Sleep, exercise, diet – the Clear Mind holy trinity

Since the 40 degree Celsius temperatures we had in the UK this summer, I’ve struggled to get back into gear.

That’s about 6 weeks of feeling sluggish, being one-step behind where I usually am in my thoughts and reactions, and being generally in a bit of a grump.

And it’s totally my fault.

After some reflection this week, I realised that I’ve not kept up my end of the bargain to keep myself in good shape.

I’ve been sleeping relatively well, getting to bed at a time that works for my body clock.

My diet has been patchy – quite a few takeaways, skipping breakfast too often, rushed lunch if I’m busy at work, and drinking more alcohol than is good for me.

But my biggest sin is missing exercise.

I love some hard work

I’ve always been an early riser. I like to get going with the day and like to be busy and engaged throughout it.

I enjoy sitting still and relaxing, but only after strenuous exercise.

When I was 18 I went on a selection course for an overseas programme with Project Trust. Part of this course was notorious amongst people who knew the organisation, for being a good test of resilience – a day spent digging the fields at the trust’s HQ.

The purpose? To see whether you’d get on with it and have a good time, or complain and moan and display entitled behaviour.

I loved it. After the day I felt tired, but fresh and energised.

And that continues to this day. Get me outside digging, or lifting heavy things, or doing something physical that tires me out, and I’ll be the best version of myself afterwards.

It’s still the same today

I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve purposely exercised, or done something that physically exhausted me, in the last 6 weeks.

And I need to change it.

Fortunately I have a process:

  1. Increase sleep – even if I’m having the most high quality slumber, if I find myself feeling as sluggish as I do now, I need to increase the amount of rest I’m getting. Going to bed 30-60 minutes earlier each night is ideal (earlier works because that’s where most people have control over their schedule. It’s hard to allow yourself an extra hour in the morning every day of the week, when you need to work and/or see to kids). Try this for 7 days and see the difference.
  2. Gradually dial up the exercise – the extra sleep quickly gives you more energy, which you can invest in exercise. This will give you more strength, and more energy. Important to do this gradually if you’re unfit, or even just out of routine. Many times in the past I’ve gone hard into an exercise session, still thinking I’m as fit as I was a few months before, and pulled something!
  3. Complement this with a great diet – good food, whatever it means for you, will power you on. Eat clean and lean, cut processed food and sugar, reduce coffee and alcohol, reduce red meat, dairy, grains, gluten. You name it, there’s an option. Find what works for you and give it a go.

It’s a virtuous cycle – sleep to increase energy to train to increase strength and eat better to sleep well and increase energy.

What would you add to this?

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