Lessons learned in 2023
When planning to write blog content for the end of the year, I always wonder how much more you want to read about “staying healthy” during the Holidays or managing the stress of the season (all of which you can read in our blog here). Last year, I shared my list of books read in 2022 and it was a huge success! While I promise to share my 2023 reading list as well, I decided to do something different this year.
If you have been following us for a while, you know that we work on six areas that we call Foundations. They are Time, Stress, Sleep, Food, Motion and Brain. So, this year, I want to share with you the things that I have learned, improved, or changed for each one of them. Some people think that because we work with these areas, we have them all figured out. But nothing could be further from the truth. Everyone is a work in progress and I am not an exception. I hope my list prompts you to reflect back and work on whichever area you wish you improve!
Yes, I am military with my time. Always have and always will, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.
After a few years of trying to create boundaries around certain activities in my life, I have finally been able to identify what I like to call my “protected blocks”. I have two: one in the morning and one in the evening.
My “protected block” of the morning is dedicated to my morning routines (I have more than one). They include my time for praying and reflection, coffee, exercise, reading, and breakfast. Like we always say: I am firm but flexible, and I have a list of people/situations for whom I am happy to bend my rules.
My “protected block” in the evening is a little stricter and other than for family needs, I rarely bend my rules here. From a work perspective, our clients rarely need us in the evening (unless they are in the Pacific Time Zone) and therefore, other than volunteering activities, I have no shame or regrets in rejecting to do anything that takes my dinner and time with my family away (other than an invite from friends to go out for dinner which my husband and I accept without a blink!)
No surprise here! I think I will end my days working on managing stress! However, the biggest improvement in this area in 2023 has been focusing on the things I can control.
This is something we repeat in each of our workshops and training sessions, but I know it is easier said than done.
Throughout 2023, I have made a point, when faced with a stressful situation, of asking myself: “What from this situation is under my control?”. The result is that once the controllable event/aspect/situation has been identified, my brain goes into “work” mode looking for ways to address the controllable portion. In turn, the aspects that fall beyond my control become second thoughts. I have seen great results from applying this simple strategy, but I recognize that it is still a work in progress.
Like Stress, Sleep will always be a work in progress! However, in 2023 I feel that I have nailed down two practices that have improved my sleep: my evening bedtime and reading (a physical book) before sleep.
I have been trying with some success to disconnect one hour before going to bed. If there is anything I am keeping in 2024 is being as strict as I possibly can with my bedtime! Weekends are always the exception but I am happy with keeping an 80-20 rule for this one!
As for reading, there is no surprise here. I love to read and I have ratified something that I’ve known for a while: reading (even if only a page or two) before sleeping, improves my sleep by at least 80%. So, this is a win-win practice that I intend to keep for as long as I possibly can!
Unbecoming a runner! I’ve been a runner for most of my adult life only to discover that I love other activities more than running. This has been the best and worst of 2023.
Swimming and weight training have become my new love and running has fallen to the lowest level in years! While I do miss my morning runs with Rosana for the social aspect of it (by now you should have realized that I am a social butterfly), I am extremely happy with my new exercise routine that is varied, intense, and fun! Some cardio (6 times per week), strength training (4 times per week), and some stretching (2 to 3 times per week). I am currently loving every minute of it and hoping to be able to keep this routine in 2024.
Most importantly: I’ve been having a lot of fun paying attention and working with my heart rate lately! It has changed my approach to my routines and I have seen amazing results in my endurance. If you have a smartwatch, make it a point to pay attention to your heart rate. It works wonders!
Fun note: I recently discovered through some DNA testing that my genes love exercise. In fact, this is what the test showed: “Your genetic variants may make you more likely to want to exercise” …I guess this explains a lot!
I will not discuss food politics or different diets here. I can only say that in 2023 I’ve simply focused on getting 30+ plants per week, getting as much fiber as possible, and reducing sugar as much as I can. Not every day is perfect and weekends are very random, but overall, I am satisfied with the improvements and the results on my energy levels which is, in full honesty, all that I care about.
My goal is to age with energy, not beauty (both would be a great combo though!). During my waking hours, I have unlimited energy and this for me, is more than enough!
If you want to know what I eat, well, it is very simple: plants (veggies, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds) + fish (on occasion). That’s it!
The health of my brain has been at the top of my list for years now. The prior five areas have a direct impact on my brain and I am satisfied with their current impact.
Is there something I am doing to help with my brain aside from what I have described above? Yes! I read in English most of the time. Spanish is my native language and it is easier for me to read a novel in Spanish than English. However, I make the conscious decision to choose books in English (as hard as Jane Austin or as simple as Sophia Kinsella), so I can constantly challenge my brain with new words. Late this year I decided to also retake my French!
I hope this reflection prompts you to make your own and identify what has worked for you in 2023! We are all a work in progress and some progress is better than no progress!
Have a wonderful Christmas and always check our blog for more information!