The Importance of Getting Enough Sleep – Part 2

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at http://amzn.to/1eju3wu or at your favorite library or bookstore.

The Importance of Getting Enough Sleep – Part 2
To give you some idea of just how detrimental a lack of sleep can be to your biochemical balance, look at what happens to an average fifty-year-old who sleeps just six hours per night. That middle-aged person has nighttime cortisol levels more than twelve times higher than the average thirty-year-old who sleeps eight hours per night!

Not only will an inadequate quality or quantity of sleep upset biochemical balance, but it will also limit your ability to fall asleep the next night (because your cortisol is still too high) and the amount of time that your mind spends in the most restful stages of deep sleep.

A vicious cycle gets set into motion when you experience poor sleep, an overactive stress response, and subtle changes in biochemical balance that lead you down the path toward burnout and chronic diseases.
Numerous research studies verify the damage caused by sleep deprivation, including the following:

* A Yale University study of 1,709 men found that those who regularly got less than six hours of shut-eye doubled their risk of weight gain and diabetes because of elevated cortisol and its interference with insulin metabolism and blood-sugar control (leading to glycation).

* University of Virginia researchers have reported that jet lag—and the elevated cortisol that comes from sleep deprivation and altered body-clock cycles—is not just bad for health but can lead to higher death rates as well (at least in older mice). The increased death rates are thought to be due to a suppression of immune-system function by disrupted biochemical balance. The fact that these sleep-deprived mice die sooner probably comes as no surprise to exhausted, globe-trotting business executives or stretched-to-the-limit soccer moms.

* Researchers at Brown University Medical School have also shown that sleep quality (how restful your sleep is), but not necessarily sleep quantity (how many hours of sleep you get), is closely related to biochemical balance and your state of vigor. As you might imagine, subjects with lower levels of sleep quality (including children and teenagers) also had the most disrupted biochemical balance and overall stress, as well as the lowest vigor scores.

* In Stockholm, Sweden, researchers at the National Institute for Psychosocial Medicine conducted a series of experiments related to those at Brown and showed that total sleep time was significantly decreased (leading to problems with biochemical balance) in workers during their most stressful workweeks. The stress at work also led to daytime sleepiness and nighttime restlessness—so even though the workers were tired, they were still too stressed and metabolically imbalanced to sleep.

Even if you understand the importance of sleep as proven in these studies, you may feel lucky to get just six or seven hours of shut-eye. I know I do—and yet I also realize this is still not enough sleep to maintain my own biochemical balance within healthy parameters. On top of that, I also know that some of the best ways to ensure a restful night of sleep are to avoid caffeine after noon (yet I sit here writing this with an afternoon cup of java next to the laptop), leave work at the office (yet I’m writing this from my home office), and skip the late-night TV (yet my DVR lets me watch primetime shows after my wife and I put the kids to bed)—so that’s three strikes for me.

I tell you all this “personal information” in the hope that you will see that maintaining your biochemical balance—or improving your vigor—is not an “all-or-nothing” proposition. No one does this perfectly, myself included.

Sometimes you have lots of stress, and sometimes you have less. Sometimes you get adequate sleep, but for many of you, that doesn’t happen often enough. On certain days you’ll be able to exercise and eat right—and on other days you’ll hit the drive-through and feel like you’re working nonstop. The point here is not to strive to be “perfect” in your efforts to maintain biochemical balance. Rather, the best approach is to apply the principles outlined in this book as consistently as possible to ensure that you can do as much as possible to keep your vigor high as often as possible.

The Importance of Getting Enough Sleep – Part 1

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at http://amzn.to/1eju3wu or at your favorite library or bookstore.

The Importance of Getting Enough Sleep – Part 1
Just as you pay little attention to the fact that your heart beats in a regular pattern, so too are you normally unaware of your body’s natural rhythm during restful sleep. But night after night, your body follows a well-worn path into dreamland: Breathing slows, muscles relax, heart rate and blood pressure drop, and body temperature falls. The brain releases the “sleep hormone,” melatonin, and begins a slow descent into sleep. The rapid beta waves of your restless wakeful state in the daytime gradually change into the slower alpha waves that are characteristic of calm wakefulness, or “relaxed alertness,” where you generally want to spend most of your time.

