I have had something on my mind for a few weeks and not knowing how to really articulate it. It is this: Avoid the 4 S’s. Let me try to explain. The thought came to me while I was chatting with a patient about her new year’s resolution. Like most people, she wanted to exercise more and eat less but the more she chatted about it I noticed something; stress. She really did not want to do anything but she felt like (ok, maybe knew) she needed to do something. I just listened for a bit and then said, ‘Ya know, the stress of this decision may be worse than you actually doing anything.” I encouraged her to come up with a goal that was healthy but attainable, challenging but not overly stressful, and to ask a friend to keep her accountable.
The more I thought about the above conversation, this kept coming to my mind. The 2 S’s to reduce or avoid: stress and sugar. But as I kept mulling it over, 2 more S’s came to mind: social media and self-talk (negative). So with that, I think there are 4 S’s we should reduce and avoid to be healthy. I will list each ‘S’ below with a brief description.
1. Stress: We all have stress and we all encounter stressors every day; from the food we eat to the TV we watch to the drive home; stress is ever present. So the question is: How do we deal with it? Hans Selye, MD, known as the Father of Stress, wrote, “It’s not stress that kills us; it is our reaction to it.” Did you catch that? It is not the stress that kills; it is our reaction to it. It is our choice to what extent the stressor affects us. Chronic stress 100% affects our health in ways that are unique to each individual. We must reduce stress to be healthy. Read a CNBC report about stress in the workplace and how it affects, well – everything and everyone!
2. Sugar: No matter what diet plan you choose to follow – Atkins, Ketogenic, Paleo, Mediterranean, Whole Food 30 – the first step is to reduce or avoid sugar. Why? Because sugar can cause harmful damage to our cells. Left unchecked, it can cause weight issues and organ damage. Instead of re-writing about the harmful effects of sugar, read these two articles: Wellness Mama & Healthline.
3. Social Media: Do I think social media is the devil? No. Can it be useful? Yes, especially for businesses. Do people spend too much time on it? Yes. Perform a little test on yourself. Give up social media for 1 day. Do not look at your instagram, snapchat, facebook, twitter, etc… and see how you feel. Was it as easy? Did you feel like you did not know what to do with your time? At best, social media keeps us connected in ways that were not possible even a few years ago. At worst, social media is a comparison driven platform that promises connection but leaves people feeling isolated. Question is: how are you using it and why? Read how social media affects society and our psychology.
4. Self-talk (negative): Look in the mirror. Yes, stop and look in the mirror. What are the words that come to mind when you look at the person staring back at you? How do you see yourself matters b/c it affects not only you but every other person you encounter. Circumstances and events – good, bad, indifferent, horrible – affect you, yes but do not have to define you! Something else to consider is this: who do you surround yourself with – life-giving people or woe-is-me people. It matters as Jim Rohn notes, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” Something to think about huh? Read how negative self-talk affects your neurophysiology.
How do we avoid the 4 S’s? First, we must recognize the influence of each of them in our lives. Second, we must make practical steps (simple and sometimes radical) to avoid or reduce them. Third, we must realize health is a journey that will require effort. We will experience days of great success and other days we will have setbacks but we must press on for ourselves and our families.
And lastly, if I gave you 4 S’s to avoid, let me give you 3 R’s that will help you THRIVE: refuel…refocus…reenergize.