7 Tips for Good Health

With my wife, Luana, in her final year’s certification toward graduating as a Holistic Nutritionist at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition, I can also say I have learned a few things along the way.

Many of these tips I have discovered on my own. I knew they were good for me, so I did them. I found them during a period of trial-and-error. But what she taught me was why they were good for me—the effects on the body, the longevity gained, and the big rewards earned, in terms of positive mindset.

I can sit here all day giving her credit for many other things, but then where will that leave me? I will have not made any headway toward what I wanted to talk about today. And that would be a bad thing.

So, here we go. These are my tips for enjoying a life brimful and running over with good health.

1. Sleep as Much as You Can

I have written about this so many times that I think some of you may actually find it boring. That may prove beneficial, because then it would mean you would be ready to apply this energy-boosting tip.

Sleep as much as you can. There is no short-changing sleep.

For me, sleep boosts my energy levels, enhances my focus, and increases my creativity.

7 Tips for Good HealthI know that if I cheat on my sleep, my body will wreak havoc on my mind. My lack of sleep causes me to be forgetful, induces irritation, and swells my likelihood for bemoaning my life.

Nobody likes me when I complain.

Therefore, I sleep as much as I can. I make it a routine, and I am better for it.

2. Drink Loads of Water

What can be more important than to stay hydrated? I drink half my weight in ounces every day. My skin thanks me for it, my digestive system celebrates, and everything in my body works as it should. I do not think I need to be specific with that last point.

Drinking the wet stuff is a great choice for watering the tubes, but remember that fruits and vegetables are high in water content, too. Fresh cucumbers, watermelon, strawberries and celery make for great choices when you are in the mood for something else to quench your thirst.

The other big benefit to keeping hydrated is it may help prevent long-term muscle and joint damage. Add to that list dry skin, headaches, constipation, minimal urination, sunken eyes, and muscle cramps.

In other words, drink loads of water throughout the day, and stay healthy.

3. Eat Good Foods

Good food starts with a deep fryer, thick sauces, and sugars. Wait a minute, that is not right.

Let me try this again.

Good food starts with fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts and fish. If you are familiar with the Mediterranean diet, then you will know olive oil is your friend. Foods rich in good fat may aid in maintaining cholesterol levels to where they should be.

7 Tips for Good HealthI noticed that when I eat a meal heavy on the carbs and low on the veggies, I feel bloated, not able to move, and extremely tired. But when I eat a meal made up of whole grain rice, salmon and steamed broccoli, I feel great.

It may have to do with the enzymes secreted in the gut. I have only so much processing power before my stomach says, “Hold on a second, you want me to work twice as hard to get you on your feet? Well, that is not happening, buddy.”

Lesson learned.

What my family and I also try doing is to always shop local. All our fruits and vegetables are from nearby farms, organic, and ready to serve. Then again, we live in farm country, so it is easier for us to buy quality produce than for those living in the big city.

Nonetheless, the point being, a vibrant life is a life given to food filled with ample vitamins and nutrients.

4. Get That Heart Pumping

I walk everywhere I go. I do take the car, yet it is not my main method of transportation. My feet keep me strong. I have had people comment that my calves are Olympic standard, whatever that means. I suppose the muscles I have there bulge a bit.

Every day I try to do something different to boost my heart rate. And really, it can be anything from walking to running on a treadmill. I even have a heart rate measuring app on my phone that shows me how I am doing in comparison to folks living in the mountains in Italy where my parents were born.

When I am fit, I can accomplish anything. Work is easier, talking with people is not a weight, and completing daily chores is manageable.

And let me not forget about the regular trips to the dentist. Keeping your teeth in tip-top shape is good for your heart and your health. Having no cavities means eating well without the burden of worrying about infections that may spread throughout the body affecting other organs. You do not want to have your heart failing because you did not take care of your teeth. That is a big no-no.

Do you want to live a life bursting with health? Begin a program that will exercise that beating organ in the center of your being. Your body will thank you for it.

5. Practice Proper Hygiene

I cannot tell you how it feels to meet someone decked out in formal attire only to sense a brutal odor contaminating my immediate vicinity. Now, I understand skipping a shower or two, but to look good and smell bad is another story.

