How To Live Your Most Effective Life (Part 1)

“When you routinely make time to operate at your peak level, your peak level will become routine.”

“When you routinely make time to operate at your peak level, your peak level will become routine.”


The other day, someone that I worked with asked me how I manage to stay so calm during times when other people are stressed. As I reflected on her question, I realized it’s only because I’ve been very intentional about prioritizing stress relief over the past several years. As a result, I have designed my life over the past few years in a way that enables me to eliminate as much stress as possible, and minimize the unavoidable stress in my life.

In psychology, there is a state of mind called flow. This is where time falls away, and you feel like you can achieve anything. In sports, this is sometimes referred to as being “in the zone.” You’re more creative, more productive, and hyper focused.

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could be in this state of mind all the time? There are some specific steps that you can take to increase your time in the flow state.

As it turns out, stress is a MAJOR BARRIER to getting to the flow state. So really, if you want to be the most effective and productive, you need to work on how you deal with stress.

With that said, I have a few suggestions on ways to minimize, deal with, and eliminate stress. I regularly practice these, and I find it dramatically increases the quality of my life.

Regular INTENSE Physical Activity

If you don’t exercise regularly at all, I suggest you start there. There are numerous benefits associated with exercise. What’s the best kind of exercise, you may ask? The answer is the one you will do most consistently. While I personally prefer strength training, anything that gets you moving on a regular basis will work wonders for stress relief. High-intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a popular type of workout, where you give 100% effort for very short bursts of time, followed by a rest period, then on and on like that. I find it to be especially stress relieving.

Deep Breathing/Meditation

Have you ever taken a deep breath and felt much more calm and relaxed? That’s the basic idea behind meditation. In essence, you’re taking a series of deep breaths, while you try to focus your mind on one particular thing. It’s basically strength training for your mind. Don’t miss out on your “mental gains.” Here’s a pretty good guide about how to start meditating and some of the numerous benefits.

Learn to Say NO

“We all want to say yes, because with yes comes so much opportunity, but with the power of no comes focus and engagement.” – Jared Leto
Many people suffer from unnecessary stress because they have trouble telling other people no. When you are not running around focused on someone else’s priorities, you can much more effectively focus on yours.
Sometimes you have to say no to the good, so that you can say yes to the great. There is an opportunity cost associated with everything. At the end of the day, you must realize: You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.

Ruthlessly Prioritize

What do I mean by “ruthlessly prioritize”? The idea of ruthless prioritization is that you determine what your priorities are, and you stick to them no matter what. Be consistent. Pass everything through a filter. “How does this align with my priorities?” is a question you should be constantly asking yourself.

Listen to Relaxing Music

Listening to music can help you control your emotions. With enough practice, you can actually create a playlist that matches how you would like to feel.

Avoid Stressed-out and Negative People

This one speaks for itself. Behavior and emotions are contagious. You are who you surround yourself with.

Disconnect From the Things You Can’t Control

Focus on the things you can control. You will always feel powerless when you focus on things you have no control over (traffic, presidential politics, weather, etc).

Turn Off The News

Turning off the cable news is probably one of the easiest things you can do to decrease your stress. The news makes money from your fear, anxiety and dread. If you think you absolutely have to know what’s going on, do what I do and find your favorite news website and scroll through the headlines. At the end of the day, limit your information intake to things that are relevant to your own life and work.

Work On Creating Another Source of Income

One major source of stress for people is their jobs. When you are relying on your job to cover your living expenses (like most people), any troubles at your job can cause extra stress. One way to counteract this is to work on creating another source of income. What could be more stress free than to get to the point where your income from your side hustle is more than what you make at your job?

Call to Action

If you enjoyed this article, please leave a comment. What did you find to be most useful? Anything new that you learned?
Please feel free to reach out. I’m not perfect, and I don’t spend my entire life in a flow state. I’m always looking for more tips

Weekly Dose #1

Hi everyone! Today I am going to start giving you guys a weekly post talking about the latest developments in fitness and nutrition research.

  1. Today’s Weekly Dose starts with a new study that compared a modified version of the Mediterranean diet (MedDairy) to a low-fat diet, looking at which was more effective in preventing heart disease.  Unsuprisingly, the MedDairy diet was superior. Personally, I’ve been following my own version of this diet for several years now.