Eventually, your brain drops into the still-slower theta waves that predominate during the various stages of sleep. During a full night of sleep, you normally pass through several stages: Stage 2 (lasting ten to fifteen minutes), then Stage 3 (lasting five to fifteen minutes), and finally to the deepest portion of sleep in Stage 4 (lasting about thirty minutes). Even though Stage 4 lasts only about a half hour, it is the most “famous” portion of the sleep cycle, because it is when you dream and exhibit rapid eye movement, popularly referred to as REM. Your total sleep cycle, from early Stage 2 to final REM sleep, takes an average of ninety minutes to complete.

And, most importantly for people who have trouble sleeping, this cycle repeats itself over and over throughout the night—which means that interruptions can make it harder to get back to sleep, depending on which part of the cycle the sleeper is experiencing when awakened. In sleep-research labs, where alarm clocks, lights, and other interruptions can be banished, scientists have found that the natural duration of these repeating sleep cycles (the “physiological ideal”) is eight hours and fifteen minutes.

The idea of getting more than eight hours of sleep per night may sound great—but what if you simply can’t (or won’t) get that much shut-eye? You could be setting yourself up for numerous health problems, beginning with the fact that your blood-sugar levels will rise. Sleep researchers have shown that getting only four to six hours of sleep per night results in signs of impaired glucose tolerance and insulin resistance. This means that cheating on sleep—even for only a few nights—can put a person in a prediabetic state. These changes in insulin action and blood-sugar control are also linked to the development of obesity and an increase in risk for inflammation-related conditions, such as heart disease.

Poor sleep also contributes to obesity, because it precipitates changes on the hormonal level. Growth hormone and leptin are reduced in people who spend less time in deep sleep. (Leptin is a hormone that plays important roles in regulating appetite, body weight, metabolism, and reproductive function.) When you have less growth hormone in your system, it typically results in a loss of muscle and a gain of fat over time. Reduced levels of leptin will lead to hunger and carbohydrate cravings.

Given all these health impacts, I am continually astonished by how many people think they can just “get by” with inadequate sleep and are then surprised when they struggle with low energy, weight gain, constant hunger, depression, or any of the other problems associated with being “out” of biochemical balance. Thinking that you can “get by” with inadequate sleep is exactly like thinking you can “get by” with a steady diet of Twinkies. If you’re “shorting” yourself on sleep, you are virtually guaranteeing that your biochemical balance will be chronically disrupted, and you are putting yourself in a position of weakness in each of the Four Pillars of Health.

VIP: Stress-Management Strategies (Part II)

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at http://amzn.to/1eju3wu or at your favorite library or bookstore.

VIP: Stress-Management Strategies
Whether you on the verge of burnout or just a little tired from a typical twenty-first-century day, the last thing you may want to hear is someone telling you to “reduce stress.” I’m right there with you. Fortunately, a multitude of effective strategies for managing stress are available to you; best of all, you do not have to drastically alter your lifestyle to implement most of them. These ideas for managing stress are backed up by research that shows they can be extremely effective. Here are a few of my favorites that I have shared with clients and readers over the years, and I invite you to consider incorporating them into your daily routine to build vigor.

Imagine creative solutions.
Japanese researchers in Kyoto have shown that guided-imagery exercises (relaxing by imagining solutions to stress) can help people maintain biochemical balance after the very first session. In a series of studies, subjects practiced replacing unpleasant mental images of stressful events with comfortable thoughts, resulting in a displacement of stress, a shift toward a balanced emotional state, and a significant restoration of biochemical balance. Psychology researchers at UCLA have also shown that stressed patients who performed a “value-affirmation task” (mentally reciting their personal values and itemizing the things that were most important to them) in reaction to stressful events were able to maintain biochemical balance even under these circumstances.

Believe in yourself.
Remember the story of The Little Engine Who Could? Well, young children show marked resilience to stress when they apply the same “I think I can” approach to school stressors as the little train did in its attempt to climb the hill in the classic tale. In a study by Swedish researchers, school kids had reduced stress responses and were better able to maintain biochemical balance when they approached stressful situations with mental imagery that affirmed, “I can solve this task.”