We live in an age that no one dressed in a tux should stink. I am being truthful when I say this.

Garlic and onions is good. A toothbrush and mouthwash is better.

7 Tips for Good HealthI am paranoid with my hygiene. I wash and shave every single morning. I may miss a shower on the weekend, but when I am with family, it is not a big deal. A bar of soap should be everyone’s friend for life.

Not only that, but a shower is an amazing thing. I can be so tired, yet, once I take a shower, I am ready to conquer anything that comes my way.

Besides, looking after yourself prompts others to look after themselves.

It is a rule. I made it up just now. It works.

In all seriousness, when you feel good about yourself, you tend to feel good about life.

6. Take a Vacation

Every year, Luana and I sit down to decide where we would like to go for our annual family vacation. Sometimes, our vacation consists of a road trip with the kids, and other times we choose to spend several weekends away from it all.

A vacation is a great way to reset. It allows for whatever problems that exist to take a backseat in order for us to reconnect with our lives.

One of my favorite vacations is when I float in a pool and watch the clouds overhead form shapes of animals. I will drift back and forth from one end to the other, day dreaming those animals to life.

A change of scenery also provides for wonderful experiences that under normal circumstances I would have otherwise missed.

But taking a vacation does not have to be an annual event. Every week I take a day to step away from the regular chores of life to read God’s word and relax with the family. It is on this day that I can certainly say that my appreciation for music far exceeds that of all other days during the week.

A happy mind is a healthy body.

7. Meditate on Life’s Journey

Thinking deeply about something requires practice. What better way to practice than to apply this technique as part of a daily routine.

Meditation, when done correctly, will help maintain a positive frame of mind.

It does take a bit of effort, though. You will need a quiet time so that you can think without distractions.

How it applies to me is I take a moment to think about my life from all angles. If I find something in particular I need to resolve, I will sit in a comfortable chair and think through the situation to see if I can come up with an answer.

Another use of meditation for me is to ponder on life’s little mysteries. I like thinking about God and about how I can apply his perspective in my life.

For some, it may not be that easy to find a place where there are no interruptions.

In that case, take a walk.

A simple brisk lap around the block clears the mind of the clutter that has accumulated throughout the day, leaving you refreshed and invigorated to meditate on the important issues in your life.

With these thoughts in mind, use meditation as a key weapon in your arsenal toward better health.

This article is for information purposes only and not for medical advice.  Please see your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

The Cost of Change

I had a good week last week. When I think back at everything that has happened, I wonder how I did it. I have my neck problem that appears occasionally, but I have been able to manage it. I am meeting new people, and my family life has never been better.

With springs comes change

With spring comes change

As for the new church I have been attending, I can truly say I am enjoying it. The organization is not the cult group that I was a part of twenty years ago; therefore, I am thankful knowing I can be myself without worrying that I am breaking some stringent directive. Given many may describe it as an evangelical church; the messages have a general theme aimed toward changing the heart.

My writing has also gone through a change, which is really a reflection of what has been happening inside me lately. No longer do I have the root of bitterness that has held me captive for all these years, inspiring me to write horror. Now I wake up in the mornings with God on my mind and with thoughts of how I could glorify and praise him. The stories I am writing deal with people who overcome spiritual and physical challenges at the cost of moral obligation.

All these changes did come with a price.

I no longer post articles three times a week. My focus has shifted toward God first, family second, and friends third. And my book Resilience, which I had written over the winter, currently does not have a publication date.

Regardless of these things, I am happy.

For years, I suffered insomnia, averaging two hours of sleep a night. Now, not a night goes by that I do not have a solid six to seven hours. It reminds me of the other day when I was watching Saving Private Ryan. In one of the scenes, the sniper character was able to sleep through anything. He was God-fearing, and he recited scripture whenever he delivered a bullet to an enemy. One of the other soldiers wondered how he could sleep through the night, given all the bombs going off around them and the number of people he had killed. Another soldier replied that the man had a clear conscience.

When I think about it, I suppose I, too, go to bed with a clear conscience.

The other thing I have done is to reconcile with almost all those who have considered me their enemy. I found it surprising that everyone I offered my hand to in renewed friendship embraced me with open arms. Of course, I had to humble myself before them with apologies and sacrifices, but overall, almost all responded positively to me wanting to put the past behind. This experience has prompted me to write a long bible study on forgiveness, of which, one of these days, I will publish here. For the time being, however, I cannot say it is ready, as I have yet to write a conclusion.

