I have a client I'm working with who is horrible at putting himself first. He's not alone. This is common with many people (I've been in this trap too) and not a bad quality to have as a human being in my opinion. Unfortunately that saying "nice guys finish last" rings true here. The reality is that those of us who put everyone and everything before our own wellbeing, eventually are impacted mentally and/or physically which can manifest negatively in a variety of different ways with our overall health. Despite what we may tell ourselves inside, it's not selfish to take care of YOU first and foremost.
A common analogy used to explain this refers to CPR/First Aid training. When you're going to help someone in need, the first thing you need to do is ensure YOUR OWN safety. Otherwise you can't help them to the best of your abilities and something bad could happen to you, right? The same goes for our health. We tend to overlook the fact that our energy, health and wellbeing are crucial in giving others OUR VERY BEST.
We need to truly slow down and stop the trend of wearing ourselves down, in order to live a healthy, happy lifestyle.
This client of mine has crazy days at work, and he and his wife are constantly doing things for others. They have some of the biggest hearts around. Thankfully, even before they started their coaching with me, they realized that something needs to change. They don't want to drag themselves through each day, week after week and they want to feel and be healthier. To their credit, we've been working on that, and they've improved on this a bit already which is awesome. Sometimes, it's simply a matter of slowing down, really looking/thinking about your days/responsibilities and having those conversations with someone (i.e. a coach) to help you understand where the opportunities are in your day(s) to make YOU a priority.
Last week during their session, my client was telling me about how crazy his days have been (again). You could tell as both he and his wife came in visibly wiped and stressed out from their week. He didn't meet his weekly targets, which included some biking and walking, that he set out for himself the week before, because of the crazy days they'd had over the past week.
After our session as we were chatting about his weekly targets for the upcoming week, I suggested a 5-minute check-in call at the start of the week just to keep him accountable and see how things are going. He agreed. As I asked him about what time would be best for him during his crazy work days his response was, "Oh anytime really. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want there, as long as things get done."
.....*Cue to the "ah-ha" moment*....
My response to that was, "so then what's stopping you from going for a walk during the work day?" To which his wife glanced over at him with the "uh huh" look, and he had the "ah-ha" look and didn't really have an answer. The point was not to make him feel "bad" or like he "failed". This was an important conversation and realization to help him understand that the opportunities are right there in front of us, but it comes down to WHAT HE CHOOSES and HIS HABITS.
Let's use my client's targets that he set for himself as an example:
-His previous week's target was 6km of walking total during the week (in addition to a biking target)
-He broke this down to a 3-days per week daily target of walking 2km each time.
THIS is the learning opportunity that is easily overlooked too often. We have our end goal in mind, but we omit our current reality of our lifestyle and habits, and the steps necessary to get to our goal. These goals my client set out are definitely not unrealistic for him physically. They're also not too much too soon in general. But when you are someone who is not taking time for even 10min to yourself during a workday (when the ability to take it is there based on our conversation), 2km is a lofty target to start with right?? We need to instead put the energy towards making SOMETHING happen, even if it's less. Because SOMETHING is better than NOTHING, as well as one step closer to his goal/target.
With that, during our conversation we reassessed the target for this week. I offered him a challenge:
Daily 10min (or longer if he wants)
walk during the work day
That will not only add movement into his days/weeks, but also will give his mind a break. There's no intensity or distance goal. It's simply move for 10min, get outside and away from work. If we can make that a reality during (most) days of the week for this client, then we can progress it to something a little bit more (be it time, distance or intensity).
Simple steps of progression in order to reach the goal.
As Dr Greg Wells points out in his book "Rest, Refocus, Recharge" using our brain takes energy. This is such a greatly overlooked point in our daily routines and lifestyles. We've all had those days where we push ourselves through a 10-12hr workday, or a day where we're constantly mentally going and then we feel physically wiped afterwards right? When we do it day in and day out, our immune system is compromised, our body physically aches or shuts down... Our physiology is triggering it's defense mode to say "slow the #$%^ down, so I can rest and recharge my batteries." This is too often ignored in our society today.
Our minds take fuel to function. We overlook this quite often as well when we think nutrition and fitness. We talk about carbohydrates and fats for muscular fuel, protein for repairing damaged tissues... But we don't think about fuel for the brain!! I'll take this even further to add in that we have become much worse at allowing our minds to rest and recover since we're constantly taking in information (good or bad). If we're not overworking ourselves or constantly on the go, we're surfing the internet, doom-scrolling social media sites etc... meanwhile are brains don't get the recovery needed to recharge and tackle the next day.
This is why it's so important to find your own personal balance of "work" and "rest" time in order to allow both body and mind the energy it needs to not only perform well, but to rest and recover well too! THAT can only be done when we look BEYOND the sets, reps, distance, time etc... of our exercise/activity and look to our habits that surround making those things a part of most/all of our days.