2016 was a rough year for me. I’d venture to say it was one of the hardest years of my life. I lost thousands of dollars on a bad business deal, it was the hardest year of my marriage, and I was struggling with what appeared to be an auto-immune disorder. It felt like everything was imploding at the same time. No matter how hard I tried to find balance, the blows just kept coming, and I struggled to get back on my feet.
In a poor attempt to cope, I turned to food for comfort and drank way more wine than I care to admit. I had countless sleepless nights, ruminating on everything that was going wrong. I felt like I was in a fog, alternating between anxiety, apathy, and anger.
Have you ever had a season like that? Or maybe you’re in one now?
As I crept dangerously close to rock bottom, I knew I needed a swift and dramatic change. I worked way too hard for what I did have, and I didn’t want to lose all sense of myself. I dove into research, trying to figure out how I could get on track as quickly as possible.
I tend to do best with cold-turkey, 180-degree type changes. I decided that in 3 months, I was going to change my life. I made up and committed to a 90-day challenge, doing several things I found were proven to make people feel better. While much of my life felt out of control, I focused on the things I knew I could change.
Honestly, those 90 days transformed my life. Not only was I able to pull myself out of the rut that I was in, but I also ended up feeling way better than I did before my world fell apart. I gained more confidence in myself, I lost weight and cleared up health issues, my marriage healed, and I learned better ways to cope with future challenges.
If you’re interested, someday, I can do an in-depth post all about the 90-day plan that changed my life. But for now, I’m going to give you the Top 3, super simple things you can do today that lead to immediate and dramatic results. If you want to change your life immediately:
1. Confront Negativity
We all want to avoid bad situations or thoughts. We’d rather binge-watch Netflix over a tub of rocky-road before we acknowledge how much we’re hurting. It’s natural to want to escape into vices that temporarily numb the pain, even when we know they aren’t going to make us feel better long-term. To truly feel better, you’ve got to shift your outlook on the negative influences dragging you down. Here are some quick ways to do that:
- Flood yourself with so many positive influences that it’s hard to stay in a negative space. Whether it be through great books, podcasts, motivational music, YouTube videos, or mentors, surround yourself with positive influences that help you grow and improve. I love listening to Tony Robins and Eric Thomas on Youtube for a shot of “I can conquer anything” type feelings!
- Acknowledge failures, regrets, and losses. Talk them through with someone who cares about you or a counselor. Get them off your chest so you can work on letting them go. Acknowledging and releasing issues can lift some of the weight off you, and make space in your mind for success.
- Stop negative comparisons. It’s okay to look at other people for inspiration, but if it’s making you feel demotivated, stop the thought in its tracks. That may even mean unfollowing a few Instagram accounts.
- Eliminate unnecessary clutter, both mentally and physically, to make space for more goodness in your life. If your whole house is a mess, pick one room—the one where you spend the most time—and get it clean. See how much freer you will feel.
2. Consume Life-Giving Foods
I once became a legend among a group of friends by eating a massive “Meatloaf Sundae” on finals week that none of the guys in the group could finish. I walked out, feeling proud, but terrible. That said, I can gorge myself with the best of them, especially when I’m stressed out. Food has always been one of my vices, and evidently, I’m not alone.
Stress is scientifically proven to cause all sorts of issues with eating. It can shut down and increase your appetite, causing you to eat less than you need to fuel your body or eat so much that you feel sluggish. Poor eating has been linked with all sorts of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and ADHD.
Before my 90-day restart, I approached changes in my eating as a “diet,” with the sole focus of losing weight. This time, however, I started looking at how certain foods impact mental and physical health. I searched for foods that would give me the most energy and sought to cut out things known to be harmful. My goal was to cut out the crap, and put as much nourishing, healthy food in my body as possible.
I committed to eating a Plant-Based, Whole Food diet. It was hard, especially in the first month. By the end of the challenge, I no longer craved sugar and junk food. I learned about things I had been eating that contributed to me feeling bad. I had loads of energy and recovered from the health issue I was facing. Also, the boost in self-esteem I got from finally losing that 15 pounds I’d been toting around for way too long didn’t hurt either. Now that clean eating is part of my lifestyle, I can tell a negative difference in my mood when I overeat junk food.
If you want significant changes fast, work on your relationship with food. Just one meal can have immediate and powerful effects. Many people, myself included, do best on regimented plans that have clear parameters they can stick to for at least 30 days. For example, Whole 30 or Plant-Based, Whole Food eating plans have helped me. Find what works best for you, and go for it! Even just cutting out one category of splurges, like sugar or alcohol, can make a significant difference.
3. Prioritize Sleep
It seems obvious to say that sleep, the most basic of human needs, is a game-changer. Looking back, however, I can’t tell you how many times I did a late-night Netflix binge in attempts to clear my mind, or forfeited sleep for staring at a computer screen. It can feel like a catch 22 because you think more work time = getting out of your rut sooner, but if it comes at the expense of adequate sleep, it can actually dig the hole deeper. A lot of times, when you feel crappy or unproductive, chances are you’re exhausted.
Here are some interesting sleep facts:
- “Pulling an all-nighter can reduce your ability to study and remember new facts by 40%.” – Time
- “Research has shown that most Americans would be happier, healthier, and safer if they were to sleep an extra 60 to 90 minutes per night.”
- This study shows that pain tolerance is reduced by sleep deprivation.
- “Too little shut-eye has been linked to increased risk of car crashes, poor work performance, and problems with mood and relationships. Sleep deprivation taxes the immune system and is associated with a heightened risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, and depression. People who chronically fail to get enough sleep may be cutting their lives short.” – APA
So basically… SLEEP. For me, I set a “lights out” time and try my best to stick to it. Even if I sometimes lay in bed restless, I eventually get in a groove and sleep more.
Of course, some people have insomnia and can’t sleep even when they want to. I’ve had months where I couldn’t sleep well for weeks on end, and it’s so frustrating. If you struggle, I encourage you to try some natural remedies, work on the previous points (they can relieve stress and possibly help), and if needed, consult with a doctor.
If radical change isn’t your style or doesn’t work for you, commit to a few small steps a day. For example, go to sleep 30 minutes earlier, make one meal healthier, or carve out 10 minutes or reflection time.
Remember, if you’re struggling, you’re not struggling alone.
A survey of Americans revealed that 7 out of 10 adults say that they experience stress or anxiety daily, and the majority admitted that it interferes with their lives at least moderately. A great quote that has encouraged me many times is:
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about” – Wendy Mass
Whatever you’re going through, know that you are strong enough to make it through. I hope these tips will help you feel better fast! However, if it takes a little a while for you, be kind to yourself until you reach our breakthrough.
You will get there!
As always, let me know how I can best serve you. What kind of content do you want to receive from me? What’s helpful?
All the best,