Is there anything else I can say about the price I paid?

All things considered, the recent changes in my life have introduced me to new things that I do not think I could have experienced had I not found God again. Just knowing I am free from the burden of having done wrong has brought a new hope I will surely appreciate no matter what life throws at me in the coming months.

So, yes, with my whole heart I can say I had a good week.

Keeping on Track

During this time of year, I take some time out of my busy schedule to assess where I am and where I want to go. This assessment encompasses not only my personal life but also my writing life. Part of this exercise includes me looking at my life as a five-year plan, and in some cases, a ten-year plan. I began doing this a few years ago when I needed structure to my life—something I severely lacked before I started writing.

Create and keep a schedule

Create and keep a schedule

I can’t say what I do is easy, but it does yield fruit. I’m disciplined now and more attuned to what I believe my life mission is in the grand scheme of things. I’m not saying this to make it seem as if I have everything figured out. On the contrary, if I have anything figured out, it’s my name and where I was born—and maybe where I go when I die. Other than those little things, I’m at the mercy of the wind.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing all this is that I’d like to share with you three key things I do to keep on track for the year. Don’t expect miracles if you’re going to implement any of this stuff in your life. I can tell you it is not as easy as I make it out to be. But, it is worth the try, if you’re in the mood to make a change for a more goal-centered life.

Schedule downtime—That’s an odd way to think about getting things done. Isn’t scheduling downtime the exact opposite of getting things done? Well, not really. What you want to do is prevent burnout. I’ve been there when all I could think about was what I wanted to do, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. I read somewhere that the body functions on a time cycle, and if the body doesn’t get the rest it needs, it will rebel by throwing itself in bed. That happened to me. There was a time I became ill with a flu or fever every single year since I was a kid. Nowadays, that doesn’t happen. I take one full day off from being online, writing and chores to be with the family. It’s a full day of familial bonding that has since kept me healthy. The downtime also stimulates my creative juices, clearing my mind and readying the week for my reappearance. By the time my day off is over, I’m set to tackle anything thrown at me.

Work hard—Given I’m a proponent for taking a day off every week, the other side of the coin is making up the time by working hard during the other six days of the week. Working hard doesn’t mean sweating hard, though. It means doing more with the finite time you have available. If that means finding alternate ways to produce more than you are capable of, then it means you’re working not just harder, but smarter. The ultimate goal is to get the things you would have had done in seven days with six days instead. Tricky, but doable. In the context of writing, I schedule everything. My novel writing is part of my schedule as is my site writing. Responding to comments on my site, Twitter and Facebook is in there, too. At the end of the week, all that hard work will have paid off once I look at my accomplishments and realize just how much I produced.

Put it all down on paper—An interesting thing happens when you write things down. You remember them. I think there must be some sort of relational action thing going on in the brain when I write things down. I seem to remember those things and I can remember what they look like written on paper. The idea is a strange one, but I will have to say this really works. Do you really want to accomplish your goals? Write them all down on paper. Years ago, I had the idea in my mind of what I wanted to do—write a trilogy—then went ahead and wrote the titles down on paper. Suddenly, seeing the titles there made them more real. I hadn’t written any of them, but they were real to me. I did the same thing with my other parts of my life. If I wanted a new car, I’d write it on paper then I knew there was no turning back from achieving my goal. Again, write everything you want down on paper. It does make a difference.

Last thing on my mind is this: When a trial hits, you hit right back. Don’t surrender. Stay true to the course. There is nothing in this world that ought to prevent you from achieving your goals. To use the cliché: Live the dream. No one else can do it for you.

Get the Ranger Martin trilogy now!

What goals do you want to write down that would make it more real for you to achieve success?

Do Zombies Poop?

When I write about something, I try to find an angle to the story. Although I may have an idea, and it may be a good idea, I won’t write about it until I discover the hook. When it comes to zombies, as much as I enjoy the genre, the hook may not be so obvious. The reason for this stems from the fact that the genre has a number of mysteries I have yet to answer. I’m sure someone out there has the answer, but I don’t.

