My job as a functional medicine practitioner is to look at the at all the different factors that give rise to chronic and autoimmune diseases. A lot of those underlying factors are hormonal and physiological in nature, but another, often overlooked piece of the puzzle to your physical health is your mental and emotional stress levels.
Our modern lives can be so busy and hectic sometimes that the lack of "breathing room" increases our stress and negatively impacts our health. It can also hurt the most important aspect of our lives — our relationships.
The average American spends more than 34 hours a week (as of 2009) watching live television and another 3 to 6 hours watching taped programs — that's without even mentioning time on computers and cellphones! With statistics like these, the film WALL-E seems less fiction and more prophetic: men and women becoming isolated beings, reclining with a screen in front of their face, eating foodlike substances devoid of nutrients. Doesn't seem that far off.
Just as I have to help my patients detox and reset their bodies, I also have them detox their lives of the chronic stressors that are raising their blood pressure, blood sugar and wrecking their health.
The truth is that we can't be the best versions of ourselves if we don't create space in our lives. Restoring margin and balance during our day enables us to breathe again! Let me give you some of the tips I give to my patients to unclutter their life and bring in a much-needed breath of fresh air:
1. Have a code word that your family knows.
A code word that means "put down the electronic device and be present." When my kids say "screen free, daddy," it puts me right in the present moment, forcing me to put down my phone and return to the precious time I have with my kids.
2. Force some cellphone-free time.
Next time you are out to eat with your family or friends have everyone put their cellphones in the middle of table. Whoever grabs their phone first has to pay the bill!
3. Take some time before responding.
Resist the new cultural norm to be pressured into answering emails and texts right away. They can wait.
4. Don't start and end your day with electronics and social media.
The amount of times we find ourselves unconsciously, mindlessly checking Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can be alarming. Bookend your day with a walk outside, yoga or meditation.
5. Try having a day when the whole family goes electronics-free.
Who knows? You just might like it!
6. Clean out your closet of clothes that you haven't worn in at least a year (or shouldn't have worn).
Do this with the other things in your house that are collecting dust or don't serve a function, and give them to charity.
7. Give yourself a social media-free week!
Give yourself a social media cleanse and see what you do with your time when you don't have to check the "Likes" of your witty status updates or extremely flattering selfie. If you like how you feel after one week, maybe you need another!
8. Leave your work at work.
When you're home, refuel yourself by being present with the ones you love.
9. Cut down on the time you watch television.
When you say you're "getting behind on your shows" with the same conviction as "I need to get healthy" or "I need to spend more time with my family", it's a problem. When the DVR is filled and watching TV becomes another job to keep up with, go on a TV detox. Instead of taking your vacation days to catch up on your shows, try reducing the shows you "need" to watch that are cluttering your life.
Limiting the clutter and noise in your life will release you to live the free life you were meant to live. Breathing room will only come into your life when margin is intentionally built into your schedule. Waiting for the day when your less stressed and busy won't happen on its own.