all that into a week while you’re working full time means you need a schedule to keep everything running on all cylinders. But let’s be real, no one can keep that pace forever. So I decided to test for myself ways to unwind and make sure I was actually enjoying everything I was doing throughout the week.
I started making notes and “checking in” on how my body felt throughout the day. I noticed that in the morning I was exhausted even though I was getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. I had heard that watching television, working on your computer or scrolling through your phone can affect your sleep quality. So I thought why not try to unplug from devices at least an hour before bed and see if that makes a difference?
I tried this little experiment for the last month and I can honestly say I felt a difference. Before I started I noticed more restless sleep, and I’d wake up with my jaw clenched. Honestly, what was my mind so worried about to be stressed in a dream?! I can be an anxious person by nature so I could feel that being stressed or feeling like my mind was always racing cannot be good for my body. So every night I put my computer away, shut the television off and put my phone on the other side of my room. Then I’d pick up a book, magazine or even work on an art project at least an hour before I went to sleep.
It sounds simple but it made all the difference. Over the course of the last month I’ve woken up less tired and with less tension in my body. I’m not a doctor or a sleep expert and you should always consult with your own health professionals but this is something that is relieving my stress so I’m still continuing with this practice because it works better for my body.
During this time trying to “unplug” I was also balancing preparations for a vacation and starting a new job (all while continuing with the obligations mentioned before). Isn’t it strange how getting ready for a vacation can actually stress you out? But the added changes meant that something had to give on my packed schedule. Truthfully the part that was cut back the most was my time at the gym. And before you gasp in horror thinking, “BUT AREN’T YOU SUPPOSED TO PUT YOUR HEALTH FIRST!?” I’m going to ask that you just take a breath and read on.
Yes, of course your health is paramount because without your health you really do have nothing. But there are different ways to approach the healthy commitments you’ve made when life throws in something unexpected. I made a commitment to keep up with getting my body moving in the time leading up to my vacation and getting through the long training hours at my job. But instead of the long gym sessions during the week I moved my most strenuous activities to the weekends when I knew I’d have more time and energy. I made sure to stretch and power walk throughout the week because it kept my body moving while not leading me to total exhaustion.
Overtraining is a real thing
When you’re already exhausted and try to push past your limits you increase your risk of injury. I’m a big believer in recognizing when you need to modify your routine because you’re doing too much for what’s going on in your life. Normally overtraining means that someone can experience increased resting heart rate, decreased hunger or disturbed sleep over a period of several days. When this happens it’s necessary to decrease the intensity or frequency of exercise.
When I first started my health journey I personally experienced this issue. I was so worried about going backwards I was working out 2 times a day 5 to 6 days a week, and walking as much as possible. I totally burned myself out and crashed. I was totally discouraged because I didn’t know about overtraining. It wasn’t until I got advice from doctors and fitness professionals that I understood the importance of recovery time. Without recovery time you’re likely to crash and unlikely to see your desired results.
Eat smarter not faster
What I didn’t compromise on during the time crunch were my eating habits. Instead I changed the plan. I love to eat a lot of vegan or vegetarian meals but being new to the process of cooking this way it can take me a little longer to meal prep for the week ahead. Being in a time crunch, I decided to go to my local vegan/organic market and café to get some great pre-packaged healthy food that I could just heat up or put on a plate.
Now, I realize not everyone has access to a local place they know makes quality grab-and-go. So if that’s the case for you, prep the best you can. If you have to swing in somewhere for fast food don’t beat yourself up, and try to choose the healthiest item on the menu. I’ve gotten caught in that trap myself and all you can do is get right back on track for the next meal.
The bottom line is when life throws you a curve ball, do not be afraid to swing; sure you might strike out or you could hit a home run. What I mean by this is that changing your healthy routine as your life changes is a good choice. Don’t stick with the routine because it’s familiar if it’s not actually working for you. Refusing to change your routine could lead to overtraining, unhealthy eating or discouragement from continuing your health journey. So make sure you’re always listening to your body and embrace that needed recovery time.
Time to unwind
By the way, that vacation I was prepping for? I’m so glad I gave myself recovery time before I left. I went to Denver, Colorado and we had awesome weather! I took a walking tour of the capital, saw a concert at Red Rocks, hiked in Boulder, and even tried CrossFit for the first time. I did so many great activities there’s no way I would have made it through them all if I neglected my recovery time and didn’t “unplug” from stressors.
Here’s a little peek at some of the things I saw:
If you’re interested in a great fictional read on where life can lead when you don’t unplug from your electronic devices checkout The Circle by David Eggers. You can read my review of this novel in The Grotto.