Learning to SOAR
Written By Emma Parnham
If you’re anything like me, you’re on the move from the minute the alarm goes off in the morning until you collapse into bed each night, squeezing every possible productive drop out of each day. I find it fulfilling; knowing that I’ve made it through another gym session, crossed off my perpetuating to-do list, my emails aren’t exploding, the house is orderly, the laundry basket is empty, there’s food in the refrigerator, dinner is made and the dishes are done, and I’ve even managed to update my social media status (not everything happens in that order, I might add). It can also be exhausting (I’m out of breath just reading that sentence). And I’m also mindful that for others, even the very thought of where to start can be daunting.
Here’s the ironic thing: the reasons that motivate us to do what we do, whether that be drive and ambition, helping clients, reaching sales targets, the need to pay the bills, or just the sheer weight of expectation to ‘achieve’, also contribute to what is now an increasing awareness of the root of multiple health concerns—stress. While we know that some stress can be good for us, we also know that being constantly ‘on’ is unsustainable and our bodies begin to break down. This can be physically—through injury or illness—or emotionally. High blood pressure which can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and kidney damage, and high cortisol levels which can result in impaired sleeping, weight gain, and aches and pains, can all stem from living in a constant state of stress. We don’t have to feel particularly stressed for our bodies to harbor stress.
Fortunately, for those of us at Atlee Hall, help is at hand. The firm truly values the contributions each and every one of us makes each day to help our clients and create safer communities. The partners care about our health and happiness. And so, the SOAR Program was introduced—a completely optional personal coaching program to help us feel fulfilled in the areas of our lives where we feel out of control, challenged, or would like more accountability. The program is confidential and unique to each person, as everyone has their own goals. It needn’t just be all about exercise and nutrition. For me, however, I’m trying to strike a better balance among the different areas of my life to allow my body to heal from chronic injuries, increase my energy levels through better nutrition, and (hopefully) improve my body composition in the process. They key take-aways for me, which might also help others are:
- Exercise: allow yourself time to recover. Not every session has to be lung-rasping or thigh-burning. Going for a walk, doing yoga, and even moving at around 60% of maximal effort is also good. It calms the parasympathetic nervous system (the rest and digest system) which slows heart rate, increases intestinal and gland activity, and helps the gastrointestinal tract.
- Sleep & Gratitude: it’s not only the number of hours that matter, but also the quality of these hours. I’ve introduced belly breathing and gratitude meditations each night before bed. It doesn’t take long—about five minutes—where I focus on my breath, expand my belly, and get to the bottom of my lungs. I then shift my attention to each part of my body and can literally feel myself relax. I think about what I did well today. I’ve found this has helped with getting into a deep sleep quicker. The science shows that sleep is vital for recovery: it’s when healing takes place through tissue repair, growth hormone is produced to regulate body composition, our digestive system and heart function can be restored, and our immune system can get to work.
- Nutrition & hydration: the body needs to fuel so make sure you are taking in enough calories if you are also exercising, but make sure those calories come from good wholesome sources. Reducing refined, sugary carbohydrates, increasing protein intake, and ensuring a balance of healthy fats will help with satiety. Beware of too much fruit and try and drink around half your body weight in ounces. This is a constant work in progress for me and a battle against my sweet tooth.
It’s three weeks in to the SOAR Program and already I am noticing the benefits. I am sleeping better than ever, I feel strong in the weights room, and I have fewer afternoon dips in energy. If anyone doubts the maxim “mens sana in corpore sano” (a sound mind in a healthy body), I can recommend adopting a few of these tips or exploring the introduction of a similar program to your place of work.