Do Zombies Poop?

Do Zombies Poop?

Today’s Monday Mayhem feature will concentrate on describing what three of those mysteries are.

Do Zombies Die?—I’ll have to admit I haven’t watched or read all the zombie stories out there. Yes, I also feel it is a travesty. Other than Warm Bodies, where, after some time, the zombies become Boneys, and in The Walking Dead, where the zombies show signs of aging, no stories of which I am familiar address this age-old question. What happens to the undead? Do they simply shrivel into a fetal position and drool their life away? Or do they rot until there’s nothing left? I don’t have an answer.

Do Zombies Sleep?—One of the lingering questions that has gnawed at my bones, no pun intended, is do zombies take time to have a regular siesta? In the last act of the film World War Z, the zombies stand in one position not really doing much of anything other than staring into the distance. They jerk around, but still, they are awake. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a zombie sleep in either a film or any other story. Why not? Don’t they tire chasing after people? The way I look at it is they don’t need sleep. Sleep regenerates cells, repairs internal damage from ordinary use and refreshes the brain in order for the mind to stay sharp and focused. I think zombies have passed the point of staying sharp. I could be wrong, though. What do you think?

Do Zombies Poop?—This, to me, is the biggest mystery of them all. With the amount of meat zombies consume, one would assume they digest and eliminate much like their human counterparts. But that would fly in the face of logic. If the undead are indeed undead, their digestive tracts would not function, their bowel muscles would certainly not work as well. So what’s the answer? Are we the audience to believe zombies can eat a whole man and not push him out the other end? What happens to the material the undead ingests? My theory? I think it piles in their stomach and comes out without digestion. My rule of thumb? Gravity rules.

That’s all I have for now. If I haven’t written about a mystery you feel needs addressing, go ahead and add it. I’m sure I will write a Part II to this discussion one day.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE SEARCH FOR PARADISE, on sale October 20.

What great zombie mystery do you find unsettling? Have you yet found a reasonable explanation?

How to Sleep Well

Toss. Turn. Fluff the pillow. Covers. No covers. I’ve been there. Getting a good night’s sleep had been a goal of mine for a long time. It took me a long time to understand what a good night’s sleep involved. Once I found the secret—because really, that is what it is, a secret—I now gorge on the ZZZ’s.

Sleeping well

Sleeping well

For today’s Freedom Friday post, I’m going to talk about the most important productivity booster you will ever know—sleep.

It wasn’t too long ago when I suffered from insomnia. I have posts dedicated to the subject and my stories are legendary. For instance, there was a point four years ago that I was getting two hours of sleep a night. You may ask how on earth I could have functioned on so little sleep. It wasn’t easy. The condition had lasted for years culminating in the worst year of my life. I’d fallen ill three times that year, one major blow after another. This is from a guy who hadn’t gotten sick since 2005. Flus, fevers, coughs, colds—you name it, I had it.

The bright side to that year was finding a rhythm that worked for me, but not after many attempts and a few failures along the way.

This is how I do it.

Say Good Night—Interesting how the simple act of a goodnight kiss will prep the body to begin shutting down. For me, as soon as I begin my goodnight tour, my eyes begin to drift, my muscles relax and I find that I’m dragging my limbs upstairs instead of walking. This is all very well and fine, because it’s the body’s way of telling me it’s ready to hit the sack. And it all starts with saying goodnight.

Prepare the Sleeping Area—My ritual entails stripping the bed and making it over again, even if it’s done. Yes, I admit it is strange. But it’s my thing. It’s another step toward solid sleep. I remove the wrinkles. Tighten the sheets. Fluff the pillows and create a fold. I know, and I agree that it’s obsessive compulsive. You know what, though? Every time I get under the sheets, it feels great knowing I’ve made the bed minutes earlier. Call me strange.

Wash and Get Dressed—Hygiene is very important for a sound, restful sleep. Every night I brush my teeth, wash my face, comb my hair and go pee—and wash my hands again, of course. Then I slip into my PJs made of 100% cotton. The material is important because I find 100% cotton allows my skin to breathe. Try sleeping with polyester on your skin. Not a fun night Charlie Brown.

