Welcome to the fifth and final episode in this series covering 5 tips to age gracefully and optimize energy and body composition.
In this show, we will be talking about stress management and putting all the pieces from previous shows together.
You will learn about healthy sleep habits and why sleep is so important, as well as how to create a stress-free, sanctuary in your bedroom. You’ll also hear useful tips for managing stress and learn why your mattress temperature can actually change the way you sleep, and how being in a healthy relationship can contribute to stress management.
Brad reminds us of the points covered in the previous podcast on slowing aging. Clean diet and movement are the most important ones. [01:10]
Stress management is critical if all your other efforts at fitness are going to work. Avoid overly stressful workouts. [04:31]
Avoid stressful work habits at your job. You don’t need to engage in your screen first thing in the morning. [09:05]
Most people don’t give sleep the importance it deserves. Create a sanctuary from the stress that is your bedroom. [15:07]
The key to good sleep is a cool room temperature, cool mattress temperature, maintained the whole night instead of your body warming up the mattress temperature and then creating an overly warm environment. [18:52]
Another component of a good night’s sleep is the winding down rituals you have prior to bedtime. [20:52]
Rest, recovery, and downtime which means getting rid of your mobile device. [22:23]
A healthy relationship is a big part of your stress management. [24:34]
- Brad Kearns.com
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- Carnivore Score Food Ranking Chart
- Brad Kearns’s Morning Routine
- Brad’s First Simpler Morning Routine
- Dr. Jack Kruse podcast no. 1
- Dr. Jack Kruse podcast no. 2
- Eight Sleep.com
- The Essential Male and Female Relationship Assignment
- 90 Seconds to Live a Life You Love
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I’m author and athlete, Brad Kearns. Welcome to the B.rad podcast, where we explore ways to pursue peak performance with passion throughout life. Visit brad kearns.com for great resources on healthy eating, exercise, and lifestyle. And here we go with the show.
Literally what’s happening with a short nap, even if you don’t fall asleep, is you are refreshing the sodium potassium pumps that help the brain neurons fire. The least you can do is create a sanctuary from stress that is your bedroom. How do you know that you’re doing good job here? Uh, Dr. Rosenberg mentioned the word congruent, and you’re congruent when your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions match up.
Welcome to the fifth and final episode in the wonderful series of five tips to age gracefully and optimize energy and body composition. We’re gonna talk about stress management in this final show, putting all the pieces together after the great content that we covered with the logistics of diet and exercise.
So in part one, we talked about cleaning up your act, getting rid of the toxic nutrient deficient, processed modern foods that are dragging you down, ruining your energy, your metabolism. And once you clean up your diet, you can proceed to part two where we talked about pursuing a diet of maximum nutrient density as expressed by the carnivore scores food rankings chart. Please download that for firstname.lastname@example.org. Printed out, put it on your refrigerator. So you are making the best choices in every category of wholesome, natural nutrient dense foods, meat and fruit for a nickname, and learn more with the chart. But we are avoiding processed foods. We are eating wholesome, nutritious foods and striving for maximum cellular energy status. And then we go into part three, which covered the critical objective of increasing all forms of general everyday movement. I talked about my morning exercise routine.
I talked about the centerpiece objective of just finding more ways to walk in everyday life, obligatory walking opportunities, uh, importantly taking quick breaks from prolonged periods of stillness to just get up and move around instead of being stuck in front of a screen all day. Of course, we have the formal cardiovascular training sessions conducted at appropriate aerobic heart rate, comfortable heart rate, and then a variety of other complimentary movement practices such as formal yoga Pilate sessions, even foam rolling counts as movement, even going from standup desk to sit down desk. So that brought us to part four, which is to integrate brief intense high intensity exercise and resistance exercise. So you’re putting your muscles under resistance load regularly and preserving lean muscle mass throughout life as the number one way to cope with the disastrous decline into accelerated aging. That is so common today.
