The Ups And Downs of Life

The ups and downs of life are something that we all face no matter how rich or poor, how healthy or unhealthy. We all experience it.

Over the last few weeks, in fact the last year I’ve been trying to get fitter and healthier but when I thought I was making progress I then hit a slump.

I could tell you it was because of work, or family committments or whatever excuse I could come up with. However the reality is that its all down to me and my choices.

I can choose to sit in front of a computer doing work or checking social media posts. I could be out walking or even lifting some weights. It’s my choice.

I also know that life is not as simple as that and we all have to put food on the table and pay our bills so we need to work.

This afternoon I was listening to a speech by Denzel Washington who was telling a graduation class on how they will fail before the succeed. In fact, you need to fail in order to succeed in some cases.

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It’s about perseverance and wanting to achieve your goals and amibitions but only you can do it. Only you can make the decision to work out, or not eat that bar or chocolate or even eat that bar of chocolate.

You need to do what is right for you and what makes you feel happy and live with the consequences.

What I would say though, is don’t beat yourself up about it and that’s weird because that’s what I actually do. Bit hypocrtical eh?

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I’m fortunate that I am surrounded by supportive people and with all different areas of life experience. I have friends who support me in my fitness fight, my eating habits and those who are going through the same sort of thing.

I suppose what I’m getting at is that on our journey we will have ups and downs so expect them and don’t let them get to you.

The Martial Way Is My Way

Over the last year or so I have been looking at different ways of trying to get my health and fitness into better shape.

I’ve been looking at all aspect of my health and wellness from food to exercise to meditation.

I’ve been counting my macros, doing meditation classes, getting better sleep, trying to do more exercise and did a six week stint of learning Jeet Kune Do online.

It wasn’t until last night when I was in my meditation session that I suddenly realised that all of these where not new to me. I have to admit that until about a year ago, I had never attended a meditation class. Or so I thought.

Back when I was training / teaching Shito Ryu Karate, at the start and end of every class my students and I would perform a short meditative process called “Mokuso”.

This was us preparing for the training ahead (start of class) and then calming our minds after training (end of class).

During training we would perform set patterns call “kata” and these always involved an element of breath work. Such katas as Seinchin or Sanchin focused quite heavily on your breathing whilst performing the movements.

I always felt that kata helped me get my epilepsy under control as I felt my breathing could be a major trigger point. Once or twice when I felt a seizure coming on, I would try and control my breath. This either stopped it, or was certainly a contributing factor.

The fitness aspect of martial arts training goes without saying, but the martial arts also helped me with both my focus and discipline. Something I have been severely lacking since I gave up teaching / training.

I now realise that if I can find my martial way again, I can hopefully find my way back to better health and wellness.

It was the complete package for me, focus, discipline, stretching, cardio, strength training, confidence boosting and much more.

It’s been some time since I stepped foot in the dojo, but as I always told my new students.

It’s never too late to find your martial way.

What Makes You Happy?

This is a question I hear people asking every day.

People come back with a variety of answers, family, money, health, location and much more.

The truth is we all have our own answers, of course we do, our happiness is an individual feeling. True, others might feel a form of happiness by seeing us happy, but deep down its very personal.

I’m sometimes viewed as quite a big, serious, often intimidating looking guy, but those who know me, know I am a real softy. I do and have cried on many occasions.

Tears of sadness but mainly tears of joy. I love a happy ending and have cried at many a film. Just ask my wife.

Yes I’m a big tough martial artist and I cry. There I said it.

I feel happy when a number things happen.

When my daughter smiles at me, when my wife gives me a cuddle, all the things to do with my family and close friends make me smile and feel happy.

My family always make me feel happy

However, it’s not been until recently when I’ve made significant changes in my life that I feel I’ve discovered true personal happiness.

Since focusing on my health and improving my sleep, I’m on the way to trying to eliminate all the stress from my life and that is making me feel happy.

Not a short term, spur of the moment happiness, but a long term feeling that starts as soon as I wake up.

Going to work makes me happy because I’m removing the stress from the it. Doing tasks at home make me happy, not only because of the sense of achievement but also because I don’t get stressed.

I guess what I’m saying is that having no or little stress, makes me happy. This is a long term feeling for me, one that is there every day.

This new found, deep down happiness also allows me to share my feelings with others that are close to me.

Spreading the happiness so to speak. Which in turn can make others feel happy. A domino effect.

Here’s another way to look at it and play with this one in your head for a while before answering.

What makes you unhappy and can you do anything to change that?

If you can, then go do it.

Ps. Just because you are not always smiling, doesn’t mean you are not happy. I’m just pretty crap at smiling in photos.