Downtime—Once I’ve taken care of the prerequisites, I’ll turn off all the lights except for the one on my nightstand. I’ll dim that one to its lowest setting. Next, I’ll pray, listen to music, read, perhaps play a game or two and slowly allow my eyes to close. Sometimes I won’t even have the chance to do anything. I’ll simply be ready for bed. The downtime provides my body to ease into its sleep cycle. It’s not about the activity, but about allowing your body to shut down naturally. For a long time I didn’t do this and found myself wide awake at two in the morning.

In Bed—Once I’ve completed the Twenty-Mile Marathon, I put everything away, tuck myself under the sheets and turn off the light. Seriously, within seconds I fall asleep and wake up every morning feeling refreshed and invigorated. The trick while sleeping is to never look at the clock. Eventually, the alarm will go off and you’ll bounce out of bed with all the energy you need to tackle the day’s events.

That’s all there is to it. Now you know me a little more than you had a few minutes ago.

Last piece of advise, if you’re looking to get a good night’s sleep: find your rhythm. It’ll take a while, but once you find it, your body will be happy you did.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale now.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale now.

Have you suffered from insomnia? What was your cure?

Top 10 Most Horrifying Parasites

Welcome to Monday Mayhem where today, I will be talking about parasites. I was browsing YouTube the other day and came upon a video that’d caused me to delve deeper into the creepy world of parasites. The video goes by the name 10 Horrifying Parasites That Might Be Living Inside You. As I watched, a thought passed through my mind and it went something like this: With all these terrifying parasites on the loose, it’s a wonder why we don’t have zombies running around wreaking havoc on the planet.

Leishmania [Photo credit: CDC Public Health Image Library]

Leishmania [Photo credit: CDC Public Health Image Library]

If you haven’t seen the video, here’s a breakdown of its contents. You may want to hold your stomach, as these may get gruesome in description.

10. Leishmania—Transmitted by sandfly bites, this parasite can cause hideous and painful sores. Up to two hundred lesions can form on the body leading to disability and scars. [Source: WHO]

9. Loa Loa—Lives inside the host for up to seventeen years, moving under the skin and causing swelling. Adult worms visibly move across the surface of the eyes. The treatment can result in personality changes. [Source: CDC, Popular Science]

8. Ascaris Lumbricoides—Over one billion people might be hosting these worms that grow up to thirty five centimeters in length. They can live for two years in the intestine and can block it. Victims often show no symptoms. [Source: CDC]

7. Onchocerca Volvulus—A worm that lives inside humans for fifteen years and grows half a meter (over one and a half feet) long. Disfigures skin and causes “River Blindness” resulting in sight loss. Up to eighteen million people are afflicted. [Source: WHO, CNN]

6. Toxoplasma Gondii—Up to fifty percent of human brains are infected with this this parasite spread by cats. Increases risk taking and depression. It might also explain national cultural differences. [Source: NY Times, Huffington Post, Scientific American]

5. Trypanosoma Brucei—Victims have trouble sleeping, poor coordination and are confused. Often fatal, symptoms of “Sleeping Sickness” can take years to appear when it’s already too late. [Source: WHO]

Entamoeba Histolytica [Photo credit: CDC Public Health Image Library]

Entamoeba Histolytica [Photo credit: CDC Public Health Image Library]

4. Entamoeba Histolytica—One of the biggest parasitic killers on earth, claiming seventy thousand lives annually. Causes disease amoebiasis that can lead to chronic diarrhea and liver abscesses. [Source: New Scientist, CDIPD]

3. Trichuris Trichiura—Resides in the large intestine and is said to infect eight hundred million worldwide. Leads to diarrhea and anemia but in extreme cases the rectum can protrude from the anus. [Source: Scientific American]

2. Wuchereria Bancrofti—Over one billion people are at risk from this parasite that causes Elephantiasis. Victims suffer from enlarged body parts and resulting disability. [Source: WHO]

1. Naegleria Fowleri—Found in freshwater, the “Brain-Eating Amoeba” targets the brain and nervous system. Can cause PAM, a form of meningitis with a ninety-eight percent mortality rate that kills in weeks. [Source: National Geographic, Stanford University, CDC]

Now that you’ve read the Top 10 Most Horrifying Parasites list, it certainly provides another opportunity to look at other Top 10 lists. How about: Top 10 Ways to Kill Parasites? Or this one: Top 10 Cures for Parasites. If those lists exist, I’m sure I’ll be the first one to see what they have to say. For the time being, these Top 10 parasites have left me to wish I hadn’t known about them. Perhaps they have done the same for you.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

What other parasites are there that I haven’t mentioned?