So we have to work those muscles, use it or lose it, as well as perform explosive activities such as sprinting and jumping, doing things that are very short in duration and asking for near all out effort. And those will send the appropriate hormonal and genetic signaling to keep you healthy, strong, energetic throughout life. You have to use it or lose it. And if you don’t put your muscles under resistance load, if you, uh, are doing plenty of low intensity exercise, but never challenging your body for a truly maximum effort, you are only getting a few slices of the pie that in total contributes to that long, healthy, happy, energetic life. And I know there’s a lot of fitness enthusiasts out there that are devotedly heading to the gym or using their home exercise equipment to pedal along for 45 minutes while they watch tv. Uh, but this critical additional component of just once in a while going for it and really challenging yourself.
And if you can’t do it in high impact manner, you go and, uh, pedal a bicycle and do some short sprints, that’s vastly better conditioning and fitness stimulation to just going slow all the time. Uh, but again, if you’re out there getting your cardio, you’re hitting objective number three. So that’s great. We’re just striving for optimal here and to cover all the bases.
So we have our regular movement, then we have our intensity, and then it brings us to stress management. And there are so many things we could talk about here and have done so many shows on things that could qualify as stress management. But let me focus the discussion on a few important things, especially as it relates to the previous tips. So when we’re talking about getting your cardio and your daily movement, and then you’re doing your resistance exercise and your sprinting. The big factor is to avoid overly stressful exercise patterns.
And there’s a small segment of the population, the small but devoted, the extreme fitness enthusiasts have a huge problem in this area because many people are out there well-meaning well-intentioned and enjoying the experience, but pushing their bodies too hard. I’m gonna largely blame it on the traditional fitness programming where you walk into the facility to participate in a group exercise session and the emphasis is on fun, energy, camaraderie, good music, getting a sweat, feeling like you accomplished something. And that’s all wonderful. That’s so much better than sitting on the couch. But if you start to take further steps down that path and get into the group training club that’s training for the local marathon or the the bicycling group that gets out there on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, or when you’re really a devotee of these group exercise classes and you’re going five mornings a week, or you’re signing up for the wonderful programming offered at CrossFit, but you’re heading there day after day and getting a little competitive juices flowing, it can very easily turn into something that is a net negative for your lifestyle and your longevity prospects because it is overly stressful.
And I talk about my experience as a professional triathlete, often where I dedicated those nine years of my life when I raced on the circuit, traveled all over the world on jet airplanes, trained really, really hard every day, and competed in, you know, the most, uh, intense and challenging circumstances overall. That experience accelerated the aging process in my body, and I’ve been trying to make up for it ever since with healthy lifestyle practices. So we have to be constantly aware of that cutoff point where your fitness endeavors now start to compromise, uh, your health, your longevity prospects, your enjoyment of life. There’s so much, uh, disturbing information, especially about the extreme endurance athletes who have been going for decades and decades. And now there are increased incidences of heart problems amongst the fittest members of the population. They have high coronary artery calcium scores indicating repeated scarring and damage to the delicate lining of the, uh, arteries in the heart.
We have an epidemic rate of joint replacement where people are getting new knees and new hips at a frequency that’s vastly increased from o only 10 years ago or 20 years ago. And again, the more this stuff becomes routine and commonplace, the more we’re going to settle in and believe form the belief that it’s routine and commonplace to, for example, develop a spare tire after you hit age 45 and it’s just gonna linger there for the rest of your life. And you’re gonna lose some shirt sizes or pants sizes because your muscles are going to atrophy. All this stuff is commonplace, but it’s not normal or necessary. It’s just a, uh, a function of adverse lifestyle practices. And so one of those adverse lifestyle practices is taking things too far and you can benefit so much if you’re in that category of extreme fitness enthusiasts from just backing off.
So if you take down your CrossFit participation to twice a week, and if you like the camaraderie at the fitness facility, then go there and, uh, volunteer and help out novices or just tone down the degree of difficulty by 50% for a, a couple few of your workouts per week. And then you’re gonna start to realize how good it feels to progress with your fitness without that constant interruption caused by blowing out your hormones getting muscle and joint injuries that put you on the sideline and all that, uh, stuff that I covered in the part three and part four where we’re talking about moving frequently at a slow pace and then conducting appropriate type of resistance workouts and sprint workouts.
