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Archive for the ‘Stress’ tag

That Post-Vacation Feeling, GMOs, and Ronda Rousey (Sunday Reads #17)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

Could our gut microbiome be affecting our mood?  Making us happier?  Possibly.  And there may even be an evolutionary reason for it: “happy people tend to be more social. And the more social we are, the more chances the microbes have to exchange and spread.”

How do you hang onto that post-vacation feeling as long as possible?  Plan, Reminisce, and Retreat according to an interesting New York Times Travel article.

I love this stretch.  In less than five minutes, hit the hip flexor, shoulder, and back.

Top 6 Kettlebell Exercises for Building Mass.  While I’m not as into “building mass” as I was in my 20s, I know these double kettlebell exercises will pack on muscle like no other.

How the “war against GMO” is mislead and full of lies.  Warning: this is an epically long article.

I love what Juliet and Kelly Starrett are doing to bring standing desks into the classroom.  I’m anxious for my kids’ school to take this approach as well to increase overall fitness and attention in the classroom.

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Written by Mike Torres

July 19th, 2015 at 8:46 pm

Dark Chocolate for Focus, Exercise for a Long Life (Sunday Reads #15)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.

This week I’m posting it on Monday because… well… Memorial Day.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

On Creativity and Focus

Creativity can reduce stress and become a habit.  “Productivity on meaningful work encourages engagement with that work, and this engagement fosters creativity.”

A new study has found that a Mediterranean diet with antioxidant-rich extra virgin olive oil or mixed nuts was associated with improved cognitive function in older adults in Spain.  The control group ate a low-fat diet.

Dark chocolate can boost attention.  At least a few times per week I substitute an afternoon coffee or tea with some sipping chocolate (85%) – not only is it incredibly tasty, it helps me focus.

A new study has found that participating in an eight-week meditation training program can have measurable effects on how the brain functions even when someone is not actively meditating.  I’m on Day 21 of the Headspace program and I already feel a noticeable difference in my overall stress levels, clarity of thought and ability to focus.  I really couldn’t recommend it highly enough.

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Written by Mike Torres

May 25th, 2015 at 12:30 pm

Creative Work, Stress, and Being “Ready to Run” (Sunday Reads #5)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.  I’m posting this on Saturday this time to make sure email subscribers get this on Sunday.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

On Creative Work

How many times have you found yourself thinking “that really didn’t need to take an hour”?  Brad Feld has some experience with that.

“People sitting at messy desks are less efficient, less persistent, and more frustrated and weary than those at neat desks.”  I find it easier to keep my desk clean than to actually clean it, so at the end of every day I take 20 seconds to reset it before I leave the office.

18 Habits of Highly Creative People pulls together some great recommendations for how to do incredible things.

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Written by Mike Torres

January 31st, 2015 at 9:22 am

Sleep Research, Workaholism, and Self-Regulation (Sunday Reads #4)

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Welcome to Sunday Reads on Refocuser, a collection of weekly links from around the web to help you do incredible things.  These links span topics like creativity, performance, focus, exercise, nutrition, and positivity.  I’m posting this on Saturday this time to make sure email subscribers get this on Sunday.

Join thousands of other readers by subscribing to this blog and email newsletter or by following @Refocuser on Twitter.  If you’re receiving this in your email inbox, spread the love and forward it to a friend.

High-Performance Work and Life

Research shows that workaholism is related to many negative outcomes including burnout, job stress, work–life conflict, and decreased physical and mental health.

Checking your email too often is stressful.  There can be a significant reduction in stress when people check email less frequently.

Better posture equals less stress.  A recent study “found people who sat upright with straight shoulders coped better emotionally with a stressful task than people who were hunched over.”

Researchers compared 10 psychological strengths on their ability to predict goal attainment and the greatest changes in overall well-being using a sample of 755 people.  Which strengths won?  Curiosity and grit.