Get away for a long weekend.
Even short periods of “getting away” can result in a significant drop in cortisol levels. In one study, a three-day, two-night weekend resulted in a decrease in cortisol levels and overall stress markers (indicating a restoration of biochemical balance) as well as a boost in immune-system function.

Take a yoga class.
Swedish psychologists have recently shown that ten sessions of yoga over four weeks resulted in significant psychological and physiological benefits in men and women. Participants in the yoga sessions showed improvements in their levels of cortisol, stress, anger, exhaustion, and blood pressure.

Pray.
Regardless of how you feel about religion or spirituality, research shows that prayer can have an impact on health. One study on religion by researchers at Arizona State University has shown that people who are more spiritual and pray more often have lower cortisol levels and lower blood pressure.

Get a pet.
For some people, stress management may come on four legs. Scientists at Virginia Commonwealth University found that high-stress health-care professionals were able to significantly lower their cortisol levels after as little as five minutes of “dog therapy.” (Although no one measured the biochemical balance in the pooches, it is quite possible that they also benefited from playing with the health-care workers.)

Tune in to tunes.
Listening to relaxing music (as compared to sitting in silence) can significantly reduce cortisol levels following a stressful event, according to studies by French scientists.

Get some sleep.
Far and away the most effective stress-management technique you can practice is very simple: Get enough sleep. Even one or two nights of good, sound, restful sleep can do more for maintaining your biochemical balance and reducing your long-term risk for many chronic diseases than a whole lifetime of stress-management classes. It is almost impossible to overstate the crucial role adequate sleep plays in controlling your stress response, helping you to lose weight, boosting your energy levels, improving your mood, and, of course, raising your level of vigor.

Because sleep is such an important component for building vigor, I’m devoting the rest of the chapter to it.

VIP: Stress-Management Strategies (Part 1)

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at http://amzn.to/1eju3wu or at your favorite library or bookstore.

VIP: Stress-Management Strategies
Whether you on the verge of burnout or just a little tired from a typical twenty-first-century day, the last thing you may want to hear is someone telling you to “reduce stress.” I’m right there with you. Fortunately, a multitude of effective strategies for managing stress are available to you; best of all, you do not have to drastically alter your lifestyle to implement most of them. These ideas for managing stress are backed up by research that shows they can be extremely effective. Here are a few of my favorites that I have shared with clients and readers over the years, and I invite you to consider incorporating them into your daily routine to build vigor.

Manage your electronic interruptions.
The beeps, buzzes, or other sounds from your computer (not to mention those from an iPhone, Blackberry, or whatever new devices come on the market by the time you read this) can add an annoying level of stress to your day. Instead of just responding every time you get an electronic interruption, take charge of those devices and set them to only alert you at specific times. For instance, most e-mail programs are automatically set to check for new messages every five minutes (which means you’re interrupted by the “new-message beep” ninety-six times in an eight-hour day!). How do you expect to get any “real” work done? Also, consider (as I do) shutting off your e-mail program until the second half of your day, enabling you to get your “important” work accomplished in the morning when you’re mentally fresh.

Whenever possible, leave the cell phone behind.
It may be hard to imagine today, but it wasn’t too many years ago that people got along perfectly fine without cell phones. Try taking a break from your phone when possible by leaving it behind. I make that recommendation, because if you carry your phone with you—even if you tell yourself that you won’t answer it—a part of your mind still waits for it to ring (or buzz, or play your favorite ringtone). Let that part of your brain relax and forget about the phone every now and then.

Read trash.
Get a book or magazine that has no redeeming social value—and enjoy it. If this is too decadent for your tastes, then alternate a “good” book that might teach you something with a “junk” book that you can simply lose yourself in. Why? Because it allows your mind to “escape” and recharge so it comes back even stronger, more creative, and more resilient to stress. Once, on a cross-country flight, I sat next to a woman who was reading a genetic research journal. (I was reading a bicycling magazine.) As a fellow scientist, I commented on her reading material, and she laughed, because underneath her research journal she had one of those celebrity-gossip tabloids that you see at the grocery checkout stand. She explained that she couldn’t wait to “get through” her genetics journal so she could “catch up” on the latest “dirt”—it was hilarious. It turns out that we were both headed to the same obesity-research conference in Boston, and we both appreciated the importance of “getting away” for a few minutes in our “junky” books and magazines.