And so avoiding overly stressful exercise, that brings us to the next one on the list of avoiding overly stressful work habits. And today, like no other time in the history of humanity, we have the ability to be constantly stimulating and challenging our brain with input, with distractions, uh, with opportunities to be more and more productive because now we have a mobile device. So we’re never away from our email inbox or from telephone contact, and we can problem solve work-related issues deep into the night and wake up the next morning and hit it hard again. And people get lured into this type of lifestyle because it is so competitive and there’s so many, uh, so much messaging, uh, challenging us and pushing us and luring us into the new technology and the new behavior patterns that’s going to contribute to the advancement of society. And all that’s wonderful. It’s better than, uh, sitting on a rock all day, right? But we have to strive for balance and we have to use extreme discipline and focus to develop the skills such as powering down at certain times.
And boy, I have my checkpoint for my afternoon nap that if I detect a slight decline in cognitive performance, I am slamming that laptop lid shut and I am taking a break. A 20 minute nap can have a tremendous restorative effect. Literally what’s happening with a short nap, even if you don’t fall asleep, is you are refreshing the sodium potassium pumps that help the brain neurons fire. And so when you complain of being fried after a tough, stressful day, that statement is literally true because when the sodium potassium pumps get depleted, they interfere with the healthy electrical signaling of the brain neurons. And so you actually have fried your brain neurons and you need a break. You need to close your eyes, get into a dark environment, put on some meditation, music, or even an app that’s taking you through a guided meditation and get away from the hyperconnectivity and the constant potential for stimulation and distraction.
So, building in a variety of strategies so that this happens easily for you is a very valuable suggestion. For example, when I talk about my morning exercise routine and my devoted habit of doing this first thing in the morning every single day, no matter what my streak is now heading up to six years without missing a single day. So I know that the first hour of my day every single day, I am not going to have a mobile device in hand to catch up on my exciting emails or otherwise be lured into anything except for a contribution to my physical fitness as well as my mental health. Cuz I’m out there in the fresh air the exposure to direct sunlight and setting my hormones, getting energized naturally, vastly better than even a cup of coffee. Because whenever I finish my morning exercise routine, I always feel better.
I always feel alert and energized. And so that is a built in way to prevent me from engaging with the screen too frequently and turning my brain into reactive mode first thing in the morning. It’s very difficult to recover from that. That’s a quote from the behavior psychologist, Nikole Benders-Hadi, and the research about how we reach for our mobile devices first thing in the morning, and then we get locked into this reactive brain mode where we are reacting to stimulus rather than being thoughtful, strategic and proactive in our thinking. And so if you wanna start your day with physical exercise, I highly recommend that. And if that’s not quite your thing, you can get up, uh, make yourself a cup of tea and get out a blank piece of paper and go over your intentions and your to-do list for the day. Maybe it’s your gratitude journal that you wanna write a few pages in, but I strongly recommend building in opportunities for physical exercise to counterbalance all the time that we engage with machines these days.
And that will help keep you away from overly stressful work habits. Because when we have to use willpower over and over and over again to keep us away from the temptation of the mobile device, what happens is that skill erodes over time. And there’s even research that it erodes over the course of the day, which is why morning is the best time to wire in new habits. That’s when you have a lot of focus, discipline, motivation, and willpower. And then as people punch away at it throughout the day, that’s when things can unravel in the evening. And you spend too long on social media scrolling, uh, you spend too long on looking for a show to watch because you just can’t make a big resilient decision and so on and so forth. So, get things started the right way at the start of the day.
