In the final few months of 2021 I couldn’t shake my post-Covid brain fog. I'd had Covid in early August and was mostly recovered, yet my sense of taste and smell hadn't fully returned and I didn't feel 'with it'.
I was still able to deliver to my clients, but found my creative side - something I rely on a lot for business ideas and to give me a zest for life - had pretty much disappeared. My motivation was low, my inner drive had gone on holiday and life felt very dull!
As someone used to having ‘get up and go’, I became increasingly frustrated. Being someone who helps others to be happy, healthy and high performing and having suffered burnout in the past, I had pretty good lifestyle habits. I exercised, ate well and looked after myself mentally and physically.
Even with good habits, I was still languishing in bed in the morning or being unproductive in the office. I can’t quite describe how ‘meh’ I felt. It was like living life in black and white.
Over Christmas I toyed with the idea of creating new habits. Top of the list was cutting out refined sugar by no longer eating sugary treats. To cut it out completely would be difficult - have you seen how much sugar is in everyday foods?! I decided instead to cut out as much excess sugar as possible, including my daily mid afternoon and post kids' bedtime sugar hits.
2nd was getting up earlier in the morning. I’d got into the habit of having tea in bed, going slow then feeling rushed to get the kids to school. I’d read about miracle mornings and the 5am club. Getting up at 5am didn’t appeal - it was winter and way too cold, but getting up 30 mins earlier…that was doable.
3rd was reviewing my exercise routine. I exercised regularly, but felt like it was simply mental and physical maintenance. I needed something different to awaken me.
4th was getting back to reading self-development books. As someone who loves learning, reading something that provokes my thinking feeds my soul. I struggled to keep my attention on a book for long periods of time, but knowing that investing in my growth and development made me feel good, this had to be part of the plan.
The final habit was cutting out alcohol. Interestingly, I was thinking about it but didn’t vocalise it. I don’t drink a lot anyway so it didn’t feel significant. By New Years Eve I’d already done a week without alcohol, so secretly I just told myself I’d see how I felt on that one!
New Years Day and I meant business! I was determined to get back to the old me, maybe even a new me?!
I didn’t call them new years resolutions, instead they were ‘feel good’ habits. I set myself intentions to be kind to myself, go with the flow and see what happened.
The first few days without sugary treats was easy. By day 4, when I got a mid afternoon slump, I automatically went to the cupboard. The treats were still in the house as my boys were not on this journey with me.
As soon as I opened the cupboard I shut it again. I wasn’t craving it, it was just a habit.
Getting out of bed earlier was also easier than I thought it would be. As was getting back into reading. I was so excited to see the Amazon parcel arrive!
Exercise wise, by getting up earlier I was able to do a HiiT workout, run or Hotpod Yoga on the days I didn’t have school run. By 8am I’d built up a sweat and felt energised to start the day.
On a Friday evening, I opted not to drink. I simply didn’t fancy it.
Habit changes are not easy, but within a week I noticed differences in the way I was thinking, feeling and behaving.
One of the key things with habit or lifestyle changes is being clear on WHY you’re doing it. What is the purpose?
For me it was about being the best version of myself and getting back to feeling optimistic and energetic.
Within a few weeks I noticed a big difference. My sleep had dramatically improved. I’ve always considered myself a light sleeper. Lack of sleep comes with the territory when your kids are young, but they were 9 and 12 now and I still slept pretty poorly. When I worked in the corporate world I would regularly wake at 2am and be awake for a couple of hours, 4-5 days a week. The situation was better now that I ran my own business, but sleep was still up and down.
By now I was regularly sleeping solidly for 7 hours most nights. The weirdest part was not hearing my youngest if he did call out on rare occasions. I was in such a deep sleep!
Sleep is so important to our health, happiness and performance. When we sleep badly we’re often more emotional or short tempered, life can feel more difficult and it doesn’t give us the rest and recovery time our mind and body needs, so we may feel physically and mentally below par.
By the end of January, I had stuck to my new habits religiously. Not one piece of chocolate had passed my lips, nor had any alcohol! I was now including more healthy foods in my diet too.
At the end of February it was a friend's 40th birthday celebration in London. They all said ‘You’ll drink for that though won’t you?’ I’ll be honest, I wondered how I would feel if they were all drinking and I wasn’t. I didn’t say yes or no. I just decided to go with the flow. I had 3 drinks that evening and a chocolate treat the next day. I’d broken my 8-week streak!
What did I do? Absolutely nothing. I didn’t beat myself up about it. I let it go. It really wasn’t a big deal.
Even after such a small amount, I did find myself craving sugar in the days after. It’s amazing how your body can get used to not having something, then start craving it again as soon as it is reintroduced.
I told myself it was all in my mind and got myself back on track.
Three months on, I’m still following the same habits. Yes I have a lie in when I want to and yes there was another occasion where I had a few drinks!
I've consumed a healthy alternative to refined sugar when I've felt like it. If you’re considering this, try Nakd bars…they’re great!
For my son’s recent birthday, I wasn’t the one finishing off the cake. I didn’t have any.
Instead I’m enjoying nourishing my body with more fruit, veg, nuts, good fats and lean protein.
Apart from the dramatic improvement in my sleep, what other results have I experienced?
Well the list is pretty long.
I feel like I'm living life in colour. No longer in black and white.
I have superb mental clarity. I am no longer foggy.
My sense of taste and smell has fully returned.
My family is reaping the benefits of this too. I’m happier and healthier, which means I’m contributing more positively to homelife with my energy, focus and drive. I laugh much more and shout less. I am good company!
The Moral of the Story
The benefits of cutting out alcohol and refined sugar are well documented. Yet as a society we link both of them to recognition and reward. They’re things we use to celebrate and commiserate.
Had a bad day…you deserve a drink or biscuit.
Had a great day…let’s celebrate with a drink or some cake!
Many may consider a life without these things to be incredibly boring.
I beg to differ.
I am not here to lecture. I enjoy seeing people enjoying themselves with a beer or a muffin!
I am simply here to share my experience.
I am of the mindset that if something needs to change, you have the power to change it.
It starts with you.
I was clear on my WHY. The lifestyle changes had a clear purpose.
I worked on my mindset and stayed consistent.
By doing the same things day in and day out, I formed new habits. Once the benefits were evident, it made it even easier not to go back.
I’m not saying I’ll never drink or have a slice of cake ever again.
We have so many chapters in our life, for me this is one where I’m keen simply to see where it takes me.
If the results are anything to go by, I’ll stick with it a bit longer!
Three key things that are important in changing lifestyle habits.
PURPOSE, MINDSET AND CONSISTENCY.
And remember - it's not all about what you cut out. It's about what you replace it with.
If you’d like support to be happier, healthier and higher performing, get in touch. The team at Awakened Executives have a wealth of knowledge and experience to enable you to gain momentum and see results.