(This post originally appeared in January 2017, but also applies to the upheaval wrought be the novel coronavirus.)
By now you probably have the feeling your new year’s resolutions were not nearly enough. With so much change a-comin’, you need to retool for a whole new era.
Wherever you stand relative to the political fence, here are five steps to take now so you have the durability to stay informed (but not overwhelmed), care for your self, and be there for the people who need you.
MOVE ENOUGH: With the tsunami of news, you’ll tend to be glued to your screen. That will certainly exercise your mind, but won’t do a thing for your body. Make a pact with yourself: get up and move for a minute every hour of your workday. Take a trip to the drinking fountain, or slip away for 60 quick jumping jacks. By using your muscles, your metabolism is revved up and your eyes get a rest from short-range staring.
Active breaks also jumpstart creativity. While you’re allegedly “doing nothing,” your subconscious mind continues to work. Very likely, when you return to your keyboard, a fresh idea will have popped into your head. To make sure you are durable for the long run, keep with the daily recommended half-hour of persistent movement. A multi-tasking way to get your exercise is to walk or bike all or part of your commute (such as by parking farther away from the office).
CHOOSE YOUR FOOD: When your mind is on the Big Picture, you may not want to bother with what you eat. But it’s a matter of garbage in, garbage out – and there’s a whole lot of garbage lurking in vending machines and wrapped in attractive packaging.
The fact is, if you don’t eat nutritious food, you’re going to feel lousy and will not operate at full strength. Be sure to have those three meals, eating mainly fruits, vegetables, grains, and lean protein. If you fill your plate with foods of different colors, you’ll have a rainbow of different nutrients. Avoid fried and sugary. That way, you’ll eat fewer calories, which is crucial for sit-down occupations. In the old days, a 155-pound guy working on a farm burned 400 calories an hour. Plowing through your desktop doesn’t even break 100.
PAY ATTENTION TO PEOPLE: With all that’s going on, you may feel compelled to stay locked onto the digital world, but the analogs in your life still need your attention, love and guidance. As Stephen Covey writes in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, for machines to be considered “efficient,” they work faster and longer. But to be “efficient” with a person, you need to stop what you’re doing and listen.
When your child, boss, or other of your VIPs approaches, show them you still care: set down your device—or if you’re on a larger screen—turn to face them. That way, you’ll hear what they say—and they’ll know it. Keep in mind that your children, especially, look to you as an anchor of calm and kindness during turbulent times.
Help your family plan time wisely with the Time Priorities Checklist.
GET OUTSIDE: Change, especially when it happens fast, invariably stirs up a welter of emotions. You’ll need some time away from the action. The quickest and easiest way to bring your self back in balance is to step outside—alone or with others. Feeling the breeze or the warmth of the sun will soothe your frazzled soul.
Because you are a human animal, planting your feet on the solid, dependable earth is reassuring. Simply gazing at green plants lowers blood pressure and lessens tension. The sheer enormity and constancy of the physical world puts indoor concerns in perspective. As nature philosopher Martin Ogle observes, “There are many questions being outdoors helps answer.”
SLEEP WELL: To be durable when you’re awake, you need to detach at night. While you sleep, information you consumed during the day is filed into long-term memory so it’s there when you need it later.
Getting too little sleep erodes overall health in part because your body doesn’t have time to maintain its own systems. For instance, just the way a dishwasher washes dishes, sleep naturally flushes away toxins that build up in your brain.
To ensure you sleep soundly and your cerebral dishwasher can work: charge your phone out of earshot and use an alarm clock to wake up. That way, the phone’s sounds, vibes, and tempting nighttime texts won’t disturb you. Also: use Post-It notes to dim the sleep-disrupting lights of wall-mounted devices such as thermostats and smoke alarms.
Scottish social commentator Thomas Carlyle once wrote:
Our grand business is not to see what lies dimly in the distance, but to do what lies clearly in hand.
Resolve now to take better care of yourself so you have more energy and strength to care for your own business and those who depend on you.
For more ways to shore up your self and family in challenging (or happy) times, read “How To Be a Durable Human: Revive and Thrive in the Digital Age Through the Power of Self-Design,” now in print and an e-book on Amazon.