And the other thing, I contend that my morning exercise habit is done as helped, uh, those skills of focused discipline, resilience and habit forming carry over into all other forms of stress, distraction, and temptation that I face throughout the day. So number one, avoid overly stressful exercise. Number two, avoid overly stressful work habits build in ways for you to succeed on that level. Another one that just came to mind is, hey, if you’re uh, uh, volunteered to be the assistant coach on your kid’s soccer team and you guys practice on Tuesday and Thursday at 4:30 PM guess who’s not going to be dragging and working too late those two nights of the week? So you have built in obligations and things that help balance your life. Same with social opportunities for the weekend hike or meeting Wednesday at noon at the park to take a lap around there and being accountable to someone else.
All those things are wonderful. And that brings us to the big one for stress management, which is sleep. And we have certainly, uh, mountains of content on this subject. Pretty much everyone has the knowledge and awareness of the importance of sleep, but again, we can often fall short with execution, and that can be by focusing on some of the most important attributes of good sleep habits. One is your sleeping environment. So your bedroom, you wanna make that a really special place that’s simple, austere, there’s no clutter, there’s no stress provoking visuals. There like a pile of unfinished paperwork where research shows that even looking at something can provoke a stress response in the body, such as an unfinished home improvement project. And you walk by the ceiling fan wiring and the new paddles that you’re supposed to change out because it’s in the corner of your bedroom walking by and looking at it will provoke a stress response.
So the least you can do <laugh> if you can’t get all your home improvement projects finished. Okay, we’re gonna work on that next month, but the least you can do is create a sanctuary from stress that is your bedroom. The other attributes are you want it to be besides austere. Cool, the potential for total darkness or maximum amount of darkness as you can muster. That means getting rid of all these annoying little LED lights that are often accompanied with electric devices. So the little green light that shows the power on, or especially annoying when you’re in a hotel room and the the sprinkler thing on the ceiling has a green light to show that it’s working. I usually take black electrical tape and try to tape up all these annoying things where I put the digital clock. I just put it face down onto the table so it doesn’t have to shine into the environment.
I did an entire show talking about the circadian rhythm inspired by the content on Dr. Jack Kruse’s website where he talked about what’s going on at every hour of the day in terms of your hormones, in terms of the best time to exercise, especially the overnight sleep period and how important that is for the release of human growth hormone and the repair and restoration processes that are so delicate and sensitive to light that they can be easily interrupted. There’s research that just flipping on a bright light switch to visit the bathroom in the middle of the night will suppress melatonin, which we want to have flowing through our bloodstream while we’re sleeping. So if you do have to get up in the middle of the night or have any sort of, um, concerns about emergencies or popping up, up to attend to children or aging dogs, get a red flashlight on Amazon.
Have that by your bedside. Do not reach for your phone and check what time it is, cuz again, that can provoke a stress response. Whether you thought it was earlier in the night or it’s closer to wake up time, we just want to get through the night in a peaceful manner. The temperature is super important too. Recommended sleeping temperature is 60 to 68 degrees, and then of course you want that mattress to remain cool all night. That’s why it’s, uh, so nice to have these wonderful technologies. I’m testing out an eight sleep mattress right now. It’s super awesome because when you get into that cold mattress, it facilitates falling asleep because the body actually has to drop a temperature or two in degrees in order to fall asleep. So you want your body temperature to drop, just like when we went into the cave in the old times, lower body temperature facilitates good sleep, but at the same time, we don’t want our skin temperature to get too cold because that will wake us up and make us uncomfortable.
So the key to good sleep is cool room temperature, cool mattress temperature, maintained the whole night instead of your body warming up the mattress temperature and then creating an overly warm environment. So we want cool room, cool mattress temperature, and then warm enough, sufficiently warm skin temperature. How do you get that? You get it from covers and you get it from your chosen pajama slash cover ratio. And of course that’s gonna change over the course of the year, but that is the winning ticket and you probably already figured that out. It feels good to get under the warm covers, but not into too warm of a bed where you’re gonna have difficulty falling asleep. So, check out eight sleep.com, see the offerings they have and learn more about the technology to keep your, keep your mattress cool as well as the room temperature.
