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Giving yourself the best chance you can

If someone told you they were about to set off into the bush on a three day hike - but without a tent, sleeping bag, food or warm clothing - you'd think they were asking for trouble. Equally, you probably wouldn't head into the yard to cut the grass if you didn't have a lawnmower and and a trimmer of some kind.

Life teaches us that if we want to do well, then most jobs need a certain level of preparation and potentially the right tools, in order to have the best chance of success - we can cut that grass without a lawnmower, but we're going to have a tough time doing it. Equally our friend can head off on that hike without any supplies, but they're either going to come home cold and hungry, or need a helicopter rescue at some point. They aren't giving themselves the best chance of success.

The same is true when life throws problems our way. We can make it through - but giving ourselves the right tools and the right support gives us the best chance we can to do it more easily.

And there's a simple model to help with that - the acronym EAST. Four basics that help give us the best chance we can to fight through the problems we face.


Rule #1: Make time to eat healthy and regular meals

Our bodies need food, it's as simple as that. And our brains are part of that; without good, healthy food it becomes harder to think and to manage our emotions and thoughts. It gets harder to find our way out of the maze.

When trouble strikes, food is often one of the first things that we lose track of. Sometimes we'll 'eat our feelings', and eat way too much. Sometimes we'll seek solace in our junk foods and comfort snacks. Sometimes we just forget to eat at all, or deny ourselves a meal because our emotions rule the moment. It can affect us all - when I'm feeling overwhelmed or highly emotional I simply can't eat at all.

If we simply make time to plan out our food, make sure we're eating healthy and regular meals, we give ourselves the fuel we need to make it through.


Rule #2: Keep moving and doing

Most of us have things we do when life is going along well; we walk in the park, go for a jog, read a book, go to the movies. Life is a good balance of fun and (hopefully) some exercise, to balance out the work and the stuff we just have to do.

When we encounter problems that derail us, that can quickly be the first victim. We don't have time to walk in the park or see that movie, we don't have the capacity to meet up with friends and we can't concentrate on that book. It can feel like every waking moment has to be spent on solving this problem, and we push everything else aside.

But just as our bodies need that regular and healthy food intake to operate, our minds need these activities to balance out our response to the issues we're facing. For short periods of time we can run in that emergency mode, but it's not sustainable.

So we need to make sure we plan to keep moving and doing; and if we didn't have much in the way of activity set aside before, then it's time to start now. Make time to include some exercise, no matter how small. Make time to include some fun, whatever shape that takes. Activities might seem frivolous but they are the oil can to the cogs of our lives, keeping it all running smoothly.


Rule #3: Sleep well

There is a wealth of research showing how essential sleep is to the human condition - not getting enough sleep can lead to everything from increased risks of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and even early death. Sleep is an essential human condition.

And yet, when troubles land (as they invariably do), sleep can be their first victim. We toss and turn, worry and fret, sit up late watching tv and wake up early to hit the coffee and stress out. All that lost time laying down seems like a huge lost opportunity to fix all our woes. And in so we end up tired, irritable, unable to find a way out.

Getting a good night's restful sleep is sometimes beyond us - but planning for it can certainly help. Setting reminders to head to bed early can help, as does taking some simple steps to help us relax. Phones, tablets and tvs all fire up our brains and make sleeping harder, even if it can feel like they are shutting down our thoughts. Books on the other hand are a great way to wind down and prepare for sleep, as are meditations and relaxing sounds. There are great apps to help meditate, relax and prep for sleep and they can really help. It might not always work, but giving yourself the best chance you can at a good night's sleep is an investment that will often pay back.


Rule #4: Allow time, both for problem-solving and for living

Rome wasn't built in a day. How many times have we heard that? And yet, we live in an instantaneous world where we expect things to happen without a pause. Unfortunately that can also extend to the issues we face in life, leading to a terrible 'double-whammy' where we not only suffer the issue itself, but then also beat ourselves up when we're not able to get over it, or solve it, instantly.

And because our problem isn't being solved instantly, we start stealing time from everywhere else - we stop seeing our friends, we cut out those important activities, we spend all our free time worrying about or trying to solve that problem that we think we should have solved straight away. Time becomes our enemy and task master.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

Firstly, we can make sure we set aside time for different purposes. Yes, we need time to think on this problem and to solve it. But we also need time to live, to socialise, to spend time with our families. Make sure that you compartmentalise time and keep some aside for everything that life needs, not just the issue you're facing.

And secondly, be accepting that many problems will take time to solve - sometimes, a lot of time. When we set out to lose some weight we know it's not going to happen overnight. When we decide to trim up at the gym, we know it'll take months. So why should complex issues that are weighing us down be solved overnight?

Being kind to ourselves and giving yourself permission to take 'all the time it takes' is one of the best ways to handle complex problems.

So in summary...

If we want to give ourselves the best possible chance to help ourselves and to solve the problems life throws at us, it's important to:

  1. Eat right and regularly

  2. Actively keep moving

  3. Sleep well

  4. Take time, and allow time

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