“Should the cabin lose pressure, oxygen masks will drop from the overhead bin. Please place the mask over your own nose and mouth before assisting others.”
We’ve all heard the pre-flight safety instructions. Put your mask on before helping others because once the air gets sucked out of the room, you have about 15 seconds before it’s “lights out.” And no matter how well-intentioned, you’re of no use to anyone if you’re unconscious, so the best thing you can do for people struggling to breathe is to not be one of them.
While this is a concept we generally accept at 30,000 feet, it’s not one we incorporate into our daily lives. In fact, one disturbing pattern I’ve noticed among thousands of one-on-one meetings with clients at the beginning of their fitness journey is this sentiment: “I don’t have time for myself. I’ve always put everyone else’s needs before my own.”
Frequently, it’s the men or women putting in 80-hour weeks into their career, kids, marriage, and a thousand obligations that come along with it. This person gives and gives and gives to their family, co-workers, and organizations, and the scraps get left to themselves. Over time, sleepless nights, chores, soccer practice, meetings, deadlines, and quotas take their toll. This results in a lethal cocktail of stress, anxiety, and overwhelm that we medicate with greasy takeout and really strong drinks.
In the moment, it feels like it’s “just for now,” but if we’re not careful, we can go so long that eventually the person in the mirror is unrecognizable. It’s all a recipe for burnout, and if you’ve felt this way, it can and should stop today. You do not have to sacrifice your health for those you love. In fact, if you asked them, they would emphatically tell you not to do that. It might feel selfish. It might feel unreasonable. But coming from someone who’s lost loved ones to poor health, making the time to be healthy in the short term so you won’t be sick in the long term is one of the least selfish things you could ever do. So if you’re tired of feeling burned out, here are a few things I suggest you start doing immediately:
Three walks, three workouts. On Sunday, carve out a minimum of three hours per week and schedule 10-20 minutes of walking in the sun each day. With the remaining time, break a sweat for 30-60 minutes three times a week, whatever your schedule allows. Start small, but start now. Exercise is the most potent and underrated antidepressant that will immediately improve your headspace and leave you feeling recharged.
Make and follow a day/night ritual. Part of the reason humanity as a whole is more stressed and anxious than ever before is because we don’t have bookends to our days. We can check email, scroll the feed, and overload our senses all hours of the day. Have a set(ish) wake time and bedtime; schedule it in your calendar and follow it. Cut the screen time 30 minutes before bed. Pray, meditate, read, stretch, or journal, but get off the technology.
Manage your information diet. The 24/7 news cycle is killing your mental health and productivity. It’s making you angry, worried, and generally irritable. Be more mindful of who you listen to and how it’s really serving you. Then cut away anything that isn’t making you a better human.
Follow the 1-2-3 method. I stole this from famed trainer Jordan Syatt, and it’s a great first step for beginning a healthy diet: one big salad, two pieces of fruit, three bottles of water. Each day, eat the biggest salad you can manage with tons of vegetables, then have two pieces of real produce, and wash it down with three water bottles. Grab a big bottle and refill it often.
Protect your time. And lastly, if you don’t respect your time, no one else will either. Make and keep appointments with yourself, and don’t tolerate interruptions (unless it’s an emergency, obviously). Do this and over time, you’ll see people and obligations will fall in line with the boundaries you’ve set.
Do the above, and shockingly, you’ll find yourself showing up in all the areas of your life with a strength and presence your family, team members, and employers will thank you for. spt