Coming to New York in 2001, I realized that the city had(has) a lot of energy. So much energy that I found these things out:
1.) You’ll lose an hour off your regular sleep right off the bat
2.) You’ll find a desperate craving to drink everything from coffee to clamato juice constantly, sometimes simultaneously
3.) You will have that “thing” or “things” which will ground you through the stress.
That “thing” is anything from exercise, drinking , sex, shopping, eating, smoking, video games, watching movies, gambling, artwork, writing, reading the Economist, etc. The list goes on and on, but what all these activities have in common is that they don’t have ANYTHING to do with the stress in your life, and they’re all relaxing or at least engaging in a different way.
Obviously some of these activities are better for you than others. I have a theory that you, and your body, don’t really care if it smokes or if it joins an indoor soccer league to relieve stress. Smoking is definitely easier and the reward is quicker, so sometimes that’s a more obvious choice. But at the end of the day, your body is just looking to relieve stress. Regardless if it’s vices or virtues: your body will gravitate to whatever it thinks will help take for you to get from A to B.
On my personal journey, I realize that if I’m going to make it for the long-haul, I need to replace my personal vices with activities that get the stress-relief portion of my day done, and will give me the energy to endure 12-hour days long-term. So for the past 3 months I chose exercise. I work out 4-5 days a week and recently took up biking to the office (now that the weather permits…) I take a kickboxing class once a week. This summer I’m looking at doing gymnastics with my brother and (perhaps) some Ultimate Frisbee. I gained 25 pounds since starting this company in 2009, and I’ve decided to lose all that weight. Right now I’m down 9 pounds in 3 months. Which is progress, I’ll take that. Plus, it’s great with the stress.
Everyone already has their “thing” for stress relief. I’m concerned that a lot of people aren’t aware of their “thing” and so instead of choosing their solution, people falls into the activities that may not be ideal in the long-run. Diabetes and unhealthy diets plague both sides of my family. The primary reason is that a good portion of my family deals with stress via over-eating and drinking.
If I had one thing to encourage people: make a list of the things that are stress-reliefs and start assessing which ones you want to focus on and which ones you want to de-emphasize. Personally, I found that you can replace on activity for the other quickly, and realize you didn’t really miss the previous activity.