Bud Winter was one of the greatest Track and Field coaches who developed world class sprinters who competed globally and broke world records. How does a coach produce 37 world record holders, 27 Olympians, facilitate 3 NCAA championships and produce 49 NCAA records? Among with his athletic coaching skills, he helped his athletes master meaningful relaxation and sleep.
It all started in World War II, when he developed a relaxation and sleep training technique that allowed naval pilot cadets to be able to fall asleep within 2 minutes, in broad daylight, sitting upright wherever they landed, surrounded by the sounds of war. After 6 weeks of training, the relaxation and sleep training program demonstrated success in 96% of the cadets.
For those who have heard me speak or who are patients of mine, you know about this and you may have already begun your training. Here’s what you need to know.
- Every human has the ability to learn how to completely relax the mind and body. However, you may find it takes regular practice before you can appreciate how effective this is.
- True barriers to sleep:
- If you believe you can’t or won’t sleep, you won’t.
- If you move or think about activities or negative thoughts, you will need to settle down to sleep.
- Certain medications, supplements, drugs, and alcohol can interfere with your mind’s ability to get restful sleep.
- Untreated sleep apnea.
- When you can completely relax your body and then clear your mind for 10 seconds, you will automatically drift off to sleep if you need it.
- Steps to learning to completely relax your body:
- Get in a comfortable position, seated or laying down and begin deep belly breathing. Slow down your breathing.
- Begin progressive relaxation from your forehead and scalp. Begin by relaxing the muscles so that all the forehead wrinkles release. Breathe slow and steady.
- Move down to releasing your jaw muscles, the muscles around your eyebrows and eyes. Let your eyes get limp.
- Continue releasing the face, lips and mouth muscles.
- Breathe slow and steady as you work your way down your body, progressively relaxing each part of your body until you have relaxed down to your toes.
- If you want to sleep, after you are completely relaxed, you will then train your mind to be blank for 10 seconds. Bud winter recommends multiple ways to do this like visualizing laying in a canoe on a still lake, staring up at the sky or repeating simple words.
What’s so wonderful about this is, to know what’s possible. It’s possible for almost anyone to learn to completely relax the body AND to be able to fall asleep within a few minutes, no matter how stressful the awake hours might be.
We know the importance of relaxation and sleep on overall health and well-being, but also on performance. The world’s best athletes have learned how to relax completely between moments of competitive, intense focus, and they know how to get restful sleep. In the past, this training was available only to some. Now, we can all learn and benefit. Anyone who wants to, who practices, can and will be able to master this. I have seen the this work for children, adolescents and adults of all ages, for those who are already high achievers, those who are struggling and those who are just looking to acquire more tools for self care.
Allow yourself time for rest and sleep. Then, use that opportunity to master the ability to completely relax your body and be able to drift off to sleep whenever you need it. After you have mastered relaxation and sleep, you can tap into your best self. Think about the possibilities.
Reflect back on your life. The further back you remember, the more you can find what stands out and matters most to you. Do your best, your happiest, your most cherished memories include relationships that had ups and downs? Do they include new experiences that could not be predicted, no matter how small or mundane? Do they include memories when you worked really hard and achieved something that seemed impossible and you felt so proud? Do they include those thrilling moments when you knew you had created something incredible?
Yes. The greatest joys and personal growth often come from moments in life when you work through the discomfort and get to the other side. There are times in life when we accept or are forced to accept situations that we do not choose, that throw us into the unpredictable and uncontrollable, that make us uncomfortable. We all have to get to the other side of that. Let me share with you how you can make that journey a bit easier.
Here are the steps to mastering the discomfort. Writing this down or talking about this with a close confidant or neutral person can be helpful.
- Identify your discomfort and figure out what is in your control and what is not in your control. What is causing you discomfort? Why? Describe and label it.
- Take what is NOT in your control & “put it away.” Imagine putting it into a storage container or a mental file cabinet or write it down and put it away. You can re-visit this later -if you want.
- Take what IS in your control & “work it.” Think about best and worst case scenarios.
