Here’s an excerpt about stress reduction from ALL GAIN, NO PAIN: The Over-40 Man’s Comeback Guide to Rebuild Your Body After Pain, Injury, or Physical Therapy
One of the greatest stressors that we all experience is the sense that we lack control. A lack of control at work or at home makes us feel like we’re stuck in a riptide; getting pulled in too many directions. A 2016 study from Indiana University showed that those with high-demand but low control jobs had a 15% increased chance of dying compared to low demand jobs. Those jobs that were high-demand, but had high control, had a 34% decreased odds of dying compared to low demand jobs.
How do we gain this sense of control and reduce the stress that impacts our health and movement?
The answer lies in rituals.
Rituals are a pre-planned, executable series of events that can support goals, be it health improvement or producing valuable work.45 Starting the day with a successful ritual can breed further success.
You most likely already have a ritual of sorts in regard to your day, but you may not be aware of it. Your first cup of coffee and the morning news. Walking the dog. Throwing a load of clothes in the laundry, or kissing your significant other goodbye as you walk out the door.
We all tend to fall into patterns and habits. In his book On Intelligence, Jeff Hawkins mentions that even how you shower and dress tends to be somewhat ritualized.46 These patterns and rituals require little thought and get us through the mundane tasks that are necessary to complete or maintain different aspects of our lifestyle.
Your brain likes consistent patterns because they reduce energy demands and conserves resources that can be used elsewhere. Einstein, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg and many others have been or are reported to wear basically the same type of clothes every day. Doing so reduces decision fatigue and conserves brain energy. It also reduces stress.
I’ve come rather late to this party, but I’ve now structured my morning ritual to accomplish more on a day-to-day basis. As the self-help books say, success is a habit.
Here’s my morning ritual.
1. Wake at 4:45 am
I’ve been doing my ritual with variations and modifications for so long that I typically wake before my alarm clock goes off. Each time I do this, I celebrate my victory which further reinforces my ease of waking each morning. I’ve also been better at hitting my bedtime of 9:36 pm consistently which makes a huge difference in how rested I’ve been. The consistency in my rituals has allowed me to set personal records for deep sleep and REM sleep and get better rest.
Sleep Tracking Product Recommendation
I use a product called OURA Ring to monitor and measure my sleep quality. You can use anything that helps you monitor. A simple mental 1-5 scale on how you feel upon waking is useful as well.
Wake Up Product Recommendation
One of the keys to beating the alarm clock, especially when I wake up in the dark, is my Phillips Wake Up Light. Basically, my clock simulates a sunrise and stimulates a gentle, progressive wake up. I truly think it would be harder to get up without it.
2. Weigh-in and Waist Measurement
I’ve been working at staying as lean as possible while still enjoying life. I’ve maintained very low body fat for quite some time after losing about 37 pounds for my 50th birthday, and I’m trying to hit a specific weight to be maintained for life (fingers crossed) at a specific waist measurement. These are my measures from which I make my caloric adjustments over the week.
3. Hydration and Neutein supplementation
I wake thirsty from overnight dehydration. I put 5 grams of branch-chain amino acid powder in my water for taste (fruit punch flavor) and then take a supplement called Neutein. Neutein is a brain supplement developed by Dr. Mike Roussell (see Chapter 11) that I’ve been using for some time. It improves focus and multi-tasking without any stimulant ingredients. It takes about 2 hours to feel the Neutein kick in. I time this to coincide with my writing as this is when I tend to get most distracted and my mind wanders a bit.
I can count the number of times I’ve missed meditating this past year on one hand, mostly due to travel. Attention, self-regulation, reduced oxidative stress, and inflammation control remain the goals here. This is tough to measure directly, but I’ve certainly been more productive since I’ve started.
5. Journal entry
I’ve used The Five-Minute Journal, The Daily Stoic Journal, or my simple Moleskine notebook to write in daily using a morning and an evening journal entry system. It’s something that my wife and I are doing together (although we don’t read each other’s journals). It sets up what I expect for the day and reminds me of what’s important. I also express a few words for self-motivation purposes. At night, I can evaluate how I did and what I need to change for the next day. The Five-Minute Journal is targeted and concise and takes less time (thus the name, eh?) if that’s an issue for you.
6. Morning Reading
My morning reading is technical. This may be journal articles or chapters of a textbook. I’ve learned that I’m not a good technical reader at night. Doing my technical reading when I’m fresh has helped with retention a great deal. I’ve moved my less technical reading to the evenings. This is less demanding and helps me wind down as well as getting away from the computer screen. Even though I have a blue light filter on my computer, I’ve been trying to get away from it more.
7. My cup of Neuro Coffee
Neuro Coffee is a coffee that has been shown in peer-reviewed research to increase the BDNF I mentioned in Chapter 12, just like exercise. It’s become the favorite part of my morning ritual. I’ve been trying to decide if this is what truly gets me out of bed in the morning. Never having been a coffee drinker, it confounds me a bit. I’m enjoying it way too much. Strangely, I’ve had situations where Neuro Coffee was unavailable (vacation/travel), and I’ve tried other coffee. Still tastes like dirt.
Neuro Coffee at this time supports my learning process. A little caffeine + BDNF aids in solidifying what I’ve learned in my reading.
You can get to Neuro Coffee at IFAST!
8. Morning Mini-Mobility
I solve problems and make more creative connections during light mobility activities and long-duration aerobic exercise (and audiobooks). I’ve added this not only to promote some creativity before writing but to work on a couple of movement issues I’m working on. You’ll read more about mini-mobility sessions later in Chapter 17. Each exposure enhances movement and comfort. I’ll work on several movements throughout the day as well. If I can get some creativity out of it, all the better. Don’t forget to breathe through such activities. Breathing is movement.
By now, Neutein is kicking in and creativity has been stimulated. Time to write. It may be a blog post (like this one), a larger project I’m working on, or just a brain dump to get some ideas out of my head. When I’m doing serious writing, I’m hitting no less than 1,000 words a day.
10. Off to IFAST to train.
The last part of my morning ritual is done at my gym, IFAST (Indianapolis Fitness and Sports Training). Mondays and Fridays are intensive training days. Tuesdays and Saturdays are moderate to easy days. On off days, I still do a little mobility work, but generally, I just get more writing finished. You’ll learn more about how to set up your workouts in later chapters.
Find what works for you as there is no right or wrong. You have my permission to borrow any part of my morning ritual as your guide. Find a way to start your day with self-regulation, awareness, and confidence. The morning doesn’t have to be a source of stress. It can be a source of success.
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It’s a fun, challenging, and productive workout with a great group of people.
You can get started with our 7 Days for $7 Special! Call IFAST at 317-578-0998 or email us at [email protected]