Knowing how to relax is sort of a big deal. Not only because it is immensely important for your mental well-being but it can play a huge part if you struggle gaining ground in your fat loss efforts.
When you are constantly “on” you have cortisol and adrenalin hormones raging through your body. These will slow down or even stop your body from burning fat. Your body is in a constant fight or flight mode, it’s stressed to the max expecting some sort of pre-historic animal – such as a red-devil-elephant – attacking through the bushes, immobilizing you with it’s 3.5 meter trunk, charring you with it’s flamethrower eyes and eating you alive. Wouldn’t you be freaked out? I thought so. The last thing your body would worry about is how much fat it can burn.
Compare this to you sitting outside of your cave, using a stick to draw pictures of butterflies in the sand while listening to birds while having the tranquil sounds of waves crashing the shore. You are also being fed grapes by naked women, or men, whatever floats your boat. That’s the difference of being “on” and “off”.
The typical type-A high achiever, someones who’s very driven and ambitious, is most often the same person who is struggling with the skill of taking the foot off the accelerator. Based on the observations at my line of work, those who work extremely hard and do long hours are the same people who tackle each training sessions like it’s the Normandy. For them it takes considerable convincing that training, like anything else, is a skill and it is not measured at how close to 500 you can get your heart rate at the end of each session.
Training itself is a stressor to the body that will temporarily elevate cortisol and adrenalin. Yes, exercise is good for you but you can’t keep pushing your way through expecting for it to get better by doing more. Once the bucket is full it won’t get any fuller no matter how much water you pour in.
It’s the same type-A personality who most often has the same all-or-nothing approach to their eating habits. Diet has to be strict rules to follow, carved in stone. They prefer the all or nothing approach to most aspects in life and diet is no different. Unfortunately with the type-A when different stresses start to add up it’s the diet that usually goes first. It takes considerable amount of convincing that slow and steady is what eventually gets you ready. But it’s a difficult argument to make in today’s world where everything needs to be available yesterday. And definitely not a scope of this blog post, I shall tackle it later.
So if we can at least agree on the fact that learning to relax is paramount to our well-being, what actions can we implement to bring the pendulum even a little bit closer to the middle? The hardest part with finding inner peace for a lot of people is the fact that you can’t usually buy this peacefulness with money. You have to trade time, which is our most precious currency. Let’s look at a different options that you can do to switch off.
Stop Comparing Yourself to Others (it all starts with this)
It’s good for your health to get off the acquisition and accomplishment track where you are so focused on comparing your achievements with other people. This is a never ending cycle that you are going to battle for the rest of you life. Once you have the best house and fanciest car in your neighborhood you’ll move into a more prestigious suburb. Once you’re the top dog there you’ll move to the next. There’s a Finnish saying along the lines of ‘a Fin doesn’t care how much he has as long as the neighbor doesn’t have more’. I think this is true in most parts of the western world. We waste our lives trying to impress others without ever feeling that “this is enough”. It’s a fucked up way to spend our time.
If this is you, ask yourself why. Is it money? Are you trying to prove someone wrong? Is your worthiness tied to your accomplishments? Are you working hard now so you can relax later in life? What if you get run over by a bus and “later never arrives”. It’s a morbid thought but well worth a thought. These are all very deep and serious questions and I can’t answer them for you. It takes a lot of soul searching. And you might not like what you discover.
Get as much done in those hours that are allocated for work but don’t let your work spill outside of the boundaries that you’ve set. Be ruthless about what’s important and what’s not.
Setting boundaries does two things: it forces you to focus on what is important and tackle that task first. When you set strict boundaries you’ll get more done in less time compared to if you are always “on”. If you have no boundaries for work you’ll most likely end up taking a longer time to complete the same task because there is not a sense of urgency to it. I can tell from my own experience, as a someone who works for myself, there is always more things I could be doing. To live a balanced life (which I am getting better at) I have to be ruthless about what is actually important and what is unnecessary and only adding to my busyness.
Want to know more? Pick up a copy of Essentialism by Geoff McKeown. It’s still a top 5 non-fiction book that I’ve read.