Had a life-changing experience last Thursday. I had my blood pressure checked for the first time in five years. Always thought I was fit and healthy. I exercise, don’t smoke, drink only at EFL conferences and watch what I eat.
But then I keep forgetting my profession, for all that’s great about it, is usually in the top 5 of the world’s most stressful jobs. More on why in a later post.
When the nurse read my blood pressure reading and asked me what medication I was on I was a little surprised. “None,” I said. She told me my BP was 175/104. Those numbers meant little to me but I wanted to know more after another nurse, a nutritionist and a doctor told me the figures were seriously high. The doc said he’d fast-track me to see a specialist cardiologist.
The first Internet result I looked at on the search “blood pressure 175/104” said: “You shouldn’t be in front of the computer reading this; you should be at the ER.”
I thought about those numbers and how my job, websites and everything related might influence them. I suddenly realized there were many stressful aspects to my life. Work, maintaining 8 websites and wanting to make 18 more, the worry of how much adblocker add-ons and software (another future post) are damaging the future of my sites (and the free web), making conference presentations and workshops, getting blog posts done “on time” etc. etc. etc – things most of you reading this will readily identify with.
I always thought I was indestructible. Being told you have high blood pressure and what the dangers are shattered that illusion.
I spent the weekend having a serious think and immediately changed my life.
Below are some things I hope you think about
Manage to get lots. Go to bed earlier. Wake up later. For years I’ve been getting up way too early (4.45) and going to bed too late. I’ve always thought napping was a waste of time (silly me).
It’s vital to good health. I exercise a lot. Wonder what my bp figures would be without it. Join a gym, park as far away from school as possible, walk and tell your colleague upstairs instead of mailing him/her. Get out of that chair in front of that computer.
I’ve immediately cut down on salt, started eating walnuts every day and have vowed to say farewell to Ronald and his unhealthy fodder. Packed the supermarket trolley with fruit from all over the world, a kilo of walnuts and oily fish. I do like a nice walnut
Drink less. I had to cough out the number 15 when the nurse asked me how many cups a day I drank. She stared at me. I immediately cut down to two a day and will stop altogether in a few weeks. The nurse said I shouldn’t go from 15 to zero overnight. Day 3 on two cups a day. Don’t miss it. I think I’m sleeping better, but early days.
I’ve spent my career saying yes to whatever came along – new courses, promotions, projects, workshops… Naturally, I’ve learnt loads and done lots. I’ve come to the conclusion it’s OK to say no. It gives you more time to spend making other things even better. Saying no can greatly and instantly relieve stress.
Play more with your students in class. Aim for fun. Whatever the lesson content, it can and should be done with fun. Enjoying your classes more will reduce stress.
Don’t keep things inside you. If you’re fed up about something, tell someone. A problem shared is a problem halved. There was a laughter club at my old college. I think a rant club might be interesting.
Get out more
All work and no play makes Jack (and Jill) a dull boy (and girl). Nuff said. Get away from that computer.
Have check-ups more regularly. Especially if you’re the more experienced and wiser side of 39.
Share the love
Spend longer with the ones you love. Hug them more and longer.