A Law of Success

I’m a firm believer in being lazy. Now, now, before you go off thinking I’m a sluggard of a man, hear me out. I’m also a firm believer in working smarter, not harder. If it takes three days to accomplish a task, I want to know how I can cut that time to one day. Like I said, I’m lazy and any time saved is time earned to do other things of interest.

Unbalanced force

Unbalanced force

Welcome to my Freedom Friday post where I open my mind and allow my brains to fall out. Today I would like to place you at a vantage point into my thinking regarding work vs. rest. Don’t worry I’m not introducing anything radical you haven’t heard before. Perhaps, I’ll even learn something myself.

I’ve written about this subject in my posts Sleep and A Day Off. Not to be redundant, but in those posts I had mention how sleep is my secret weapon against creative slumps. I’m trying hard not to make it sound like I’m bragging. I’m relating information that works for me that may also work for others. Anyway, back to the subject at hand. My secret weapon against a creative slump, brain fog, and mind block is sleep. On the weekend, I sleep an inordinate amount of hours because during the week I keep a strict seven-hour sleep schedule, depending on the night and if I have to wake up early the next morning (eg. 4:30 AM—yeah, I’m on farmer’s hours).

Did I ever tell you I suffered from insomnia for a long, long time? I think I had mentioned it. Well, of course I did. I wrote about it in my Insomnia post. For a number of years I averaged two hours of sleep. Yes, you read that right—a number a years, two hours of sleep. I learned a thing or two.

Let’s get to the meat of this post.

Newton’s First Law of Motion states: An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

You might ask, “Jack, what are you doing talking about the laws of physics?” Well, let’s take Newton’s First Law of Motion and analyze it further. There may actually be a lesson there for all of us.

Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton

The first part of the law states that an object at rest stays at rest. I learned some time ago that rest replenishes my creative flow by allowing my mind to mull over problems during my sleep cycle. My evidence? Without fail, every morning I wake up with a truckload of ideas I can’t wait to get down on paper. Many of my blog posts come from my early morning shaves soon after a good night’s sleep. I’m so used to it, I can’t wait to fall asleep knowing the next morning I’ll have some other ideas that will catch my fancy.

The second part of the law states that an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction. In my opinion, this is the ideal situation. Wouldn’t it be a grand thing to experience life in a constant predictable cycle? It can be. It means eliminating the distractions and carrying forward without anyone or anything getting in the way. It also means a heightened sense of concentration achieved by allowing you the rest needed to complete a task. Sounds counterproductive, but it does work.

Now, did you catch the fact I didn’t mention the last portion of the law? I left it last to make a point. It simply states that an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

We all have those unbalanced forces in our lives that seem to suck the energy from our productivity. That’s the negative part of the equation. We’re going on our merry way, doing what we set out to do, carrying on with our daily lives when suddenly something happens and we’re stuck in the middle of a battlefield picking up the pieces. Whether it’s a death in the family, job loss, an accident or a real bad day, this happens to everyone and we can’t avoid it.

The other side of the equation involves those same unbalanced forces setting our lives on fire by spectacular means, giving us a new perspective on things and leading us to change. I’m talking about the sudden proposal of marriage, finding out you’re going to have a baby, getting a promotion, deciding to buy a new house, and yes, even winning the lottery. Good things do happen to good people.

The trick to Newton’s law of motion is to keep life at an even keel. Too little rest, we procrastinate. Too much unbalanced force, we stress out. Steady as she goes, and we’re just right. Success comes when we gain that perfect balance. Once we attain that, nothing will stop us from achieving our dreams.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

What other laws of physics can we utilize as a metaphor for success?

A Day Off

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about sleep and how it boosts productivity. For this week’s Freedom Friday, I would like to share another productivity booster some folks can’t imagine trying, even if their lives depended on it. Are you ready? It’s called a day off. Yeah, scary, isn’t it?

