One of the most common problems we see in our groups is not having enough time. People’s lives are filled to the max, and sometimes overflowing. Times are tough. We frequently hear people say they are “stretched thin,” “putting out fires all day,” “don’t have time to breathe,” and “pulled in all directions” — and those are just a few examples.
So it is no surprise that it is difficult to find time to plan, shop, and cook, let alone exercise, get enough sleep, meditate, and other self-care activities. It is also not surprising that at the end of a crazy day, eating is the most readily available stress reliever, thus making weight loss difficult.
There are countless forces pulling you in different directions, and there always will be. Most of us spend our days reacting to these forces– pulled along by a tide that is not of our own creation. In order to achieve our health goals, we must move away from the role of reactor, and into the role of deliberate planner. If you don’t mindfully, deliberately start every day prioritizing your health and weight loss goals, you can be sure that they will fall to the bottom of the list.
Here are some tips to help:
- Make a schedule. Writing–or typing– is a form of mindfulness. It brings intentionality to your day. I use a hard copy calendar and lots of lists, but my partner and Mindful Life co-founder Steve, keeps his schedule in his phone. At the end of the day, I can hear the pings as he checks off each thing, and his health goals are all scheduled alongside of deadlines and meetings. Whatever your health goals are– getting to the gym a certain number of days, shopping for food, going for walks…put those things on your list. We physically schedule business meetings and social events, but tend to mentally schedule our health goals. And you know what can happen to things you commit to memory–they get pushed aside.
Also, many people don’t consciously schedule a good night of sleep, and as a result are in a chronic state of sleep deprivation. When your body is sleep deprived, it is harder to maintain a healthy diet, regulate appetite, cope with stress, and be productive. Scheduling a good night of sleep might be the most important thing you do for health and weight loss. Block out enough time to sleep, and honor that appointment with your pillow.
- It is okay to think small. Let’s face it, there are some days when all you have is a few minutes here and there. But not to worry: a little goes a long way. Consider these examples:
- Ten minutes of yoga can revitalize your energy.
- Five minutes of daily meditation can provide ripples of calm.
- Two minutes of walking every hour can mitigate the effects of sitting.
- Five minutes outside mindfully enjoying nature can feed the soul.
- A brief weightlifting session can build strength.
- A brief cardio workout can improve your heart—and mood.
Sure it is great to have larger periods of time to devote to self-care–and you should make every effort to schedule those– but you can still fit in healthy habits on busy days. It is very common to get into an “all or nothing” mindset. You feel overworked and unable to get to the gym for an hour, so you figure, “why bother.” But every little bit counts.
- Simplify. Try to get as many things down to a routine as possible. Some Mindful Lifers have shared that eating the same rotation of meals is helpful. Rather than figuring out an entire week’s worth of meals, they have a set of standby favorites. Perhaps they have the same breakfast and lunch every day, and a different dinner each night. Or perhaps they cook one day per week and portion off several meals from that. Steve is famous for his “Steve bowl” which is his lunch and dinner every day. It is a basic rice/quinoa bowl with vegetables and a protein. His grocery list is down to a science, and his meal prep time is minimal.
It can also be helpful to find other areas of your life to simplify. For example, I automate many of my bills, delegate household chores, and order pet food online so that I am not running all over town on errands. During one particularly busy period, I even shopped for groceries online. Bottom line is: the less you are running in a million directions, the more time you can spend taking care of your health.
You Must Take a Stand
I had to take a stand during a stressful year when I worked as a clinical intern at a mental health center. The clinic director told me: “We expect you to see 8 clients in 8 hours” leaving no time for breaks. I had to advocate for myself—for time to eat and breaks. I found it ironic that I was expected to speak to clients about self-care, while denying my own.
Of course, the world at large cares very little about our health and well being. It simply wants as much of us as it can possibly get. It is up to us to fight for our health. Each one of us has to take a stand. As Steve says: “If we don’t make these goals intentional, then the demands of life will steamroll our health objectives.” And what is more important than your health?