Friday Thoughts On Being Stressed

Just a short extra post.

Two months ago I was stressed to the hilt. As an accountant January is the most stressful time of the year and I know it’s does not need to be.

Since then, I’ve focused on removing the stress from my life again as I did last year. I’m actually annoyed I allowed it back in.

That said, I have discovered that through a little bit of meditation and breathing exercises, I not only take away stress, but I’m lowering my blood pressure on a daily basis.

Now I’m not suggesting you jump into a full meditative trance but maybe just do 5 minutes a day. If you have a smart watch that has a breathing app, use that.

I have an Apple Watch and the app on it is set to remind me to do 5 x 1 minute breathing sessions throughout my day.

Go on, give it a go, you have nothing to loose and more to gain.

Who Is My Enemy?

I’ve often heard it said when chatting with friends and family that they say things like “oh chocolate is my enemy” or “that hamburger doesn’t like me” all related to gaining weight.

Sometimes it’s related to preventing weight loss, but you get the idea.

I’ve been trying to lose weight for years now, off and on, off and on, off and on, me on plans or diets and the weight loss or gain.

I study things like what I’m eating and say things like “I need to stay away from fast food” and so on.

As you can see from the chart below, my calorie intake goes up and down but mainly up at the weekends. Now I don’t need to start hating weekends, I just need to have a look at what goes wrong at that time.

Usually, its me relaxing, eating and drinking too much with family. Now, I’m not going to change that feeling because I enjoy it, that’s why I do it. What I can change is perhaps what I eat and drink. Make better choices.

Now whether I do that or not is all down to me. If I do it, great, but if I don’t, who do I blame? Who is my enemy. ME!

You have all heard the saying, “your own worst enemy” and it’s true. WE can’t really blame others if we make the wrong choices, or choose not to exercise, or choose not to track our macros.

I’m the world’s worst so if I want to make a change to my weight, my mindset or whatever. I need to be willing to make a change to me, and wha’s more, stick with that change and by Accountable to myself.

Now I know we all have bad days, and I’ve had good advice about drawing a line under it, forget about it and move on. That’s what I do, but the problem is that I seem to be happy to draw a lot of lines.

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I’m now realising that if I want to lose weight, that if I want to lower my blood pressure and if I want to fix my heart, then I must know my enemy.

What makes them tick, what are their weaknesses but instead of exploiting the weakness, I try and turn it into a strength.

So this week I will make goals that I will stick to. Whats more I will publish these goals here and if anyone wants to hold me accountable then drop me a message to check out my @socialsteve instagram.

  • Maintain my 7 hours sleep pattern
  • Complete an early morning walk every day.
  • Try and cycle to work for at least 3/4 days – 1 day I need the van to go into town.
  • 30 minutes exercise each day on top of doing my 10,000 steps
  • No sweets for the whole week (to start with)
  • Do not get stressed out.

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.

If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.

If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Learning To Sleep Again

When we are born all we want to do is sleep. As babies our parents know the importance of sleep for both them and us.

However, as we grow this changes.

Whether it’s us personally or outside influences, or simply thart sleep patterns or habits change.

For me, I have spent most of my life being an insomniac nighthawk.

Only going to bed when I was really tired, and I mean the nodding off in front of the tv at 2/3am kinda tired.

What made matters worse is that I was getting up early for work so I wasn’t getting a lot of sleep. For years I thought I was doing okay getting by on 5 hours sleep a night. Occasionally it was 4 hours and once or twice it was even 3 hours.

I would look back at the night before and think, yeah, I was up late last night because I had a lot of work to get done. My justification, my excuse.

After a while, when I noticed that I wasn’t always working, in fact in some cases it was like I was forcing myself to stay up.

Apart from lack of sleep, another “side effect” of my insomnia was eating too much. In fact eating all the wrong things at the wrong time.

Pot Noodles, sandwiches, biscuits or any left overs from dinner. The later I was up, the more junk food I would eat. I also drank a tonne of fizzy juice, Pepsi Max, Coca Cola, all containing loads of caffeine.

Hell no wonder I wasn’t tired.

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I did try and go to bed early a few times, but that sometime it annoyed my wife as I was restless and disturbed her sleep. I couldn’t just go to bed and drop off, so I would end up getting back up and going down stairs and watching tv.

Then in 2020 I decided I needed to make some changes. This largely came about because my wife had noticed that when I was sleeping, I would occasionally stop breathing (nothing to do with her trying to stop me snoring lol).

A friend said I might have Sleep Apnea and I should get it checked out ASAP.

A month or so later, the sleep department of the local hospital had me on an airflow system which is a bit like going to bed with a darth vader mask on. It supplies you with oxygen as you sleep and tracks your breathing etc.