Plugged In

Plugged In

In some circles, the day off is an outdated relic that belongs on the trash heap. It gets in the way, wastes time, and is nothing more than a distraction.

I wish I had a penny for all the times I hear how we can become better at what we’re doing if we dedicate more time to what we’re doing. I’m here to tell you different. I’m here to say it’s okay to take a break. Everything will be there when you get back.

How does it work at our house?

Well, every Saturday I unplug from the internet to spend time with the family. This means you won’t find me posting or commenting on mine or anyone else’s blog. You won’t see me on Facebook or Twitter. And my email collects dust until Sunday morning. Saturdays is when I treat my family to a special meal, watch a couple of movies, visit friends and relatives, and typically relax doing nothing other than stare out the window, daydreaming. That last part happens more often than you think.

The Day Off

The Day Off

It’s a day we do what we don’t have enough time to do during the week. And I don’t mean chores.

So let’s go back to the productivity thing. How productive, really, is taking a day off every week? This question harkens back to my sleep post where I talk about time management experts encouraging folks to shorten their sleep cycles in order to gain a half-hour extra on their day to do things. I think I manage a convincing argument establishing the fallacy of that sort of thinking. That half-hour is not extra time to use for other things. That half-hour is for sleep.

Similarly, and speaking from my own standpoint, taking a day off enhances creativity and boosts energy levels. On a personal level, I mentally disconnect from life so I can replenish my reserves. By the time Sunday comes, I’m all set to tackle the week with new ideas and a healthy perspective.

There was a time I didn’t do that, and I used to have days run into each other like a continuous merry-go-round. Thankfully, that’s over. In all honesty, without wanting to sound pretentious, I find taking time off once a week to unplug from the internet and spend it with the family aids in a more balanced lifestyle.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

Do you take a day off to unplug every week? If not, have you thought about it?

Sleep

Sleep is the single most important activity anyone can do in their lifetime to increase productivity. Take it from me, a former insomniac who a couple of years ago averaged two hours sleep a night. You want to get more done? Sleep more.

Sleeping Angel

Sleeping Angel

Sounds counterproductive, counterintuitive and counter everything, doesn’t it? But when have my Freedom Friday posts been anything but?

I read somewhere, I won’t mention where, “an expert”, I’m assuming a time management expert, had condoned the practice of shortening a person’s sleep cycle by half-an-hour a day to gain 3.5 hours of productivity a week.

I laughed.

You know what, folks. Try it. After two weeks, tell me how much productivity you’ve gained. I guarantee after a few days you will feel the effects of exhaustion set in. Oh, it’ll seem like you’re getting a lot done. Whatever you may have had on that To-Do list seems to have disappeared.

Look closer.

Does the quality meet previous high standards? Do your accomplishments look like an idiomatic whitewashed wall? How’s the attitude? And since we’re on the subject, how’s your health?

You see, when “experts” prescribe cutting sleep in order to accomplish more, they’re actually prescribing cutting your life by a matter of years. Think of it this way. Let’s say you have a regular 7-hour sleep cycle. You decide to cut it down to 6.5 hours. Well, that’s 3.5 hours of extra time a week, which translates to 182 hours of extra productivity a year. If we look at it in terms of days, that’s 7.5 days. Yeah, a week and a bit of working harder. Over the course of 52 years, you will burn well over a full year of sleep for that extra half-hour of diligence.

What’s the reality?

Constant Puyo- Eingeschlafen, 1897

Constant Puyo- Eingeschlafen, 1897

I had mentioned about my insomnia. Two hours sleep every night is not an exaggeration. You can read about it in my Insomnia post. Missing so much sleep did something to me. The days blended in with one another. Noises and voices sounded louder. I began seeing things. I became paranoid. You get that way when you trick the body into believing that extra half-hour a day awake will make you more productive. Because you can’t stop at half-an-hour a day. You want to push it to an hour, an hour-and-a-half, two hours. Eventually, your body’s Circadian Rhythm crumbles. Mine finally surrendered last year, forcing me to reevaluate everything I was doing.