- Consider worst case scenarios and figure out ahead of time everything you in your control that you can do to prevent the worst case scenario and make a plan to do that. Figure out how you would manage it if the worse case still came to be. Consider how that scenario could be the Universe (whatever higher power you believe in) delivering you a gift to teach you something important you need to learn, to benefit you or another being, or to propel your personal growth forward and upwards. Recognize you are resilient and accept that you are doing the best you can with what IS in your control.
- Now, spend time focusing on what you DO want to have happen, the outcome you ARE aiming for. Visualize, dream, brainstorm, strategize and make plans to go for the BEST case scenario. Define it, label it, “see it.” Regularly repeat this step- the more the better.
Mastery is when you are in control of the discomfort rather than the discomfort in control of you. Remember that everything happens for a reason and we may not know the reason right away. Appreciate that the discomforts in our life are there as messages to help us refocus. Accept that there will be those times of discomfort and then make a plan to master the discomfort and keep moving forward. You’ve got this.
We are always changing. This can be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on many factors, some of which are in our control and some of which are not in our control. The best part — We Are Designed to Thrive! Provide your body the right environment, and your body can heal, regenerate, and thrive. This is reassuring.
Throughout the Healthier Together Series, we continue to share the ways in which we can help create the right environment for your body to thrive.
Nutrition provides your body with the “supplies” to create new cells and to do what it needs to do. Depending on the nutrition you provide, you will have healthier or less healthy cells and you will have better or worse function of those cells in your body. So we can make choices about our nutrition.
Physical activity, is the way we signal to the body that we need to be alive and that we need to “change” or adapt to be able to thrive. It is actually the stimulus for change. In fact, if you decrease your physical activity enough, your body starts to decay. This leads to rapid aging and decline in function. The good news – it doesn’t have to be that way and you can turn it around. Even if your body is not in its best state right now, or you feel unwell, or you have chronic health concerns, or if you are in good shape and want to continue to be well and maintain your independence and freedom as long as possible, over the long term, by moving your body, you stimulate your body to continue to “change” to stay functionally “young.”
When you make choices to power your body with the essential nutrients – like water, proteins, fats, minerals and vitamins (vegetables), you provide it with everything it needs to repair itself the best it can. Then, when you make the choice to move your body, regularly, in health-promoting ways, you stimulate your body to heal, regenerate and thrive. Your body can and does the work to “get better.” Physical activity is one of the areas that is in your control and can be a powerful stimulus for your body to heal, regenerate and thrive. The choice is yours. For me, I’m heading out with family for the evening walk around the neighborhood to connect and provide that stimulus for change. =)
We’ll keep this quick, because you have things to do. As a physician of high performers, sleep is a common discussion topic. Due to travel across time zones, irregular schedules, long days, responsibilities and/or having lots on the mind, there are times when sleep is limited and yet we need to be able to perform. Here’s a common formula: [Feeling Sleep Deprived & Tired] + [No Time for Full Night’s Sleep] + [Need to Perform at Peak Capacity] = [Unnecessary Unhealthy Stress.] This can be treated or prevented.
Here’s one tool (of many) that you may find helpful for those times: The Caffeine Nap*. (*If you have a caffeine sensitivity, are responsible for operating heavy machinery or are driving or flying, this is NOT recommended.)
1. Set alarm for 30 minutes.
2. Drink an unsweetened coffee or espresso.
3. Nap. (We will review HOW to fall asleep quickly in a future post)
4. Wake up to the alarm as your caffeine kicks in and your mind is in “Game On!” Mode.
5. Know that you’ve got this.
Let me know how you’re doing. Drop me a line.
As a physician, I hear so many stories and witness so many ways to live life. Here is what I have observed and learned from those who live joyful lives. It’s so simple. We can all learn to live joyfully. At the start of each day, focus on being able to answer YES to these 3 questions:
- Did I genuinely laugh today?
- Did I experience love today?
- Do I have 3 “things” I am grateful for today? (for example: experiences, people, animals, privileges, surprises, gifts, blessings, etc.)