I should also mention that we want quiet. And so if you have, uh, outside noises that can potentially disrupt your sleep, you can use any form of white noise to kind of block that out. I love using my, uh, HEPA filter and air purifier, and I turn that on high at nighttime. So that is the background noise. And that will drown out any potential abrupt noise like, uh, dog barking or a siren or whatever. The abrupt noises are the ones that are gonna disturb our sleep. But if you have steady what they call white noise, some people call it pink noise, there’s different definitions, but it’s any steady noise that is emitted by a fan or a machine or your smartphone, uh, you can get a nice app. I use this for napping during the daytime. I just turn on the raindrops. And boy, it is like a trigger for me to fall asleep when it’s time to take a short nap. And it also prevents me from the exposure to, uh, the many much greater potential for noise while I’m trying to nap versus at nighttime when things generally quiet down for most people, hopefully. And so that is the sleep environment.
And then the other component of a good night’s sleep is to engage in wind down evening rituals. As you’re approaching the time to go to sleep, you wanna do things that are mellow. You wanna darken your home environment as much as possible and progressively more so as you approach the hour to go to sleep. The Great Books by Ariana Huffington Thrive and the Sleep Revolution, those are two of her books. She talks a lot about the importance of sleep and sleep rituals and talking about how certain clothes, certain behaviors like lighting a candle and going into the bathtub tell your brain that it’s okay to come down off high stress mode that you were in the whole day because now what the bathtub represents and the candles and the quiet reading in bed, it represents the approaching of time to fall asleep and cycle optimally through all phases of sleep.
It’s not as easy, for example, to slam out a few shows in your Netflix queue and then turn off the remote control and immediately go to bed and try to retire. Your brain does not work as efficiently. It needs those evening wind down rituals. One of my favorite ones is to go outdoors and get some fresh air, even if it’s cold. Again, we’re trying to drop the body temperature a little bit in preparation for sleep. So leash up your dog and go for a five minute walk out in the dark and the cold. Yeah, it’s okay. You’ll survive, I promise. And then go back in. And then that’s gonna be your final kick to, uh, retire to the bedroom, take the slippers off, get under the covers, and go for it. Okay, so, uh, sleep rituals and sleep environment and going on the heels of that.
On the next bullet point, I will call this rest, recovery and downtime. And as I mentioned, with especially the advent of the mobile device, we have the opportunity now to get rid of any downtime and remain productive and stimulated from every waking hour. And I do mean every waking hour as I’ve talked about when I talk about my morning exercise routine. The recent research from Adweek survey suggests that 84% of Americans reach for their mobile device as their first act upon awakening and I would venture to guess that if we had more research that most people are handling that mobile device as their last act before going to sleep and during the rest of those waking hours raise your hand if you’re listening and you’re someone who likes to sit on your front porch in the rocking chair and chat casually and watch the world go by just like your parents, grandparents, and great grandparents did for generations.
Yeah, we’ve kind of done away with that because now we have the amazing entertainment options with, uh, streaming content and whatnot. And so, um, not to, you know, criticize modern life out of hand because I too love to engage in the stimulation and entertainment options and customize entertainment, entertainment options that we get from streaming content. Uh, but the idea here is that we do require some downtime for the brain and we require some recovery time from our crazy daily schedule. Athletes know this, but I think all of us might wanna take a step back and realize that maybe there are seasons of the year or times of the week. That’s why we invented weekends where we have to go with that up and flow. And so we’re gonna go, go, go for however long and then we’re gonna take vacations, we’re gonna take weekends, and we’re gonna take off seasons from whatever we’re usually grinding at day after day after day.
Okay. And that brings us to the last item on the list. Why don’t I throw in there relationship skills and relationship health, because it is really a make or break attribute of stress management, of happiness, health longevity research reference, was it by John Gray during our shows, or maybe it was, uh, John and Julie Gottman, that a healthy marriage will add seven years of life expectancy and a dysfunctional marriage will take off a similar amount. So in terms of the pendulum swinging, there’s nothing comparative. It’s more of a risk factor than smoking. It’s a more of a winning factor than exercise. Seven years is a ridiculous stat when you think about, uh, in comparison, like the difference between eating healthy and eating a junk food diet is only adding a few years to your life. Of course, it’s adding to the quality of life, which is the main reason that you wanna optimize your health practices.
