The stress and pressure of the job can really add up, especially when markets take a turn. How do you avoid the unhealthy cycle of sleepless nights and long, stressful work days? Believe me, I’ve been caught in that downward spiral of insomnia, followed by too much coffee at work to keep myself going, followed by drinks in the evening to try to relax, only to be followed by more restless sleep.
I’ve discovered some useful biohacks that have helped me to avoid this unhealthy spiral and I feel better than I’ve felt in years. Stress is a given — it’s critical to be able to respond with appropriate tools for reducing and managing it. As with any change to your lifestyle, please consult your doctor to see if these biohacks are safe and appropriate for you.
Reducing Alcohol Consumption
Work stress can lead to an instinctual desire to reach for the booze. We think it will relax us, reduce stress, and help us sleep better. However, research has shown that while alcohol may help you feel more relaxed or uninhibited initially, it causes interrupted sleep at night. A 2022 study showed that alcohol use in the evening resulted in less sleep. Alcohol may also cause mood disruption and anxiety the following day — what has been termed “hang-xiety.” Although many people may reach for a drink when they are stressed, it may unfortunately cause a rebound in anxiety later.
I was caught in this cycle, and was inspired to take a month off to initiate a change in my relationship to alcohol. I participated in Dry January last year for the first time and chronicled my journey. This year, I again abstained for a full month, and discovered that I experienced similar benefits in a number of areas, improving my mental and physical health and my performance.
During my month-long vacation from booze, I found that I slept better, felt less anxiety, and had more energy to exercise. I spent more time with my family, had fewer heart rate spikes, lost some weight, and had more time for hobbies. Yes, HOBBIES to keep my brain constantly in “learn-mode,” but more on that in a later post.
The benefits of living without alcohol also included improvements in my productivity and performance as a CEO. I sometimes get anxious around public speaking. But a wonderful thing happened: when I gave a recent speech after being alcohol-free for a month, I felt much more relaxed and at ease.
With all these benefits, you may wonder why I (or anyone) would go back to drinking. Despite the advantages of not drinking at all, I do enjoy having a few drinks, particularly vino. I have realized that alcohol is better enjoyed less frequently and in limited quantities. The latest findings from research into the damaging long-term effects of alcohol would suggest the same. I’m still working on it, but I’m making progress.
Taking a cold shower is a quick hack to help you get energized. The benefits of cold showers include improvements to circulation, metabolism, immune system, and mood.
I’ve been taking cold showers for the past year, and that shock of cold in the morning has been more than worth it. The first 30 seconds in that cold water is tough, but it has helped to lower my resting heart rate, and when family members get sick, my body has been able to resist infection better than before.
Most of all, it’s an amazing mood booster for me. I take a 3-minute cold shower, and when I get out, I feel invigorated and ready to take on the day. I also have a sense of accomplishment in terms of honing my self-discipline.
If you’re interested in starting a cold-shower routine, start with just a few seconds of cold water at the end of your shower. Slowly increase the time you’re using cold water, until you get to 3 minutes. That’s enough time to gain benefit from the practice. Eventually, you’ll be able to hop into an ice-cold shower with no warmup.
Cold showers are not a substitute for medication, and may not be safe for those with heart conditions and arrhythmias and those who are immunocompromised, so definitely check with your doctor before trying it. For more info, please check out the research by Wim Hof, the legendary Iceman.
A biohack that has become a way of life for me is intermittent fasting. I do a 16:8 style, alternating 16 hours of no eating with 8 hours in which I can eat. I’ve found this format has been the easiest to maintain. During the hours of no eating, you can and should drink as much water as you like. You can also have coffee or tea, as long as you don’t add milk or sugar.
In intermittent fasting “the key mechanism is metabolic switching, in which fasting triggers the body to switch its source of energy from glucose stored in the liver to ketones, which are stored in fat,” as reported in the National Institute of Aging article, “Research on intermittent fasting shows health benefits.” The authors write that “The impact of ketogenesis carries over into the non-fasting period and can improve glucose regulation, increase stress resistance and suppress inflammation.”
In my experience, intermittent fasting has helped me maintain a healthy weight, and related to that, to avoid knee and back pain. It has also helped me feel more fit, energetic, and contributed to improved self-esteem.
Check with your doctor to see if this is an appropriate eating plan for you. If so, start off slowly and gradually shift your eating times. You don’t have to stick to this schedule every day for the rest of your life. If you have a family event or party, don’t let your intermittent fasting stop you from participating.
Experiment to Find the Best Biohacks for Your Lifestyle
These biohacks have been revolutionary for me. The goal for any busy CEO is to reduce stress, improve mental and physical health, and enjoy optimal performance. I wish you luck on your journey to discover what works best for you.
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