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7 Effective Habits to Incorporate into Your Daily Routine | Improving Your Performance during a Difficult Time

April 15, 2020 Susie Kelleher

By now, many of us have come to accept a new kind of normal in our working and living environment.

Because we are habitual beings, this has required much of our willpower reserves. Add to this increased stress levels and we may find ourselves struggling to show up as the best version of ourselves—at work and home. For many, these are now one and the same.

Over the years I have sought coaching from different experts around performance, health, and well-being, and I have learned they are inextricably intertwined. To reach the highest levels of performance in my work and positively impact others, I must have strategies—really, habits—to keep me at my best.

Much of the below has simply become part of a routine, and as we all strive to meet the challenges posed by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, I have found myself relying on it more than ever before.

By incorporating these seven habits into your daily routine, you can keep performing at your best, even as you deal with increased expectations and high stress:

1. Start a Gratitude Journal – Spend five minutes each day writing what you are grateful for and adopt an “attitude of gratitude.” Experts have said that it immediately increases dopamine. This moment of reflection and perspective helps us approach problems through a positive lens of “What’s Possible,” allowing us to identify opportunities, instead of dwelling in negativity.

2. Take Intermittent Recovery Breaks – Every 90 minutes, you must implement a 2- to 5-minute break. Jim Loehr and the Human Performance Institute taught me the importance of oscillation between stress and recovery. The higher your stress levels, the greater the need for recovery. While I found this challenging in the beginning, the impact this practice has on your ability to return to work more engaged and higher performing is truly impressive. Remember: Don’t apologize for recovery. It is a strategic and critical element on the road to high performance. Consider these ideas for recovery breaks, or create your own idea based on your environment, personality, and interests:

  • Move your body – stretch, take the stairs, do “toe raises”
  • Zoom with a friend who makes you smile
  • Listen to a favorite song and dance (the benefit of a home office!)
  • Look out at nature
  • Meditate
  • Read a favorite blog

3. Support Your Immune System – Research shows our gut biome influences our physical and mental health. The stomach, often referred to as the “second brain,” produces 90% of our serotonin and 50% of our dopamine. This impacts our ability to perform at our best. Here’s how I’ve applied this in my own life: After struggling for years to find answers to joint pain and fatigue, I found an expert who I have relied on since, to help me stay well by managing stress and diet. Don’t make the mistake of underestimating how diet and stress management affect mental health, not just physical health. In times of crisis and uncertainty, this awareness of our overall health becomes even more critical.

4. Look to a Coach for New Perspectives and Inspiration – I do a lot of coaching in my work, but I also invest in a coach for myself. The best athletes in the world have coaches, even when the game doesn’t change. The game has changed for many of us right now. Never has it been more important to have a coach to help us accelerate (or at least maintain!) our performance levels.

5. Schedule Fun—and Stick to It! – Remember to take time to do something you truly love to do! Make time for it—and don’t let anyone take that time away.

6. Give Back – Whether it is your time, money, expertise, or compassion, giving to others activates our “feel good” hormone system and renews our sense of what really matters. During times of change and transition, gaining a new perspective can help us navigate our world with a big-picture view and more understanding.

7. Don’t Forget the Importance of Physical Movement – Humans have gone from a scarcity of food and abundant movement to abundant food and scarcity of movement. Here’s the thing: Humans were designed to move, and movement might be the most important thing we do to achieve ideal performance state. As many of us continue to work remotely and shelter in place, it can be a challenge to move. Gyms are closed, taking walks is difficult in cities, and exercising in small spaces isn’t easy. During times like these, I draw inspiration from my grandmother: She lived to a very healthy 109. She never owned a car—choosing to walk everywhere. I am certain it was her high-movement lifestyle that kept her so healthy and energetic. While it might require a bit more creativity to move in today’s environment, there are options. To perform at your best, turn to live virtual yoga and tai chi to help you get the movement your body craves and requires.

As we all work harder than ever to rise to the challenges posed by an unprecedented and ongoing public health and economic emergency, we must take the time to care for ourselves.

As leaders, it is our responsibility to reach our true and full potential to positively impact those around us, including our coworkers and teams, and our families and friends.

Over the years, I have learned that I need the help, expertise, and guidance of others to accomplish this. Remember, you can ask for help when you need it—and you should offer help whenever you can. With these habits, you will be able to live fully and healthfully as we all adjust to this “new normal.”

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