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Starting small to build momentum

TIGNUM Thoughts

September 7th, 2022

Insights from the author

By Angela Walker

Recently, I was coaching a client, and she shared a story that rang true for many of our clients. She said, “I feel like I have no energy, and my brain is foggy. I know that my food choices are a huge part of the problem, but to be honest, I am so overwhelmed and exhausted that I don’t even care. I don’t have the energy to change my diet.” Does this sound familiar?

She looked at me with surprised skepticism as I told her to just focus on one meal and not worry about all the other food choices. While she agreed that it was much more possible and realistic to change one meal, she was hesitant and curious if it would be enough to make an impact. The truth is that sometimes starting slow and building momentum is exactly the right approach, especially if you feel overwhelmed and fatigued. Let me explain how and why that is.

One small step can get you on the right path

We adjusted what she would eat for breakfast to ensure she got the proper amounts of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats so she'd be fueled and energized for her morning. She also decided on two easy breakfast options she could alternate day to day. These recipes were simple to prepare and helped remove decision-making and time spent pondering what to eat each morning, which freed up some cognitive energy for other things. After a few days, she began to feel more sustained and consistent energy and better cognitive focus throughout the morning and early afternoon. This gave her a sense of achievement and affirmed that she was doing something right with nutrition.

While small steps can appear “small,” they always give you a sense of achievement. Combined with the self-talk of “you’re on the right path,” this triggers the release of dopamine, the neuromodulator related to motivation, pursuit, drive, and focus. Dopamine helps to buffer adrenaline – meaning it helps to build your resilience to stress while motivating you.

When you are overwhelmed with fatigue and surrounded by uncertainty, focusing on what’s in your control, however “small” it may appear, is a powerful and impactful tool. Those small actions can typically be done quickly, and you regain a sense of control, reset your brain and physiology, and set yourself up for success.

Build momentum with these quick, easy actions

To help you start small, try one of the following strategies:

  • Get 15 minutes of sunlight within 2 hours of waking up. This helps stimulate the neuromodulators and hormones related to energy and helps to set your circadian rhythm and improve your sleep quality.
  • Practice "habit stacking" during that 15 minutes of sunlight. Try reviewing your ToBeVision, using mental visualization to prepare for your first event, or setting your intentions as an energy multiplier for the day.
  • Take a 10-minute power nap to help you recharge in the middle of the day. Studies have shown an increase in energy, resilience, and productivity by up to 35% and an increase in brain performance by up to 50%.
  • A 15-minute work-to-home transition can help you wrap up your workday and re-enter your home fully present. Reflect on what went well that day, plan your first 2-3 tasks for the next day, and then set clear intentions for who you want to be when you walk in the door at home.
  • Take 12 minutes in the morning to do Daily Prep. Morning movement can significantly improve your mobility, stability, and balance. This can reduce pain, improve efficiency, create more energy, and improve brain function.
  • Design a 20-minute wind-down routine at the end of the day to tell your brain and body that it's time to shift into sleep. Reflecting on the day's success, journaling, a warm shower, breathing exercises such as 4-7-8, or chamomile tea are all helpful components of a wind-down routine.

As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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