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Written by Mike Torres

January 24th, 2015 at 1:05 pm

Improve Your Health in 5 Minutes Flat with WellnessFX

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My blood draw took a total of about 5 minutes.  5 long minutes in a downtown Seattle lab… looking out the window, focused on the “Go Seahawks” and “12th Man” signs on nearby buildings so I didn’t pass out.  Something like 12 or 13 vials of blood were taken from my right arm and confirmed, one by one, that they were labeled correctly.  I thought I would be lying down in a spinning haze after the 6th vial but I breathed through it like a ninja warrior would.

One could say that the lengths I go to learn more about my mind and body are a tad bit excessive. And expensive.  But you can’t manage what you can’t measure, and in this case what I’m measuring include some of the most important indicators available today for overall health, well being, and spiritual, mental, and physical performance.  If there’s something I could be doing to feel better, think better, or move better that I’m not already doing, I want to know immediately.  Am I overtraining? Am I more stressed than I thought I was? Are my hormones getting in the way of my training progress or ability to solve problems at work? Is chronic inflammation an issue and if so, why? Do I need to scale back on my creatine or fish oil supplementation?  Is lack of vitamin D holding me back during the winter months?  What about the summer?  Is my Primal/Paleo lifestyle actually improving my health as promised or making it worse?  And so on.

WellnessFX

Enter WellnessFXWellnessFX is a relatively young service with a pretty straightforward outward mission: to improve the health and performance of its clients through data. And that data comes from the ultimate source: your blood. A quick trip to a lab and a couple weeks later you have a complete analysis of the primary blood markers you should care about.

Why does this matter?

“The future has not been written. There is no fate but what we make for ourselves.” – John Connor

What we eat and what we do in our everyday lives have major impacts on our body and mind.  The field of epigenetics explains how controllable environment factors like your diet, your training, your friends and family, your job and stress levels, and the sunlight or toxins you’re exposed to can trigger gene expression.  So while we may be pre-coded for certain outcomes, we aren’t prisoners to those outcomes.  We have a lot more control over how our body ages and adapts to external stimuli.  So if we care enough about living better, there’s frankly a lot we can do.

I do believe that taking your health into your own hands is an important skill to hone.  I’ve found that far too few doctors keep up on the latest research, so their recommendations are typically outdated (“eat a low-fat diet and lose weight”).  And the lack of true personal connection with patients means their advice is almost always based on limited information about you.  So it’s best to arm yourself with the same data they have – and then some – since only you know how you actually feel at any given time.  In other words, a medical doctor has a role in your overall wellness, but so do you.

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Written by Mike Torres

February 5th, 2014 at 9:35 pm

Downtime with Nature: What You Need to Reduce Stress, Increase Attention, and "Create Again"

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I’m writing this overlooking the Pacific Ocean with an iced coffee by my side, and a gentle breeze on my face.  I’ve spent the last week in Maui with my family, so please excuse the obligatory photos of paradise!

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While on the island, I’ve been doing everything I can to unwind.  I’ve been devouring scones, French fries, margaritas, Oreos, bacon, Frosted Mini Wheats and other junk I don’t allow myself to even consider eating most of the time.  I’ve stopped tracking my habits.  I’ve exercised just once if you don’t count swimming and chasing my kids; a short run near the beach on our first day here.  I haven’t spent any time checking tasks off of my lists; in fact I had moved them all over to a "Post Vacation" category before we left the mainland so I wouldn’t even stumble upon them accidentally.  I haven’t done much writing, stretching, or flossing, and I’ve had a metric ton of Maui Coffee.  It’s been great!

Yet I’m not too concerned about slacking off, or at least not as much as my Type A personality would suggest.  Though I’m itching to get back into my routine, I’m not worried about what would normally be viewed as a setback.

Planned breaks like these are required to reset my passion meter from time to time.  I try and force myself to "unplug" from my (somewhat) normal intensity to help me remember why I do what I do to begin with.  It’s hard to hit the ‘off’ switch… it’s frankly just as hard as turning it back on again, but I try and view it as sort of like stopping at a gas station before a long road trip; breaks like this fuel me for at least a few months, and after six days of gluttony and objective laziness, I always realize that it’s not the permanent life for me.