Take a mini-vacation every day.
One of the best ways to de-stress during your workday is to revive the lost art of lunch. Take it! Too may people skip lunch (bad metabolically and mentally) or gobble it down at their desks (which is even worse). Instead, take the hour to enjoy a healthy meal and relax your mind. Even better, use that hour to visit with friends or coworkers—you’ll have a more productive second half of the day and likely accomplish even more high-quality work with improved creativity and efficiency than if you had worked through lunch. And be sure to get up from your desk every hour or two for a quick stretch or walk around the office. You’ll be amazed at how a quick flex of your muscles and a surge in your circulation can help clear the cobwebs from your mind.

Take a full day off each week.
No work. No thoughts about work or worries about work. Take this day to relax, reflect, and recharge (regardless of whether or not a “Sabbath” day of rest has any religious connotations for you). Read a book. Take a walk. Luxuriate in the act of doing nothing. I guarantee that if you give yourself over to a solid month of “do-nothing Sundays” (or Saturdays, or whichever day of the week works for your schedule), you will feel more physically and mentally refreshed than you could possibly imagine. Doing nothing will give you back a lot.

Recreate to re-create.
Giving yourself permission to relax does not mean that you’re a slacker; it means that you’re a step ahead of the nose-to-the-grindstone automatons who are on a fast road to burnout. As a long-time nutrition consultant to some very elite-level athletes, I can tell you without question that knowing when to “go hard” and when to “ease off” is what separates Olympic champions from also-rans. Although your own life might be “too busy” most of the time, it is those moments of relaxation and decompression that allow you to keep jumping back in with renewed energy and creativity.

Get a massage or take a bath.
Australian researchers have shown that something as simple as a fifteen-minute weekly back massage reduced cortisol levels (restoring metabolic balance), blood pressure, and overall measures of anxiety in a group of high-stress nurses. Another study of massage conducted at the University of Miami School of Medicine showed a remarkable 31 percent reduction in cortisol levels following massage therapy, as well as a 28 percent increase in the feel-good neurotransmitter serotonin. In similar studies, Japanese scientists in Osaka have shown a significant reduction in cortisol levels in high-stress men following relaxing hot baths. The men with the highest stress levels had the most dramatic reductions in cortisol levels. These studies prove that the relaxing nature of massage and hot baths is an effective approach to maintaining biochemical balance.

Vigor Improvement Practices—Stress Management and Sleep

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt? 

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of VigorHow to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

 Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:

*Lose Weight

*Get in Shape

*Reduce Stress

*Get Healthier

*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment. 

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at http://amzn.to/1eju3wu or at your favorite library or bookstore.

 Vigor Improvement Practices—Stress Management and Sleep

 

We know from studies of animals and humans that at least three factors can make a huge difference in how the body responds to a given stressor:

1. whether the stress has any outlet

2. whether the stressor is predictable

3. whether the human or animal thinks it has any control over the stressor

These three factors—outlet, predictability, and control—emerge as modulating factors again and again in research studies of stress. For example, if you put a rat in a cage and subject it to a series of low-voltage electric shocks, the rat develops metabolic imbalance and stomach ulcers (wouldn’t you?).

If you take another rat, give it the same series of shocks, but also give it an outlet for its stress—such as something to chew on, something to eat, or a wheel to run on—it is able to maintain biochemical balance and does not get ulcers. The same is true for humans under stress: Go for a run, scream at the wall, or do something else that serves as an outlet for maintaining metabolic balance, and you can counteract or at least modulate many of the detrimental effects of stress. 

Let’s turn now to the second of the three stress modulators: predictability. Suppose someone woke you up in the middle of the night, put you on a plane, and then made you jump out of it at ten thousand feet. Pretty stressful, huh? This experience would certainly be accompanied by elevated heart rate and blood pressure, changes in blood levels of glucose and fatty acids, and, of course, a huge disruption in biochemical balance. What do you think would happen if you were forced to do this every other night for the next few months? Far from being a stressed-out bundle of nerves, you would actually get accustomed to it—and your stress response would become less pronounced. This scenario has actually been studied in U.S. Army Rangers who were training at “jump school” to become paratroopers. At the start of training, the soldiers endured enormous increases in stress-hormone levels during each jump (indicating they were out of biochemical balance). But by the end of the course, their stress responses were virtually nonexistent. By making the stressor more predictable (you know it is coming, and you are prepared for it), the stress response of each soldier was controlled to a much greater degree.