At the end of each day, answer the 3 questions. If you do not answer “yes” to one or more of these questions, reflect on your day and think about how to spend tomorrow, so that you can add another “yes” to the end of your day tomorrow.
If you can genuinely answer “yes” to each of these, you were present for joy in your day and you had a perfect day. You may want to write a note to remind you about the details for each answer. Over time, you will have a personal journal of moments of joy in your life. How fun that will be to read.
The universal power of laughter, love and gratitude are immense…and contagious. They connect us to each other and to our universe. The more you practice this, the more joyful your life will be and it will spread to those around you.
***If you’d like to share your joy, add it to the comments below.***
Today, we are finishing up our 6th series. You have all the tools and knowledge to make the choices to optimize your health. How do you make it all happen? Here’s how to set yourself up for success. Make adaptations to make it your own. Here’s the basics.
Once a week:
- Review what happened last week. Make notes about what you learned, what you need to do, what has to be carried over from last week. Are you making decisions that align with your mission statement and your values?
- Brain Dump. Make a list of everything on your mind, everything you need to do, everything you are worried about, anything that is taking up mental space. Empty the brain of distracting thoughts.
- Prioritize your goals for the week. What do you need to accomplish this week? Include your goals for nutrition, physical activity, sleep and relaxation as well as any social goals.
- Develop action items, or next steps towards achieving those goals. Prioritize them or mark the most important ones so you work on those first. Also, it helps to have a list of action items that are take less than 10 minutes to complete so that you can easily complete those tasks when you have sudden open moments like when a meeting ends early or you find yourself waiting for an appointment.
- Next to each action item, it helps make some notation or color code it to indicate a location. For example, some actions require you to be at your computer (sending an email or creating a powerpoint or editing a document) or at home (pack for trip).
- Review your calendar for the week ahead and fill in any of the necessary appointments or usual activities and block out those times. Account for every hour of every day. Remember to include your commute times, food prep, eating, shower, workouts, relaxation times, sleep times, etc. There are 24 hours in a day and remember that you cannot be in 2 places at the same time.
- Now you see how much of your week is open for discretionary time. Find the largest blocks of time and block those for your most important projects or creative activities so you can do a dive deep into them. Fill in the smaller chunks of time with errands and To Do’s that don’t require much thought or creativity but take up some of your time.
At this time, you likely have a brain dump list, a prioritized list of goals, a prioritized list of action items with locations and a prioritized list of “10 minutes or less” tasks.
- At the end of your day, review your day (see #10 below) and then review the weekly calendar for tomorrow. Make sure you have carved out enough time for a bedtime routine and sleep and personal hygiene. Review your list of remaining action items and “10 minutes or less” tasks. Determine which of those items and tasks need to make it onto your calendar- pick the most important ones first. Print out or write your schedule for the day with action items and tasks.
- Figure out your foods and drinks for tomorrow and prepare or plan for optimal nutrition. If you are going to eat out, make a plan for what you will have. If you are monitoring or logging your foods, you could enter in what you plan to eat or drink and review the nutrients and macros of your planned foods and drinks. This allows you to make modifications.
- Confirm your physical activity plan for tomorrow based on your body state, your schedule and time available. If you drank alcohol, your body will benefit by some exercise tomorrow morning.
- Identify a pocket of time for self care and self reflection – whatever will be best for you. Some days, your physical activity plan may also include self care and self reflection.
- In the morning, follow your healthy morning routine and check in with your personal mission statement, your goals and your day calendar. Avoid checking email or social media when you wake up. This is to prevent other people or outside demands from taking control of your mind and mood so early in the morning.
- Start your day in control and do what’s best for you.
- Use your calendar and lists to help you maximize your accomplishments during the day. This will save you from spending time trying to figure out what to do with your time.
- If you happen to have an unexpected time that’s open, make a choice to move around, listen to music, draw, sit in nature, meditate or work on your “10 minutes or less” tasks.
- Cross off the items or tasks as you accomplish them throughout the day. It feels so good to do that! Write in anything extra you complete or any alterations to your schedule so that you have a log of how you spent your time.