Nowadays, I wake up at 5 every morning after a solid 7 hours sleep. I know what you’re thinking: “That means you go to bed at 10 every night, Jack.” Yep. Well, 9:30, to be exact. By the time I settle in, it’s 10. And I know what your other question is: “Where do you find the time to do everything?” Here’s my answer: It’s not about the time given, but about the time spent. One hour of solid creativity is better than five hours of stop-and-start spurts. Time is finite in a 24-hour day. You cannot extract 25 hours from a 24-hour day. But you can optimize 24 hours by maximizing energy levels and creativity.

The thing these experts don’t talk about is the fact that sleep restores a person. Think of it as a nightly vacation. What does a vacation do? It restores a person’s perspective on life. You can get a lot more done. In fact, studies suggest sleep improves memory, contributes to a longer lifespan, controls inflammation, increases creativity, boosts athletic performance, encourages academic excellence, amplifies attention span, aids in maintaining a healthy body weight, decreases stress, assists in avoiding accidents, and helps with evading depression.

What’s my point?

Don’t listen to experts who think they know everything. Remember: An ex-spurt is nothing more than former drip under pressure.

Sleep. Enjoy your sleep. Your body will reward you with productivity you wish you had had when you cut back on the precious commodity.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

Have you ever heard of cutting back on sleep to get more done? Have you ever heard of the benefits of sleep?

Insomnia

It’s two in the morning. What am I still doing up? In a couple of hours, I have to start my day. If I don’t get to sleep, I will have been up a full twenty-four hours. The kettle, I unplugged it, didn’t I? I’m sure I did. Did I turn off the stove? I did. I’m sure of it. I can’t seem to get that song out of my head. Think about something else. Don’t think! Sleep!

Insomnia

Insomnia

This is Freedom Friday. This is how I escaped the abyss.

One day blends into the next. There is no difference. Today’s a semblance of good day. I don’t look like a character out of a Tim Burton movie—spiked hair, sunken eyes and pale skin. I can get things done. The birds chirping aren’t a bother either. Why do birds chirp? Why don’t dogs chirp?

Two years ago, I averaged two hours sleep a night.

My reflection in the window of the department store scares me. I run. I glance over my shoulder but no one is there. Everyone looks the same. Why are they laughing at me? Who is that? Is he the one following me? I sit on a bench staring. My thoughts continue to race. Tonight, will be a good night. I will sleep.

Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands

Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands

The doctor asks if I am suffering from stress. I ask, doesn’t everyone? I’m in perfect physical condition. Then why can’t I sleep? Perhaps a prescription? No, no drugs.

Where are my car keys? What did I do with my keys? I lost my keys. Why can’t I remember where I put them? Here they are. I hate my chores. I don’t want to take out the garbage. I don’t want to mow the lawn. And I do not want to have a smile on my face when all I feel is emptiness. I just want to lie down in a dark room, close my eyes and fall into a coma for a month.

She asks, is everything all right? I say, yes.

I must have tossed on my pillow a dozen times. I can’t get comfortable. What is wrong with this bed? Lie still. Breathe slowly. Now close your eyes. I can’t. Damned clock. Stop telling me how much time I have left before I’m supposed to wake up!

A year later, I had to put a stop to it.

She asks, is everything all right? I say, no, I can’t sleep again. What’s wrong? I just—can’t sleep. Pray. What? Pray about it.

I pray, asking for release.

The lamb smells good. I broiled it in a marinade of garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and oregano. I thought it would go well with the sautéed red and green peppers, and onions. That salad is to die for, too. Fresh cucumbers and onions give it a pleasurable crunch. I can’t wait to try my new Merlot I made a month ago. I’ve been saving it for tonight’s special meal. Everything smells so good.

I relax downstairs by the fireplace watching Edward Scissorhands, one of my favorite Tim Burton movies. I allow my mind to wander on the day. How sweet the birds sounded chirping this morning. How funny I looked passing that department store window this afternoon. How the car purred heading home. Although the lawn didn’t need mowing, I had taken out the trash. My smile grows. I so much enjoy watching this film.

The bedroom door clicks behind me. I pull the shades and dim the nightstand light. I turn the alarm clock to face the wall. After slipping into a T-shirt and brushing my teeth, I sit and read. Shakespeare sure has a way of making a story unfold. My eyes begin to droop. It’s time.

I pray.

The bed feels comfortable. I turn off the light and close my eyes.

Silence. Darkness.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, on sale October 22.

Have you ever had to battle insomnia?

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