There's no offseason in business. The nonstop grind — travel, meetings, email — takes a toll on anyone's health. It should come as no surprise that 96% of senior leaders feel somewhat burned out, according to a Harvard study.
Life in the NFL, where the average career lasts just 3.3 years, isn't any less intense. Stress builds before guys are even in the league, throughout the combine and pro day workouts leading up to that life-changing moment when they hear their names called at the NFL draft, which begins today.
So how do successful athletes and executives stay cool under pressure and achieve a long, healthy career? Start with these four tips.
1. Practice health strategies you can adapt
The NFL's job interview process, the combine, runs for three days, from 5 a.m. until midnight. It's not a test of talent; it's a measure of preparation to withstand cognitive and physical stress.
In the NFL, or any profession, top performers don't just grit their teeth through stressful situations; they practice performance-minded skill sets every day, all year.
"I'm going to work out for 45 minutes every day" isn't a sustainable strategy because it doesn't flex for real life. "I can find five minutes to focus on my breathing" is the type of adaptive strategy we practice to maintain health and performance in chaotic times.
Although there are many effective strategies, the key is learning how to apply the right ones for you. That's what we, at EXOS, do with every business, health system and athlete with whom we work.
2. Own the first three minutes of your day
Start each morning with intentional thought. Express gratitude, map out your vision for the day, do whatever you find puts you in the driver's seat rather than a reactive state.
Next, drink a tall glass of water, and massage the arch of your foot over a tennis ball or golf ball while you brush your teeth.
This primes your physical balance, turns on each side of your brain and puts you in a positive state of mind.
3. Control the way you prepare, eat, hydrate, move and rest
Sound like a tall task? Simplify the terms: mindset, nutrition, movement, recovery. If one of these four pillars is lacking, health and performance will be less than optimal, no matter your profession.
Keep this in mind as you go about your day. For instance, remember those first three minutes of the morning? Once that's habit, plan your next five minutes (you could try light stretching), then 15 (eat a bowl of Greek yogurt, berries, nuts and seeds and grab snacks and water to keep you going throughout the day).
The more skill you gain in these four areas, the better you'll be able to sustain your health and performance under pressure.
4. Shut it down at night
There's a reason many elite athletes, such as J.J. Watt, sleep 10 or more hours a night. Quality sleep restores your brain and body. But you don't need to sleep like an all-pro to sleep well.
What's important is establishing a consistent pre-sleep ritual. For instance, avoid electronics and alcohol, eat a balanced snack that's high in protein and healthy fat, make your bedroom cool and dark and take a hot shower or bath.
Winning this process at the end of the day will prepare you to win tomorrow.
Mark Verstegen is the founder and president of EXOS. One of the foremost experts on human performance, he has served as the NFL Players Association's performance director for 18 years and is the author of six books.
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