Finally, the concept of control is central to understanding why some people respond to a stressor with gigantic disruptions in biochemical balance, while others respond to the same stressor with little more than a yawn. This idea has been demonstrated in rats that have been trained to press a lever to avoid getting shocked. Every time the rat gets shocked, it presses the lever, and the next shock is delayed for several minutes. Because the rat has some degree of control over his situation, it also has a lower occurrence of stress-related diseases (such as ulcers and infections). An interesting comparison can be made to people working under high-stress conditions, such as during a period of corporate layoffs. For many workers, this situation is one of high instability and low control (thus high stress), while others, perhaps those in a department that will be unaffected by job cuts or among people who have a “fallback” plan (such as a part-time job on the side), experience much less stress and fewer health problems. 

Keep in mind that the concept of control does not mean that you need to try to gain a high degree of control over every aspect of your life, because trying to do so can actually increase your stress and lead to a high degree of metabolic imbalance. Instead, managing stress usually means doing your best to control those things you have the power to control and accepting those things that you have little (or no) control over.

The strategies outlined in the next section may also be useful to you in grappling with the all-important issue of stress as part of your comprehensive approach to raising your level of vigor.

Vigor Improvement Practices—Stress Management and Sleep

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at http://amzn.to/1eju3wu or at your favorite library or bookstore.

Vigor Improvement Practices—Stress Management and Sleep
Research studies are quite clear on the fact that reducing stress also reduces overall cortisol exposure and that reducing cortisol exposure is a “good thing” for your long-term health and vigor. That’s all well and good—but I also understand that telling you to manage stress is a lot easier than actually controlling it in your frantic life. It might help to understand that you’re not alone in this regard (as discussed in Chapter 6).

Do you think it is a coincidence that so many Americans rate “stress” as the number-one reason for a trip to the doctor, while medical surveys clearly indicate that men show up most often at the doc with lower back pain or fatigue, while women tend to report fibromyalgia or depression?

That’s not a coincidence—that’s direct evidence that stressed-out lives are causing people to hurt and feel terrible! The stress exposure that you’re awash in each and every day eventually shows itself as problems with biochemical balance, possibly manifesting as burnout and ultimately as outright tissue damage. You need to do something about it. This chapter focuses on two critical Vigor Improvement Practices (VIP): stress management and sleep.

Whenever I give a public seminar on stress and biochemical balance, I like to start off by holding up a glass of water and asking the audience to guess how much it weighs. People will generally call out guesses that range from six to twenty ounces. But the point I like to make is that the actual weight of the water glass doesn’t matter. As a “stress” to my arm, the weight of the water glass is less important than the duration of time that I need to hold it up. If I hold the glass for a minute or two, then it is not much of a stress at all, but if you were to ask me to hold it for an hour or a day or a week, then I’d be in trouble.

It works the same way with your exposure to other stressors—such as traffic, bills, family commitments, and the millions of other little stresses that you encounter day in and day out. Eventually, you will reach a breaking point unless you actively manage those stresses. Everybody—no matter how “tough” you think you are, no matter how “resistant” to stress you think you are, no matter how much you think that you “thrive” on stress—has a personal “breaking point” when it comes to stress exposure.

By managing stress and getting adequate sleep—as well as incorporating the other VIPs, including nutrition, exercise, and dietary supplementation to restore balance in each of the Four Pillars of Health—you can continually modulate your own individual stress load and hopefully keep that “breaking point” at bay.

Okay, back to my glass of water. Let’s say that I’m asked to hold the water glass for a week. Impossible, you might say. Not so—because if I’m smart about managing this stress, I might be able to handle it. Maybe I can take short breaks, where I put the glass down for a few minutes each hour. Perhaps I can lessen my personal burden by asking a colleague or a friend or family member to hold the glass for a little while. Maybe I can leave the glass at work and not worry about dragging this “burden” home with me. Any and all of these (and dozens of other) strategies are ways in which I can “manage” my stress response—even if just for a few minutes. Think about some of your own sources of stress as well as some ways that you can remove yourself from exposure to those stressors.