- At the end of the day, review your day. Look for patterns and learn from your day. Over time, you may identify patterns of your best, most productive times of the day, or that some things take longer than others, or that other items on your calendar are constantly skipped and may not be a true priority for you.
***Share your wisdom in the comments below.***
Photo by Hannah Olinger on Unsplash
If you travel frequently and your workout schedule gets thrown off, let me share with you 5 moves you can focus on to help you stay fit while traveling. Of course, there are great apps that you can use, and the famous 7 minute workout, but if you like another option to keep it simple, here’s the 5 main moves.
To increase resistance, if there is no gym, pack some resistance bands or use your body weight. Do these movements slowly to really engage the maximum muscle fibers.
- Sun Salutations: 90 seconds for each sequence. You can download a sequence online.
- 2 x PUSH: Push up, Push forward (90 seconds each, learn the proper position of your hands and wrists first. A personal trainer can show you how.)
- 2 x PULL: Pull down, Pull in (90 seconds each, learn the proper position of your hands and wrists first. A personal trainer can show you how.)
- LEGS: Squats and/or Lunges (90 seconds each, learn the proper form first. A personal trainer can show you how.)
- CORE: crunches and/or plank pose (90 seconds each)
To really keep your body in a good place, avoid sitting as much as possible. If you have to sit for long periods of time, plan to get up at least every hour to help circulate your blood and stimulate your muscles. If possible, stand instead of sitting, and make sure you walk as much as possible. Every time you move your body, you signal to your body that you have to heal and recover. This is much better than the alternative, signalling that it is ok to decay. Keep moving as much as possible.
Do you have to travel across multiple time zones for work? If so, you have multiple factors to consider. We will start with food and drink tips.
On your travel day and/or on the day you have to “perform,” maintain steady energy and power up your mind:
- Hold the sugar, wheat and alcohol. In addition to increasing your waistline, this causes your energy levels to fluctuate and also messes with your circadian rhythm.
- Stay hydrated. A water bottle can be refilled at many airports and at your destination. Drink lots of clear liquids, especially water or other unsweetened beverages like unsweetened tea, coffee (cream ok) or flavored sparkling water. Make sure you are drinking extra fluids when you are very physically active, in hot weather, or if you are high altitude, such as on a plane. You are mostly water, so keep the fluids flowing.
- It’s better NOT to eat if you are not hungry. If you skip a meal because there aren’t good food options for you, that’s ok- we call that “Intermittent Fasting”. *Note: If you take medications for blood sugars or diabetes, talk to your doctor about timing your medications and foods as you travel across time zone.
- The other option would be to pack travel friendly high performance fuels for those times when choices are limited. Have options that will satisfy your needs: salty, crunchy, creamy, etc.
- As a last resort, consider meal replacements with monk fruit or stevia (ie. Vega Essentials) as a sweetener or NO sweetener (ie. Bob’s Red Mill Protein & Fiber Nutritional Booster). Stay away from sucralose or fruit juice if possible as they will cause you to be more hungry very soon after. Look at the nutrition label and confirm NET carbs 5 grams or less. (Total carbohydrates in grams – Dietary Fiber in grams = NET carbs)
Have any other tips for eating or drinking while traveling, AND maintaining your steady energy and powering your mind?
Want to learn how to immediately relax your body and focus your mind when your fight or flight response has been triggered – Naturally- without drugs or medications?
Let me introduce you to the Quieting Reflex, developed by Charles F. Strobel.
- Breathe in deeply so that your belly rises first when you breathe in (breathing from your diaphragm) and say to yourself, “Alert, amused mind.”
- Breathe out through your mouth, saying to yourself, “Calm body, ” as you release the tension in your jaw.
- Let the tension flow out through your arms and smile inwardly to yourself.
If you practice this now, your mind can learn to respond automatically and become alert, while your body will relax. Then, you will be able to use this when you really need it – when you are overwhelmed, stressed or anxious and you need your mind to be sharp and focused.
Stroebel, Charles F., MD. QT – The Quieting Reflex. NY: Berkley Books, 1967, pp 110-112
Photo by camilo jimenez on Unsplash