We’re stressed, tired, over worked and under rested. And it could be that the main culprit is in our pocket.
I hate Jet Lag.
I hate getting sick after traveling.
I hate headaches from eating terrible food.
Most of us are used to dealing with all of this when we travel. But why do we need to feel horrible when traveling? Is it just part of getting on a plane, then in a taxi and then into a hotel?
Well it turns out it isn’t part of it, and there are some really easy things we can do to beat the dip in performance that comes with travel.
Recharging our mental batteries is necessary for everyday performance and longevity. Every now and then we need to escape our day-to-day and get into something different to refresh us. For some this is a vacation or trip. Others it’s a day off with a book. For me, it’s a day out in nature of silence and solitude.
I had been in a massive funk the past several months. I started a new job (two actually). Add a pregnant wife, a reckless, growing toddler and regular speaking engagements to that mix and you have a recipe for burnout. I had all the telltale symptoms: irritability, heart burn, bags under my eyes constantly, horrible allergies, and just about anything else you can imagine. I felt like nothing could bring any kind of relief for me. I tried sporadic bouts of eating well or supplementing but to no avail. I felt helpless and horribly stressed out. Perhaps the worst part is i’m one of those guys who push through obvious signs of stress and burnout in the name of ‘toughness.’ Little did I know the damage I was doing to myself, both mentally and physically.
The Boiling point
It all came to a head one Monday morning. I preached sunday night at my church but had an otherwise relaxed weekend. I spent time with my family and rested fairly well. I woke up to head to the office like I do every morning but something was even more unusual: I was more exhausted then I had ever been. I could hardly open my eyes. I sucked down some coffee. I, being caffeine sensitive, only need a half of a cup to get going, but weirdly the coffee seemed to have zero effect. it was almost if I had drank water. I got to the office at 7:15am or so. I sat at my desk for about an hour trying to check emails. The haze was to dense for me to focus. I grabbed some more coffee. By then my heart was racing, but I felt like I could fall asleep standing up! Then I did something I had never done before: I went back out to my car and slept for and hour. Mind you, it was only 9am!
Dr. Archibald Hart has an incredible book that all leaders should have on their bookshelf. Adrenaline and Stress was referred to me by a pastor friend. According to Dr. hart, I was suffering from severe burnout and adrenal fatigue. It’s common to have stress from work from time to time or to become anxious over certain life situations, but I was suffering from a much worse problem. I had completely tapped my adrenal glands and my brain produced adrenaline off of it’s natural clock. For example, if I was having a relaxing evening at home, all of the sudden my heart would start pumping and i’d be panicking and worried for literally no reason. Other times, I could be preparing an important project and have no adrenal rush to produce results when I most needed them.
But here was my main problem: I thought the problem was with things I had no control over. I hadn’t noticed my total disregard for my eating, sleep patterns and a healthy sabbath.
I have always been very healthy, but I had been slacking due to stress. I was going on eating binges then doing an extreme diet to quickly shed the weight. But, neither of those paths are sustainable and neither provides the healthy nutrients needed for a long and healthy life. I had also been pushing my sleep limits as well. Dr. hart notes that for Type-A personalities like myself, we need at least 8.5-9 hours of sleep to function at a normal level…. MINIMUM. Many need even more to perform at high levels. I also had not been taking breaks. I had multiple jobs going and when I wasn’t working, I was thinking about work. Dr. Hart also states that thinking about work produces nearly the same amount of physiological stress as doing the work. This stress takes a toll, which leads to lower immune health, which leads to a myriad of other issues.
(HERE IS A RUNDOWN OF SOME OF THE SYMPTOMS YOU MIGHT EXPERIENCE IN THIS SCENARIO: Anxiousness, dizziness, acid reflux, sleepiness, GERD, sleeplessness, headaches, heart palpations, chest pains, headaches, irritability, increased asthma, worsened allergies, depression, sweaty palms, hot flashes, bloated feeling, more frequent sickness and fatigue.)
Enter the Daniel Plan. Rick Warren, Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Daniel Akin put together a fantastic all around work regarding healthy living: physically, mentally and spiritually. I picked it up in search of answers and the FOOD portion of the book was most helpful. The diet is based off of the prophet Daniel in the Bible and his statement of him eating nothing but vegetables and water so he can better worship God while exiled in Babylon.
In a nutshell, the majority of us have gotten away from eating the way God intended.I hadn’t noticed my total disregard for my eating, sleep patterns and a healthy sabbath.We pour countless amounts of processed junk into our bodies daily. Our grains our genetically modified and our bread is no longer the same bread we here about people eating in the Bible. Our condiments are packed with hydrogenated oils, and high fructose corn syrup. Food companies mask sugars, grains and chemicals with foreign names. Fake “healthy” foods line the aisles of the grocery store like granola bars, cereals and “baked” chips. The unsuspecting patron purchases these cleverly masked junk foods and eats them in excess thinking they are eating healthy. The Daniel Plan calls us back to eating from the earth like God intended. No more frosted shredded wheat (If you think that is a health food then you should check out this book), no more fried foods, and no more sugary drinks.
My 10 Day Detox
Before starting the plan, the idea is that you would go on a detox to assess what foods you may be intolerant of or may harm your overall health. The detox phase has a few ground rules: 1) You can’t eat anything unless it’s from the earth. 2) No stimulants 3) No added sugar (including fake chemical sugars) 4) No wheat or gluten 5) No Dairy 6) Sleep at least 8.5 hours7) 10 glasses of water per day
After 10 days, the change is overwhelmingly positive.
Before I began I tested positive for ALL of the negative symptoms listed above…. ALL! And now they have all vanished. My mental state is clearer, I’m sleeping better and I have great energy (despite the fact I haven’t been able to have coffee. The authors of the Daniel Plan continually stated in their book that our eating, especially in the wealthy western world, is literally killing us. We’re pumping ourselves full of junk foods constantly. Little do we know that the years of bad eating are taking their toll on our bodies leaving us fatigued and tapped. What’s interesting is that if you eat the way God intends for you to eat, your body begins to heal. It’s not a secret to anyone that food from the earth heals you! But why? Because God literally designed food that way.
I am now reaping the benefits of eating loads of vegetables and fruit. I eat close to 15-18 servings of vegetables a day, and maybe 4-5 servings of fruit on top of lean sources of protein. I’ve played in the NFL and had professional dietitians work with me, but i’ve never felt this good after a diet change.
DISCLAIMER: once your detox is over, you can go back to eating dairy and even gluten. But add them back in slowly. You may have a mild allergy causing your body stress, fatigue or inflammation. I personally will not add gluten back into my diet, and I will only partake of dairy scarcely. Not eating them makes me feel 100% better.
Here’s my challenge to you: What are you living for? How long do you want to live? Do you want to live to play with your kids or grandkids? Do you have poor eating, sleeping and sabbathing habits?
At some point, you will need to decide if you are in this for the long haul or not. The pace you are keeping may work now, but it’s not sustainable, at least not at an optimum level. Maybe it’s time to start working ON your life, not just IN your life. So get started on something that will build a healthier you, inside and out. Good luck!