Consider a study by the Families and Work Institute showing that one in three American workers felt chronically overworked because of “technology” (mostly cell phones and e-mail that enable people to be working anywhere and everywhere, all the time). It is really too bad that “being busy” has become such a status symbol, because it is clear from the scientific research that being too busy and always being “on” is detrimental to long-term physical and mental health. Don’t get me wrong—hard work is important and valuable, but working too hard for too long leads to burnout, reduced creativity, and inefficiency. It is not much of an overstatement to say that you can literally work yourself to death.

Vigor Improvement Practices (VIPs)

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at http://amzn.to/1eju3wu or at your favorite library or bookstore.

Part III: Vigor Improvement Practices (VIPs)
Whether your goal is to win the Super Bowl or just clean the toilet bowl, you need to have high vigor, and you no doubt want to feel good on a daily basis. This final section of the book focuses on the “what-to-do” aspects of restoring biochemical balance to beat burnout and bring back your vigor. The next few chapters present a range of recommendations involving sleep/stress, nutrition, exercise, and dietary supplements that have been shown to work to restore biochemical balance and help people recover their desired states of high vigor. Best of all, these recommendations—which I call the “Vigor Improvement Practices” (VIPs)—not only are effective but can also be realistically implemented by virtually anyone.

My recommendation: Do as many of these VIPs as you can for one week and see how much your vigor improves. I’ve witnessed hundreds of clients enjoy phenomenal results after only seven days of incorporating these health-promoting activities into their lives. Some people will begin by focusing on exercising and getting more sleep, while others may start by taking dietary supplements and using stress-management techniques, such as meditation. After the first week, of course, you can continue the practices that work best for you and watch your vigor improve even more. Once you have read through the information on each individual VIP, Chapter 11 helps you put it all together in a chart that you can update and adapt to your own needs.

To put it very simply, the VIPs help you achieve biochemical equilibrium in your body by restoring balance in each of the Four Pillars of Health. By establishing this biochemical balance, your body is once again able to resume its natural process of tissue repair and rejuvenation. The diet, exercise, and flexibility portions of the VIPs form the foundation that promotes healthy tissue turnover throughout the entire body. Dietary supplements provide the most concentrated source of biochemical regulators and tissue building blocks that the body needs to support optimal turnover, synthesis, and repair. The combined effect of exercise, stretching, proper nutrition, and supplements results in an ideal environment to restore biochemical balance, promote tissue health, and improve vigor.

The VIPs are not only a simple and effective approach to regaining and maintaining your vigor but a new way to think about the health of your tissues and keeping the “state of repair” in your body in optimal condition. By maintaining proper balance and function and supporting the body’s vital renewal processes, the VIPs can help delay or prevent many of the degenerative conditions commonly associated with aging—including burnout, depression, arthritis, and fibromyalgia—plus many of the aches and pains that nearly everyone confronts with advancing years. The VIPs can help virtually everybody, from professional athletes to weekend warriors to never-exercisers. The main goal is for you to learn how to imbed these practices into your life each and every day to achieve and maintain a healthy active lifestyle—and enjoy a greater level of vigor!

Pillar Points to Remember…(Stress, Cortisol, Burnout, Overtraining)

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at http://amzn.to/1eju3wu or at your favorite library or bookstore.

Pillar Points to Remember…(Stress, Cortisol, Burnout, Overtraining)
I hope that these four chapters in Part II have given you an appreciation of the importance of restoring biochemical balance within each—and between each—of the Four Pillars of Health. In some ways, it may seem that balancing stress hormones is the most important task in restoring vigor, because these hormones are the “master controllers” of your biochemistry. But, as stated throughout this book, the pillars are interdependent and intertwined with each other, so it makes sense to strengthen all of them simultaneously to create a truly comprehensive approach to optimal health. As with the example of the dominoes, if you make a positive change regarding one of the pillars, you will set off positive reactions in all the rest.