It never lasted long as I could never get past two hours without having to take the mask off as I couldn’t sleep properly (ironic or what?)

I looked at alternative options and as part of my onoing project of trying to fix my knackered heart, I joined a group called the Turtles. This was part of the Live Like Louise family and focused on exercise, healthy eating, tracking macros etc.

Not a diet as I can still eat what I want but I need to be accountable for what I eat and factor it in (that’s for another blog post though). As a result of becoming a turtle I joined the 5am club.

The 5am club is a bunch of people who get up at 5am and do a bit of exercise and then start their day that bit earlier than others. It’s not an exlcusive club as anyone anywhere in the world who gets up at 5am and does this is really a member. It’s an open club really.

However, to do this I had to force myself to go to bed early, and by early I meant no later than midnight (at this time). What I soon discovered is that the 5am club had its ups and downs.

Yes I was getting up early, going to bed earlier (than normal), I was sleeping ok but only still getting about 5 hours.

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Plus, after I had been out for my morning 1.5 mile walk with the dog, I was sitting down in front of my laptop and cracking on with work. Some will say, great what a productive start to the day.

Yes I got more done, and I was tired in the evening so getting to sleep wasn’t a problem and as time progressed, I did go to bed a bit earlier (11.30pm).

I then noticed myself nodding offer after dinner whilst sitting on the couch. My wife told me that if was going to get up at 5am I needed to go to bed earlier.

Plus, what was the point of getting up earlier if all I was doing was adding another 2 hours to my work day?

Time for a rethink!

I should also add that since deciding to join the turtles back in August 2020 I cut back on my caffeine big time. I still drink a shit load of fizzy juice, sorry I’m addicted, but now its the caffeine free stuff.

Not a big change, but a change none the less.

So, a week or so ago I said goodbye to the 5am club and now get up for the 6am club. On the flipside, I am in bed by about 10:45pm most nights, weekends are different as I don’t get up too early.

I enjoy my sleep and I am getting a better quality of sleep. I use an app called SleepWatch which tracks my patterns and gives me all sorts of information about what was going on whilst I was asleep. I awake refreshed, well rested and ready for the day ahead.

Another sidenote.

I did discover, mainly at weekends, that when I get more than 8 hours sleep I actually feel very lethargic when I get up. I’m not motivated or enthusiastic for the day ahead, so I set my goal for 7 hours optimum sleep.

Anyway back to the script. Now that I was getting 7 hours sleep, going to bed early and getting up at 6am, I needed to make another change.

No work before 9am! I use the extra time to focus on me, my plans for the day, my daily journal entries and generally chillin till its time to crack the whip.

It has made the world of a difference, and on the odd occasion when I do go to be bed later than 11pm (you know if it’s a good film or drama on the box) I simply get up that little bit later. As long as I get my 7 hours I’m good.

I have had to re-learn how to get to sleep, how to enjoy sleep and how important sleep is to my physical and mental wellbeing.

It’s not perfect yet as there are some changes that can still be made (erradicating the snoring would be nice) but again it’s a change in the right direction.

ZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Finding Balance

I’ve come to realise that I’m not the greatest when it comes to balance. I’m not talking about standing in a yoga pose without falling over.

I’m referring to balance in life and in particular my life.

Every time I think I’m on the right track and feel like things are balanced, it also changes. I suddenly feel like the balance had the day before was a one off.

But what sort of balance am I looking for?

Is it a work life balance?

Is it a health and fitness balance?

Is it a mindset balance?

In reality it is all of them because they all play a part in trying to achieve the balance we want.

I think one of my biggest problems is over thinking. In fact it may be that I am always thinking. I never seem to have an empty mind.

One of me heroes, Bruce Lee, famously said:

“Be Water, My Friend.
Empty your mind.
Be formless, shapeless, like water.
You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup.
You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle.
You put it into a teapot, it becomes the teapot.
Now water can flow or it can crash.
Be water, my friend.”

Now there are different ways to interpret this but for me its seems to be about adaptability. Water can adapt at a moments notice and by doing so it retains control. It may be guided by external influences but it is still in control.

I am trying to apply this to my life but not with a lot of success, YET.

Instead of being the raging river rapids charging to my goal downstream, I think I’m more like that annoying leak in your roof that has not been fixed in ages.

It’s nothing, just a little dribble. But given time its keeps on persevering and soaks away at the roof and all the layers. months laters you have rotting beams, damp patches in your ceiling and ultimately the ceiling caves in.

All from that little dribble that meant nothing at the time.

I need to adapt to my lifestyle but still be on control of it.