But what you do for a few weeks out of the year doesn’t define the year, and it doesn’t define you.  It’s what you do most of the time, not just some of the time, that makes the difference over the long haul.  Have consistency in the fundamentals (modulo a week here and there) and personal growth is inevitable.

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Give up on Work/Life “Balance” Now

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Ed. note: The real title of this post should be “Give up on Work/Life Balance Now Provided You Actually Care About Succeeding With Your Work and Having Fun In Your Life” but that felt too long and silly.

balanceYou hear it everyday.  People want more balance in their lives.  They’re tired of having to work long, hard hours without recognition or reward.  They end each and every day exhausted beyond belief and dream of spending their days diving the Great Barrier Reef.  They want more ‘balance’ (which usually equates to more television – sorry, can’t help the snark!) yet when you push them on what ‘balance’ means to them, they really mean “I want to work less”.  They probably don’t talk about wanting to work more while sitting on a beach in Tahiti counting the waves.

In today’s world, the work/life balance of the 1950s desk jockey is a pipedream.  Sorry, it doesn’t exist anymore no matter how hard you wish for it.  Pulling in your driveway every night at 5pm after a day of slow work for a supper prepared for you isn’t going to happen for most people.  The business world is more competitive than ever, we’re connected to the office via “direct neural interface”, and change is happening on a daily or hourly basis.  The pace has quickened to a dizzying point and we’re expected to keep up or get off the train.  And getting off the train means greater sacrifices than most people are willing to make.

How many emails do you receive away from the office?  How many tweets, texts, news items, calls, or meetings are you dealing with outside of normal work hours?  You know, during that time that you should be ‘living’ and not working.  Probably lots – and it’s just going to get worse, my friend.  Of course we won’t count the life stuff you do while at work, right? ;)  People tend to conveniently forget that!

Regardless of what we do or who we work for, we should just stop talking about balance entirely.  Ultimately contentment isn’t about balance.  It’s about feeling important again.  And it’s ultimately about having control and perspective over everything in your life and work.

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Written by Mike Torres

December 13th, 2010 at 5:24 pm

Use Controlled Bursts of Focus to Leap Ahead And Find Balance

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Click for photo Finding balance is top of mind for so many people.  As a topic of interest, it’s increasing in popularity on the web and in books and magazines year over year.  It’s no wonder that in a 2007 survey by the American Psychological Association (APA), 48% of Americans surveyed feel their lives have become more stressful in the past five years.   When you add up all of the inboxes you’re struggling to manage each day just to feel productive, and then add the expectation that you feel you need to react immediately, it’s no surprise.  People have a lot of plates spinning simultaneously.  More than one third of the people surveyed in this study feel that work encroaching on personal time was the reason for their increased stress.  So naturally, finding balance is a life-essential skill for 2009 and beyond.  Heck, even the contributors at Wikipedia agree, “As the separation between work and home life has diminished, this concept has become more relevant than ever before.”

But what does balance really mean – and couldn’t it mean different things to different people?  When people talk about balance, they’re frequently referring to work/life balance.  A quick search on “work life balance” yields a number of results seemingly indicating that work/life balance means working a 9-5 job and then “shutting off”, compartmentalizing your work and home life.  When you’re at work, you aren’t thinking about your home life – and when you’re at home, you definitely aren’t “worrying” about work.  There are steps you can take to protect your personal time such as refusing to answer email off-hours, setting expectations up-front with your employer that you’re offline as soon as you walk out the door, planning recreational activities and sticking to a schedule, and so on.

Naturally I’m a big believer in embracing the present moment.  But what if pure compartmentalization can lead to mediocrity?  What if in the struggle for daily balance, you’re missing out on long-term accomplishment and complete contentment?  If every single day contained a healthy balance over the course of a lifetime, would you meet or exceed the goals you set out for yourself?  Would that make you happier or more content, or would it leave you feeling empty?

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Written by Mike Torres

June 7th, 2009 at 1:50 pm

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