The Pillars in Action (Burnout and Overtraining)
Michael was a lawyer and runner who Balanced Stress Hormones to beat burnout and overtraining. As an attorney specializing in intellectual-property issues (patents, trademarks, etc.), Michael worked extremely long hours at his desk, reading papers and working on his computer. He used running as his mental and physical “release” from the stresses of the day—it gave him some time to think about creative solutions to his clients’ issues.

As a former All-American cross-country runner in college, Michael remained highly competitive in his postcollege years and was training for an attempt at the Olympic Trials for the marathon. Unfortunately, due to the combination of the psychological stress from Michael’s highly stressful career (which had become even more so due to layoffs at his law firm) and a significant increase in physical stress from his increased training load for the Olympic Trials, Michael quickly found himself having trouble concentrating at work and unmotivated to lace up his running shoes to train.

After visiting his chiropractor for some help with a slow-healing hip injury, Michael was told that his cortisol was high and his testosterone was low—and that this biochemical imbalance was likely at the root of his lack of motivation for work or running.

On his chiropractor’s advice, Michael incorporated a few simple Vigor Improvement Practices to help balance his stress hormones and lead him away from burnout and back to vigor. In addition to striving for eight hours of sleep each night, especially on his hardest running days, Michael became more attuned to balancing high-stress workdays with moderate-stress training days and moderate-stress workdays with high-stress training days. As a lawyer working toward a partnership and as an Olympic hopeful, Michael typically had no “low-stress” days, but to help beat his burnout, he also agreed to have one “no-stress” day per week where he was completely “off” from work and training. In addition to these steps, Michael also added a daily eurycoma root supplement to directly restore balance between cortisol/testosterone.

Within a period of about six months, Michael improved his cortisol/testosterone balance by 30 percent and improved his Vigor Index from an extremely low level (27, associated with extreme burnout) to a very high level (4, associated with optimal physical and mental performance). His life improved—with Michael benefitting from improved mental clarity to get more work done with less stress (he made partner) and also from improved physical/mental energy, which allowed him to train and compete at a higher level (he did not qualify for the Olympic Games, but he ran a personal-best marathon time).

Balance Stress Hormones—and Vigor Will Follow

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at http://amzn.to/1eju3wu or at your favorite library or bookstore.

Balance Stress Hormones—and Vigor Will Follow
Numerous studies convincingly show that reducing “biochemical stress”—including restoring balance between various measures, such as cortisol, testosterone, glucose, cytokines, CRP, and others—also reduces the risk of dying and increases lifespan. Positive changes in psychological measures of stress, such as a greater sense of “meaningfulness in life,” have also been associated with improvements in biochemical balance markers. But this “psycho-biochemical” effect appears to cut both ways, because individuals with “downward” financial mobility (such as job loss) tend to have higher indices of cortisol/cytokines, and those individuals with the highest financial stress (poverty) have been shown to have a striking six-year-shorter life expectancy, attributable to increased disease risk from excessive metabolic stress. In similar fashion, the risk of developing burnout, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has recently been shown to be approximately three times higher in subjects with elevated psychological stress and dysregulations across the Four Pillars.

Numerous forms of “stress management” exist, and many fine references are available on that topic. However, this book takes the view that although stress-management techniques have been around for decades, very few of those regimens have made a large impact on the health or well-being of the average person. This fact has nothing to do with the techniques’ being ineffective—they work if you can actually put them into practice. For many people, however, wedging another stress-management tool into their already busy lives does little more than just add further stress. I know that some stress-management gurus will disagree with me, but from a purely practical point of view (from my position as a nutritional biochemist and an exercise physiologist), most people can’t be bothered with traditional approaches to stress management. And many rarely take the time to exercise or eat the way they know they should—both of which could go a long way toward reducing the detrimental effects of stress on the body.

Giving up old unhealthy habits—such as grabbing a fast-food meal when you’re feeling stressed instead of sitting down to a nutritious dinner—is always a challenge. But besides the difficulties of changing behavior, I believe most people do not take advantage of stress busters, such as exercise or dietary supplements, simply because the idea that stress can seriously damage health has not really sunk in—including for many in the medical profession.