I have come to realise that there is no overnight fix. No fast track solution to finding the balance in life. So, like the dribble I will just soak away at it until the time that I overcome the obstacle of ceiling in front of me.

A weird example I know, but life can be weird.

The Pressure Of High Blood Pressure

For many of us we are always keeping an eye on our weight.

Weighing ourselves regularly and watching the weight go up and down or perhaps just down.

For me I have the added challenge of monitoring my blood pressure and trust me its grim viewing. I was diagnosed with Hypertension due to high Blood Pressure some time ago.

I’m on a mixture of tablets that keep it under control and if I don’t do something, I will most likely be on these tablets for life.

Hell, I even if I do something I might still be on these tablets for life anyway.

It does weigh greatly on my mind as I need to think about not only my future but that of my family. Yes Im covered by insurance and financially they will be ok but I don’t want that.

I want to grow old with them and see me daughter grow up.

I think a part of me has been kidding myself that everything will be fine, the docs know what they are doing and they will sort me out. I now realise that sort of attitude it just not on.

Yes they will help me and be there for me but its down to me.

So what am I doing or should I say “what should I be doing”

  • Eating healthier – well Im doing that, my weight went from 246lbs down to 229lbs at one point. It popped up to 236lbs after xmas and has hovered between that an 232lbs (at time of writing). The problem is I have fluid on the lungs, as downside of the Hypertension and also having LVSD (Left Ventricular Systolic Disfunction) which is a polite way of saying my heart is a bit broke.
  • Get fitter – I’m also trying to do that with regular walks, the occasional work out and even learning some Jeet Kune Do. Problem is I need to more on this but sometimes its hard to motivate myself and juggle it with work and other things.
  • Drink Less – now I’m not a big drinker, despite working in that industry but my weakness is fizzy drinks. I’ve made some efforts on this front, I switched to caffeine free Pepsi max, however I probably drink t0o much on a daily basis.
  • Keep Taking My Meds – well I’m doing that and its become part of my routine.

So what else can I be doing? I know I can improve on the above points but other than that I’m at a loss.

Well, nobody is going to do it for me so I will do some research and see what else can be done that is not medicine related.

I know I’m not the only one going through this so if you read this and it resonates with your or even it you have any advice. Please drop me a message as it would be greatly appreciated.

Are You A Path Or A River?

As I was walking to the office today, along the local cycle path.

I was listening to a great book called “Be Water My Friend” by Shannon Lee, daughter of the legendary Bruce Lee.

As I listened, it got me thinking as to where I was going in life and how I was going to get there. For years I’ve believed I was on a path to my goals, my ambitions, my destiny.

I’ve listened to advice from others, conversations, podcasts, books and many other sources of knowledge and examples.

However, it was not unitl today that I realised that by following this “path” I was simply following in the steps of others.

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I was experiencing their ups and their downs, their hardships and their joys.

So was I really making my own journey? 

My path had essentially been laid before me by those who had made a similar journey

In Shannon’s book she explains her fathers thoughts behind the concept of water and how it has a freedom like no other.

A river will flow, fast and slow, it can be straight and it can meander and when it hits an obstacle what does it do?  It finds a way around it by whatever means necessary.

I know what your thinking, what about a Dam?  

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Whilst a dam can hold most of the river back, soon or later the water will find its way.

It will be a trickle to begin with but then its force will be unstoppable and so it will carry on in its journey. We will all meet obstacles on our journey but how will we deal with them, stop, or keep pounding away until a solution is found?

All these years I believed that being on a path was the right thing for me.

Now I realise that I need to be like water…………..

Staying Alive (no dancing required)

So I made a post on my Twitter feed (@socialsteve26) and a few people thought I was being a bit morbid.

My intention was to look at goal setting and what my ultimate goal was.

We all have a variety of different goals, whether its health, wealth or happiness.

However, when you really think of it, these are sub goals or sub tasks or even milestones in our main goal – longevity.

We all know we are going to die at some point, we just want that time to be as far from now as it possibly can.

So my primary goal is to not die before my time.

This means keeping myself in good health or to try and fix the things that are wrong with me.

If you have a favourite car that you want to keep forever, you keep it well maintained, well serviced and treat it right.

It’s the same with us.

We look after our health, our mental helth, what we eat, if we exercise, if we sleep well and a whole array of other things.

People will tell you they do it so they can wear certain clothes, or do certain things or simply just to feel better.

What it all boils down to is the fact that we all want to be on this planet for as long as we can.

We want to see our kids grow up.

We want spend time with the ones we love.

We want to spend more time with our friends.

Or we simply want to make the most of the time we are given.

Whatever the reason, the goal is simple.

Stay alive for as long as you can.

Live Life and enjoy it.