I think it's difficult for anyone to describe their typical day, and I certainly wouldn't presume to bore you with my hour-to-hour schedule. But I often get asked what I do when it comes to the areas I find myself discussing the most in my coaching work: food, movement, spirit and sleep. So I thought I'd share what I "typically" do here.
I'm sure everyone knows by now that hands down, the best habit I've changed is my morning routine. I used to wake up with my mind racing, make coffee with the phone already in my hand and start worrying about everything I'd seen in my texts and emails, all while trying to make the first of multiple breakfasts and three lunches at 5:45 in the morning. (My kids are 10, 13 and 16, and they go to three different schools at three different times!) I wasn't doing anyone any favors ~ by the time everyone had woken up, I was anxious and overwhelmed.
As I've read about the importance of an intentional start to the day, I've revised mine and now it makes all the difference in the world.
When the alarm goes off and I sit up, the first thing I do is say "thank you." I get up, ignore the phone, start the coffee maker, pour a huge glass of water, squeeze a lemon into it and drink it down. Then I pour my coffee (I put ghee and MCT oil in mine) and head to the couch for meditation. Sometimes I'll use a guided meditation. Other times, I'll hear my middle schooler start the shower and I know I only have a few minutes, so I'll just spend a minute or two bringing my attention to my breath.
Breakfast for me is usually a big handful of berries, a couple tablespoons of flax seed meal and chia or hemp seeds, raw nuts, a dash of ground cinnamon, a sprinkling of granola and unsweetened soy or almond milk. I'll also take a whole bunch of supplements with breakfast. And I often have a cup of green tea mid-morning.
I'm pretty active anyway, but before I settle down to work, especially if I'm going to be sitting in front of the computer or meeting with clients, I'll try to dedicate some time to exercise. Some days I'll ride (my bike or a horse) or go for a brisk walk. I don't like going to the gym, so if I can't get outside, I'll do yoga, weights or high intensity interval training with an app on my iPad. If it's a nice evening or the weekend, I'll go on a long bike ride with my husband.
If I have time, I'll do transcendental meditation or kundalini yoga, as well as some Bible study or spiritual reading.
Lunch is hard for me. I never want to stop what I'm doing, and I don't really like typical lunch foods. So I'll usually have avocado toast with an egg, or salad and a veggie frittata. If I'm really feeling uninspired to put together a proper lunch (or I'm pressed for time), I'll just make a quick smoothie. A typical smoothie will have berries, greens, avocado, cucumber, frozen bananas, flax chia blend, coconut oil, nut butter and soy milk, with some cinnamon and vanilla extract thrown in.
Dinner can also be a challenge, because my weekday afternoons and evenings are so busy with the kids' activities. I'll have whatever vegetables everyone's having with their dinner, but I don't eat meat, so I'll add a huge salad or chickpea pasta with tomato sauce. If we're out, I'll share my daughter's veggie burrito and order a salad, or I'll get pizza with tons and tons of vegetables (Mod Pizza is a favorite of ours). But my husband is a great cook, so when we can all eat together, we'll usually have fish or a plant-based dish (we love daal, lentils and spinach, kale pesto with black bean spaghetti, vegetarian chili) and lots of veggies, and I always add a big serving of mixed greens with some flavored balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I do like wine, so I will have a glass or two on the weekends. Right after dinner I take bone supplements with calcium, magnesium, vitamin D and vitamin K.
My kids get a little energy surge after dinner, so sometimes we head out for a walk around the neighborhood to look at the holiday lights (or in the summer, we'll walk down to the park for a little while before the sun goes down). Otherwise, we'll clean up and I'll hit the couch with my husband. Sometimes I'll have a cup of herbal tea ~ my favorite this time of year is a harvest blend with orange peel, ginger and cinnamon. I'll also have a book with me, but I'll inevitably get sucked into something he's watching. Ken Burns' documentary on country music was my most recent favorite (other than the World Series, of course!).
My pre-bed/sleep routine is one area where I'm pretty disciplined because I have to get up so early in the morning. I'm often asleep before the kids! I turn off my phone and leave it in the kitchen. Since a lot of my books and my alarm are on my iPad, I put it on airplane mode so I'm not tempted to check email or social media. All my devices are programmed to switch to warm light at sunset so they're easier on my eyes (and brain). I'm usually in bed by 9:30 with my book and I'm asleep within 15 minutes.
The Smallest Habits
Today I was listening to an interview of Dr. Frank Lipman. If you don't know about him, you can read more here. He put out a book last year, How to Be Well, which I intend to read ASAP. (You'll learn soon enough that I'm a bit of a wellness book junkie and have been for decades.) In the interview he said, "The small ordinary actions we take on a daily basis, or our habits that we perform daily, have extraordinary healing effects." He went on to list some of those things most of us take for granted, that he believes have really important health effects: walking in the forest, walking barefoot on the beach, being kind to others, practicing gratitude, listening to music, having a pet. Daily actions. "It's not just about a low sugar diet, and going to the gym, and sleeping well, which are all very important, but it's those other little things that people don't associate with health, which are hugely beneficial." Wow. Yes.
My aunt used to say that she could just put her face against a horse, just take in that warm smell, and it would do wonders for her. It must be genetic . . . there was a time in my life when I was under tremendous strain, but by all outward appearances, I was the healthiest girl around. I was on the phone with my father, and I was in this hurricane of anxiety that I just couldn't see my way out of. I was sitting in my car as we talked, and he knew I was at the barn because my daughter had a riding lesson. All of a sudden, he just cut me short (my father never cuts me short, which is saying a lot because I'm a talker), and said, "Nicole, I think you need to hang up and go for a ride. I think this is really important." I argued that it was too late, the lesson was almost over, I had been crying and looked awful, etc., but he insisted. And what that did was INTERRUPT that stress response. The stressors were still there, but by walking away from it and getting outside and connecting with life - of the animals, my daughter, the grass, the air, the insects humming - I was able to derail for a while what that stress response was doing to my health.
It does not have to be a horse. Sometimes I just step out onto my postage stamp of a front yard in my bare feet. Sometimes I lie down with one of the kids on the couch and watch The Loud House with them, or I'll ask my son to play the piano. He doesn't know that's why I'm asking (although, he probably knows why now). It also doesn't have to be about a specific stressor. Even the "little" daily stressors can accumulate and settle into our bodies, sending signals to our brains that result in a whole host of issues, from poor digestion to inflammation to hormone imbalances: text notifications and emails piling up and the to-do list and work and money and traffic and environmental toxins. The list goes on. We are emotionally, physically and spiritually bombarded almost constantly. But if we can establish some of those daily habits Dr. Lipman was talking about, a walk outside, a show of kindness, a moment of gratitude, snuggling up with a person or a pet, he's right . . . it can have tremendous effects on our wellbeing.
By the way, that's our rabbit Clover up there. He's the greatest rabbit of all time. He loves his people, and we adore him. He's very good at interrupting the human stress response.