    Mediterranean vs low fat diet

  2. The second story comes from a new report that regular exercise could keep your body 30 years “younger”. The researchers compared muscle cells from adults in their 60’s who had been exercising for decades and found that their muscles were very similar to healthy 25 year-olds. The aerobic capacity (that’s the amount of work your muscles can do) was less than the younger athletes, but it was 40% higher compared to their sedentary peers! If that isn’t enough motivation to start being consistent with your exercise, I don’t know what is.

    Exercise can keep your body 30 years younger

Let me know what you guys think in the comments!

 

The Vicious Cycle: How to Stop Yourself From Sabotaging Your Fitness Goals

So I saw that meme posted on my social media a while back. While it was quite humorous, it really got me thinking.

I came to a conclusion:

Self hate is what fuels unhealthy patterns of negative behavior

You need to love your body in order to truly be at your healthiest!!

The major thing here is that you can actually love your body while trying to improve it at the same time. There’s a quote that sums this up perfectly:

“You can be both a masterpiece and a work-in-progress at the same time.”

When you truly love something, in my opinion, means that you want it to reach its fullest potential. For example, any good parent wants their children to grow up to be successful.

It’s the same way with your body: If you truly love your body, then you will do everything in your power to make sure that body is as healthy as possible. This may sound kind of obvious, but you only get one body. There are no do-overs.

So why not make the most of the only body you’re ever going to have?

Psychologically, there is one major way that we can undermine ourselves. It’s called “moral licensing”, and it happens when we look at our food choices as either “good” or “bad.”

What happens is that anytime you do something good, you give yourself permission to do something “bad.” For example, you go to the gym so you decide to treat yourself to some ice cream.

And then the guilt you feel from doing something “bad” will only add more stress. Many people deal with stress by emotionally eating, which will only continue the cycle.

The better way to look at your behavior is in terms of whether or not your behavior gets you to your goal.

You must make sure that you have a healthy relationship with food.

Food IS NOT meant for stress relief. Let me repeat: food IS NOT meant for stress relief.

Food is meant for nourishment. Food is the fuel that we use to power our bodies.

There are much better (and healthier) ways to relieve your stress. Try exercise. Or yoga. Or listening to music. Or meditation. Or reading a book. The options are really endless (stay tuned for a future post on stress relief!)

Instead of emotional eating, pick up a new hobby. Anything to take your mind off the stresses of the day. Just don’t do it with food. Your body will thank you.

Lessons I Learned From My Injury

Lessons I Learned From My Injury

Hi everybody.

 

It’s been a long time since I last posted. And in that time, a lot has happened.

I almost lost all of my motivation to keep posting on here (and I’ve also been very busy with pharmacy school rotations).

How did that happen? Well, I got injured.

 

And how did I get injured?

I got caught up trying to do exercises that I saw someone else doing. I also neglected a major fundamental exercise for a big muscle group.

 

And I suppose it was probably a good thing in a way, because I learned a lot through the whole ordeal:

 

  1. Don’t get caught up trying to do what everyone else is doing. Do what you know you’re supposed to do (this goes for everything in life, as well as the gym).
  2. Don’t skip the basics. It can be tempting to try what you think are advanced techniques, but if you’re forgetting about your foundation, it will topple eventually.
  3. Never give up, and don’t lose hope. It can sometimes seem like your present circumstances will define your situation forever, but almost everything is temporary and will change eventually. Especially an injury. Rest, then put in the work needed for recovery and you will come back stronger (and smarter) than before.

 

 

I hope this helps.

 

Writing this for you guys definitely helps me. The next few months will be very important to determine the direction of my pharmacy future, so I will try to write posts here more regularly, since it is a great stress reliever for me.

 

 

Until next time!

I Did Not Wake Up Like This

Hi everyone.

First, a few housekeeping notes. I have decided to switch the posting frequency from every week to every 2 weeks.

So for today’s post, I wanted to share a poem that I found on the internet. I really feel like it shows the level of dedication needed to make a Fitness Transformation.

I did not wake up like this

I changed my lifestyle for this

I workout late for this

I changed what I eat for this

I sweat for this

I cried for this

I lift heavy for this

I workout every day for this

I made this

And this is worth it

*A few clarifications. I have yet to cry about it. Also, I only workout 4 times a week.