But, uh, again, we’re looking at a make or break situation when it comes to healthy relationship skills and I had a lot of content about that. I love my shows with John Gray, those life, life-changing shows, and especially my, uh, summary episode, if I’m gonna point you to one right now, it was titled The Essential Male and Female Relationship Assignments. So you just have your marching orders in order to be a good partner and things that you need to honor and be aware of. And so this awareness of our emotions, awareness of our programming. Wendy Walsh had some great content about this when she was talking about understanding your attachment style that you developed over the course of your life in your younger years and how that plays out and how we repeat patterns in modern day relationships. We’re trying to overcome some, uh, uh, adverse programming from long ago.
And, uh, I just heard a great show with Dr. Joan Rosenberg, author of a book called 90 Seconds to Live a Life You Love. And she said that once you make sense of your past, especially your past traumas and difficulties, once, once you make sense of it all, it loses. They they lose their power, they lose their power to, to ruin your life in present day. And then when they lose their power, then you are easily able to forgive yourself and start forming a new identity and aspirational identity of who you would like to become. And how do you do that? You start looking around and seeing positive attributes that you appreciate in others and wish you could be like that, wish you could maintain that sense of being cool, common collected like John Gray urges as the essential male assignment in relationship. And so maybe you have a role model for that or a dream of that, and you understand why you’re so why you have such a quick trigger because of whatever wounds and scars that you’re carrying with you.
So you wanna get to understanding and then you get to progress forward with that understanding. And how do you know that you’re doing good job here? Dr. Rosenberg mentioned the word congruent and you’re congruent when your thoughts, feelings, words, and actions match up. Pretty interesting concept. It hit home for me cuz I realized sometimes, uh, maybe I’m able to control my emotions when I encounter a jerk on the street or a difficult, interaction with someone in a, um, a personal setting or a business setting. I’m able to remain really calm, cool and collected on the phone call or in person when shit’s getting real. But inside I’m grinding my teeth and feeling like I’m gonna scream. And so it’s better than actually screaming and, uh, you know, losing control of your emotions in real time. Uh, but I feel like the ideal progression from there is to also be able to control your internal triggers so you don’t have such a stressful day by trying to have to control your emotions every time you get triggered left, right and upside down because you’re carrying a lot, carrying around a lot of flawed programming.
Get it? So in in that example, my thoughts, my feelings, my words and my actions all match up. And she talks about how it’s okay to dispense feedback. So if you’re angry the recommendation of expressing yourself is really important to honor, uh, however it’s possible and it’s essential to dispense all feedback in a positive, kind and well-intentioned manner. Ooh, how’s that for cramming a ton of relationship insights into a couple minutes? Yeah, lot to think about there. And once you start to improve your skills, you can use them under pressure. And when you do that a few times, then you build new neural circuitry to become that person that you wish you could become, right? So you have to practice, you have to perform under pressure, and then you build more confidence and more comfort that you do have the possibility of living a different life than the life that sometimes frustrates you and annoys you.
So there you go. That is number five on the list of stress management tools of honing your relationship skills and your emotional self-sufficiency. So going backward from there was rest, recovery and downtime. Then we talked about sleep, your sleep environment, and your evening habits. We talked about avoiding overly stressful work habits, getting the skill of powering down and building in other commitments and behaviors and habits that prevent you from overworking. And then back up to the top where we talked about avoiding overly stressful exercise. Too much of a good thing is definitely a big time trouble there. And that is a five part show. Number one, clean up your act, ditch the junk food. Number two, emphasize nutrient dense meals. Number three, find ways to move more frequently in everyday life. Number four, integrate brief high intensity exercise. And number five, work on your stress management. Thank you so much for listening to the five Part Package Tips to age gracefully and optimize energy and body composition through life. Love to know your thoughts and feelings about how some of this stuff has worked for you. Please email email@example.com. Thank you so much.
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