Some people are slow learners. I must be one of them. My friend, Cherie Clark, says that there are no slow learners; just thorough ones. That’s me: a thorough learner! Especially when it comes to avoiding the Overload Syndrome.
My first experience with OS was way, way, way back in my 20s. I was working with a psychotherapist at that time to get help for clinical depression and a lot of anxiety. He gave me an assignment at the beginning of our work together. The assignment was to write down everything I did for three days in the order I did them. If I multi-tasked, he wanted me to write each thing beside the other(s) in the same time slot.
When I came back the next week to review my assignment with him, he nearly fell off his chair. “You need about nine people’s days to tackle what you are trying to do in just one day of the one life you have been given,” he admonished. He helped me untangle my to-do list and make only the commitments that I could keep at that point in my life and still leave room for things I simply did because I enjoyed them. I came to see that my depression and anxiety was self inflicted.
But I did not learn my lesson yet.
I repeated the same scenario in my third decade, in my fourth decade, and now, in the opening years my fifth decade. Except now, the end result of this propensity wasn’t depression or anxiety (although they were along for the ride, too). No, the end result has been cancer. This is why I am writing about this now: there is a direct link between a lack of “self care” and the development of the most serious conditions which arise as a result of a suppressed immune system. Doctors and research studies around the world all agree: stress kills.
I think our digital age makes it even harder to stay in touch with the things our physical bodies need from us and easier to lose track of the things we mean to do, but don’t actually do long enough to create a habit out of them. We have become Big Brains, connected to the world online like never before, completely networked into this worldwide, digital brain. And not just at work anymore, it’s from the moment our eyes fly open to the second they shut tight at the end of the day, even as we are still reading our posts, Pinterest, Instagram, BBC, or whatever it is you read. We are sitting (sometimes even lying) in front of large and small screens for hours, with nothing moving except our eyes and maybe our fingertips — for HOURS, and days, and weeks, and months, and years. Some of us (I’ll admit it) even take our device into the WC in the middle of the night to see what we may be missing while we take that biological break that woke us up in the first place!
Except that we are NOT Big Brains, and we certainly are not digital entities, even though we may act like we have lost sight of that version of reality. We are conscious, sentient beings inside of a very physical, analog “machine,” if you will. And if our machines are not take care of the way they need to be in order to continue functioning well, life will not turn out for us the way we envision.
I certainly never envisioned I would EVER be dealing with the “C” word. I can look back now and see the arrogance of that position. The short list below are the most critical ways our body-machines need us to care for them. This list comes from a lived experience that I hope and pray you never have to go through:
1. Move. Your lymphatic system, one of the anchors of your immune system, gets sluggish when you sit still hour after hour, day after day. And getting up to go to the fridge is not enough movement! It is simple to take time every fifteen minutes to stand up and bounce in place, walk around your office or cubicle, march in place, anything to get your blood flow going and your lymphatic pump activated. The next time you are sitting in front of your computer or socializing on your mobile device, just pay conscious attention to how much time passes while you are there. That Big Brain can completely lose track of time, and before you know it, two hours will have passed!
2. Breathe. Sounds silly, doesn’t it? Of course you are breathing while you are alive. It’s automatic. But what’s not automatic is HOW you breathe when you are caught up in the Big Brain. Most of the time, if you check in with yourself, you are breathing shallowly. Or, worse yet, you are holding your breath a good part of the time. Congratulations: this is the #1 way to stimulate the body-machine to kick in the hormones and neuropeptides that communicate to the systems of the machine that there is danger, shut down all non-essential systems, and get ready to run!!! Or fight!!! Save yourself! And one of the non-essential systems in this body state is your immune function.
3. Drink water. It’s so common to look at what we have beside us all day and see coffee, tea, or soda. And do you even realize that Big Brain absently uses the body-machine to reach out from time to time for a sip or two of those beverages, perhaps never even ONCE in the day pouring a glass of still water for the poor machine? Guess what, just like your car, your body-machine does not run on coffee, tea, or soda. It runs on pure water! Water is used by the lymph system to create that strong lymphatic flow that is needed to keep your immune system alert and on guard.
4. Practice good sleep hygiene. Most of us have no idea how important the hormone Melatonin is to our body-machine. And we aren’t aware that having lights on right up until bedtime (or watching TV, using the computer or mobile devices) suppresses the production of Melatonin. Not aware of this at all. In order for your body-machine to reset itself every night (which is really what this machine needs to do), we have to keep lights off the hour or two before we are going to sleep, use the night mode on our devices, and make sure we are good and asleep by the time our body-machine’s factory setting initiates its reset process: 11 PM. You like Jimmy Fallon? So do I. That’s why DVR is such a wonderful thing. Use it and get your body-machine in bed and let it sleep.
I hope you will heed these tips, so you will get the most out of what is actually the most amazing device you have. Take care of your body-machine. You only get the one.
To learn more about using your Big Brain to keep your body-machine in tip-top shape, please read anything written by the amazing Dr. Daniel Amen. He is the Brain Doc!