Almost everyone is now aware that smoking is bad for you, and laws have systematically reduced the number of places where cigarette smoking is allowed. I don’t think society has reached that critical mass of opinion about the impact of stress, though. In Chapter 1, I stated that I believe it is just as important to get your stress levels under control as it is to eat a healthy diet and get physical activity. Once you let that idea sink in—and once you’ve absorbed the information about how much damage stress can do to your heart, your brain, and your overall health—I believe you will naturally begin to adopt the behaviors that will help you balance your stress hormones.

To make it easier for you, I’ve outlined the best strategies for restoring balance across your personal Four Pillars of Health, and I’ve grouped them into several categories that I define as “Vigor Improvement Practices” (VIPs). You’ll find details on these practices in the last part of this book—Part III—which I designed for people asking “what to do” to build vigor. The best thing “to do” is to take small steps, and I’ve intentionally kept my recommendations simple so you can easily incorporate them into your lifestyle. You should also be encouraged by the fact that thousands of clients and participants in my programs have successfully used these practices and enjoyed noticeable benefits in relatively short periods of time—without undue hardship or inconvenience in their already busy and stressful lives. I’m confident the same results are available to you.

Stress Hormones, Depression, and the Loss of Vigor (Part 2)

Want to feel better than you’ve ever felt?

Here’s another excerpt from my 10th book, The Secret of Vigor – How to Overcome Burnout, Restore Biochemical Balance and Reclaim Your Natural Energy

Some of the most popular New Year’s resolutions every year are:
*Lose Weight
*Get in Shape
*Reduce Stress
*Get Healthier
*Win the Lottery

The Secret of Vigor can help you with 4 out of 5 of the most popular resolution goals, so I’ll be posting excerpts from the book for the next several weeks – so please stay tuned for each installment.

If you simply can’t wait, then you can certainly get a copy at http://amzn.to/1eju3wu or at your favorite library or bookstore.

Stress Hormones, Depression, and the Loss of Vigor (Part 2)
Remember, vigor is a measure not only of your physical health but also of your mental state and functioning. Because the overexposure or underexposure to cortisol in the brain can destroy a good mood and lead to depression, fatigue, and confusion, you can begin to see how an imbalance in stress hormones can negatively impact your vigor.

In some respects, you can think of certain aspects of stress-hormone balance in the same way that you might think about getting too little, enough, or too much exercise. Some is good, too little is bad, and too much is bad. Overtrained athletes (who are overstressed physically and mentally) often have low levels of cortisol during exercise (when they should be high), but high levels during rest (when they should be low). These out-of-sync cortisol levels indicate that the bodies of these athletes are still under stress and out of biochemical balance, perhaps from injury, infection, or inadequate recovery. These athletes also experience fatigue, weight gain, depressed mood, and poor performance.

Because of the close link between stress and depression, every major pharmaceutical company in the world is rushing to develop new drugs to modulate or restore biochemical balance. The current antidepressant drugs work primarily on serotonin in the brain, and some newer ones also increase norepinephrine levels, but none of them truly addresses biochemical balance in a holistic manner.

This means that only about half the people who try antidepressant drugs should expect to see any relief in their depression, yet these drugs still account for approximately $20 billion in sales every year. Think back to the discussion in Chapter 4 about the folly and danger associated with trying to address the multifaceted nature of inflammation with dangerous COX-2 inhibitor drugs, and you’ll have an appreciation for why antidepressant drugs are often the wrong “solution” for a multifaceted “problem,” such as stress-induced burnout and depression.

Among the drug companies that are furiously trying to come up with an answer to stressed-out people with disrupted biochemical balances are Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer, Sanofi-Aventis, Johnson & Johnson, Merck, and Novartis. Several of these companies already make antidepressant drugs that increase serotonin levels, including Pfizer (Zoloft), Eli Lilly (Prozac and Cymbalta), Glaxo (Paxil), and Wyeth (Effexor). But because these drugs are only effective about half the time, and because they now have to carry an FDA-mandated “black box” safety warning due to their extreme side effects, including an increased risk of suicide, there are many reasons to look for a better solution to the problem of stress-related depression.

A “black box” warning is a special warning that appears on the package insert for prescription drugs that may cause serious adverse effects, including severe risk of death. It gets its name from the bold black border that surrounds the text of the warning. A black box warning is the strongest warning that the FDA has and is only required for the most dangerous drugs.