There’s so much information out there, yet we continue falling short when it comes to prioritising our wellbeing. Here are some basics to help us all get back on track.
Modern life has brought wonderful inventions like technology, an easier lifestyle and access to information at the touch of a button. Yet, there’s a price to pay – the super-quick pace of life and work that we find ourselves living. It’s hard to keep up and we feel constantly stressed about being left behind. This access to technology can make us forget that we’re still humans with needs that can’t be bypassed by technology or dismissed due to the busy schedules we are often forced to juggle.
The simpler life certainly had its advantages of community, craftsmanship, more time spent enjoying life, family and friends. Whereas now, the avalanche of information and demands on us due to technology can be quite overwhelming. You may feel intimidated by all the knowledge – to the extent that it can block you from embarking on a new path.
Don’t worry, help is at hand
According to Dr Robert H. Shmerling, a rheumatologist at the Harvard Medical School, you can simplify your life by focusing on what truly matters. He says that while each person is unique, there are certain things that come standard to all of us by just simply being human. This may seem obvious, but the reality is that if you don’t prioritise your physical and mental health and you don’t manage your stress levels, you can never be or perform at your best.
Writing on the website of the Harvard Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment, Dr Shmerling suggests that you focus on what truly matters by adopting “a holistic approach to health”, starting with these four basic habits:
1. Eat lots of nutritious foods
Fuelling your body for health is important, says Dr Shmerling, which means eating lots of nutritious foods. “Aim to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. These nutrient-dense foods provide essential vitamins, minerals and fibre that support numerous bodily functions and help ward off chronic diseases.”
There are supplements that can help you maintain your energy, but there is no getting around a healthy diet. Without it, your body will be left lacking and you will be unable to function at optimal levels.
2. Get regular exercise
Your body thrives on regular exercise. It isn’t optional if you want to feel good and be at your best at home and work. Dr Shmerling advises that you “engage in physical activity at least three times a week. Exercise offers numerous health benefits, such as lowering high blood pressure, increasing good cholesterol, controlling blood sugar levels, reducing the risk of falls and fractures, and improving mood and sleep quality.”
Smoking is still a no-no, but you already know that. Monitor your alcohol consumption carefully as it can also have adverse effects on your physical and mental health.
3. Address your stress
Stress has become part of our daily lives, but that doesn’t mean it’s a healthy habit. It can make you feel sick and unable to face your responsibilities at home and at work. It can affect your mental health and lead to systemic imbalances in the body. Leading a balanced life is key.
Dr Shmerling explains: “High stress levels can cause adverse effects on both physical and mental health, contributing to conditions such as anxiety, depression, high blood pressure and gastrointestinal disorders. To combat stress, consider incorporating relaxation techniques into your daily routine, such as meditation or deep breathing exercises, or engage in activities you enjoy.”
4. Get enough sleep
You have to sleep and when you sleep well, your body and your mind will thank you. Experts at the Harvard Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment explain: “Our bodies perform critical repair functions during sleep, and a lack of rest can hinder the immune system’s ability to fight off illness. Additionally, insufficient sleep can disrupt hunger and satiety hormones, leading to cravings for unhealthy foods and decreased energy levels.
“Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep to support your overall wellbeing and promote a healthy lifestyle,” they advise.
There doesn’t seem to be a consensus on what time to go to bed, Dr Teni Davoudian, who is a clinical psychologist at the OHSU Center for Women’s Health, says: “Going to bed at the same time every night really doesn’t help regulate your sleep cycle at all. If you have insomnia, instead of a bedtime, you need a consistent wake-up time.” This works well even for those who work night shifts because the emphasis is on creating a routine that works with your reality as opposed to trying to fit unrealistic routines into your life.