Have a great week everyone!

Emotional Eating: This Bad Habit Could Be Undermining Your Fitness Goals

Do you only eat when you’re hungry?

If you’re like many people, you may sometimes engage in what’s known as “emotional eating.”

Do you only eat when you’re hungry?

If you’re like many people, you may sometimes engage in what’s known as “emotional eating.”

Emotional eating is defined as responding to stress by eating high-carbohydrate food with low nutritional value (think ice cream, chips, cookies, pizza, brownies, etc).

Even though emotional eating is typically triggered by stress, other emotions that are associated with it are boredom, sadness, anger, guilt, or frustration.

So yes, if you have ever sat down with a tub of ice cream because you failed your exam or a relationship didn’t go well, then you are guilty of emotional eating.

But not to worry! We’ll talk about ways to overcome this bad habit later in the article :).

As you can imagine, emotional eating is not exactly a healthy way to deal with stress. Emotional eating has been linked to obesity, among other things (1).

With emotional eating, stress is really the underlying factor.

The increase in cortisol that occurs with our “fight or flight” response actually increases our appetites, which means that too much stress can effectively make you fat. If you are under chronic stress, then you are at an even greater risk for emotional eating.

Another risk factor is the way you view food.

If you view food primarily as a source of pleasure, or you tend to associate happiness with certain foods, then you are at a higher risk for emotional eating. However, if you look at food as fuel for your body, then you are much less likely to engage in emotional eating.

Take the test!

If you think you are about to engage in emotional eating, you can take what’s known as the “broccoli test.” If you think you’re hungry, imagine eating a piece of broccoli (or an apple).

If you’re actually hungry, you would eat the broccoli/apple. But with emotional eating, you would much more likely choose something less healthy. If you wouldn’t eat it, then most likely you are about to engage in emotional eating

So what can you do?

Since stress is typically what causes emotional eating, stress reduction techniques are usually very effective for overcoming emotional eating. Exercise and meditation are some of the best ways to reduce stress.

While I will be talking more about exercise in future posts, I want to briefly talk about meditation. In my opinion, meditation is a very underutilized tool for stress relief. Personally, I have been meditating on and off for the past 3 years or so, and I have found it to be invaluable.

If you have never tried meditation and would like to know where to begin, check out this link. It has really good instructions and tips on how to meditate. And don’t worry, you don’t need any special equipment!

I also find that listening to music helps me relieve my stress. What do you guys do for stress relief? Let me know in the comments!

 

Having Trouble Breaking Old Habits? Read This

“We cannot solve our problems at the same level of thinking that created them.” – Albert Einstein

“We cannot solve our problems at the same level of thinking that created them.” – Albert Einstein
Habits.
We all have them, both good and bad.

In fact, up to 40% of the things we do on a daily basis are habits (1).

Since so much of our behavior is based on habits, it is important to use habits to your advantage if you want to make a Fitness Transformation.

So what exactly is a habit?

According to Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit, every habit has 3 parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward.

To make things simpler, I will use my habit of lifting weights as an example.

The cue is the signal that tells your brain to go into autopilot and determines which habit you will use.

For my example, my cues for lifting weights are that I take my pre-workout and put on my workout playlist. For you, your cue could be leaving your workout gear by the door, for example.

It doesn’t matter what exactly your cue is; what matters is that it makes it easier for you to remember your habit.

The routine is the behavior itself. In my case, it would be lifting weights. In your case, it may be running, yoga, pilates, etc.

The final part is the reward, and I would argue that this is the most important part. The reward is where your brain decides if the habit is worth keeping.

If you fail to reward yourself, you will not be motivated to continue the behavior and your new habit will fall apart.

However, if you choose the wrong reward (i.e. a box of donuts after you finish your workout), you can end up undermining any progress that you hope to gain with your new habit.

(For anyone that wants to dig deeper into the science of habits, I highly recommend checking out his book, The Power of Habit. Here is the link)

How to Put This Into Action:

If you have a habit you want to change, there are two important steps.

 1. Identify the cue (the trigger for the behavior).

2. Identify the reward (the craving that it satisfies).

If you can do these things, it will allow you to completely change your habits and create new ones.

So I hope this helps! If you guys have any questions, feel free to let me know in the comments!