Talk about a vicious cycle. Money is one of the most significant causes of stress; unrelenting stress can lead to severe issues with our health, and severe health issues can affect our ability to do our jobs; resulting in even more financial struggles. The connection between health and wealth is why it is critical to develop and maintain lifelong plans to manage both.
Given my area of expertise I will share some of my thoughts on what a long-term health plan should include at a minimum.
Any physical activity is better than none. Research shows that exercise is one of the best short-term strategies for managing stress. It decreases our risk of developing heart disease and diabetes, thereby reducing the opportunity for stress to worsen these conditions. In general, exercise makes us feel good, improves our mood and increases our sense of self-efficacy and achievement. Some evidence even shows that exercise makes for a smaller stress response to some psychological stressors.
Getting active by walking at least 3-4 times per week will make a significant difference and help you manage your stress levels. Remember that exercise needs to occur regularly to give us the stress-relieving benefits, so put it in your schedule, and get moving. Don’t overdo it though and if you spent most of the past few years lounging on the couch with the TV remote close at hand, then see your doctor before you start pounding the pavements.
Getting enough shut-eye is paramount to managing our stress levels and overall health and wellbeing. Although our brains are on average 3% of our body weight, they need 25% of our energy supplies! Research shows that deep sleep is essential for energy regeneration and if we don’t get enough deep sleep, we become more stressed. Research shows that 75% of insomnia is triggered by significant stress. Again, a vicious cycle: stress stops you sleeping, and no sleep makes you more stressed!
Cleaning up your sleep routine will have a significant impact on your stress levels general wellbeing. We need at least 8-9 hours of sleep a night, be device-free for at least 1-2 hours before we fall asleep, in a room dark enough that you cannot see your hand in front of your face and running a temperature of around 21 degrees Celcius.
Deliberately relaxing through meditation, breathing exercises, or mindfulness practices is important to switch off our sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system and switch on our parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system. It also does wonders in reducing the amount of stress hormones that are circulating in our bodies. The key is to do them regularly (15-30 min/day). There are so many apps available that can be used to help centre our breath and stay in the present.
Like cars, we cannot run on empty tanks or crappy fuel. Current nutritional guidelines call for eating a variety of vegetables and whole fruits; whole grains; low-fat dairy; a wide range of protein sources including lean meats, fish, eggs, legumes, and nuts; and healthy oils. By focusing on what we eat can make a massive difference to how our energy tanks are filled.
An 80:20 ratio of nutritionally valuable to nutritionally less valuable or junk food is a possible way to go. For those who feel they need to lose some extra kilos, try a 90:10 ratio during the week and 80:20 over the weekend. A word of advice if I may. Don’t be too strict when it comes to food, because we need to make it a way of life and our eating habits need to be sustainable.
When it comes to living a financially healthy life, recommendations are not quite as straight forward because it depends mostly on our individual circumstances. A long-term financial plan is however must and I will leave this advice to the financial experts.