Time Perspective: Living in the Moment

Forever is composed of nows.

– Emily Dickinson

The topic for this week’s blog struck me as I was staring at the black line at the bottom of the pool, distractedly thinking about my lengthy to-do list while swimming laps. I snapped back to reality just before running headfirst into the cement wall lining the pool, indicating just how far away my mind was. It struck me that perhaps I was missing out what I could have been experiencing if I wasn’t so future-focused (we will deep dive types of time-perspectives shortly) If you’ve read my writing in the past, you may already know how firmly rooted I am to the idea of self-awareness. The awareness of time perspective brought me here, to this moment, writing this message to help myself (and you!) live a full, more sustainable, happy life.

Let’s start with the question at the front of our minds: what is time perspective? The time perspective theory is the idea that the way we perceive the past, present, and future impacts our thoughts, emotions, and actions. A Stanford University psychology professor named Philip Zimbardo (you may recognize him as the mastermind behind the Stanford Prison Experiment) developed this theory. His philosophy is based on 5 approaches, or “types.” Review these approaches, or types, below. Which one do you relate with most?

  1. The ‘past-negative’ type. Having suffered trauma(s) in the past, you focus on what went previously went wrong. You would describe yourself as pessimistic, or as a realist. This can lead to feelings like anger, bitterness, and regret.
  1. The ‘past-positive’ type. You enjoy remembering “the good ‘ol days” and have a nostalgic view of the past. You keep in touch with family and childhood friends. You enjoy holidays and souvenirs to remind you of the past but may suffer from a cautiously “better safe than sorry” type mentality.
  2. The ‘present-hedonistic’ type. You are an in-the-moment pleasure-seeker! You may be impulsive, and are reluctant to postpone feeling good, possibly to avoid pain. You may live a less healthy lifestyle, trend towards addictions, and take more risks.
  3. The ‘present-fatalistic’ type. You feel you have no control of your future and therefore feel stuck in the present. You feel trapped in the moment, powerless to change your future. This may lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, or in some cases risk-taking.
  4. The ‘future-focused’ type. (sometimes referred to as extreme-future focused) You plan for the future, make to-do lists, and trust your decisions. You are most likely to succeed and stay out of trouble, but may sacrifice personal relationships, intimacy and enjoyment of the present by meticulously planning the future.

Citation: Rosemary K.M. Sword and Philip Zimbardo.

Article: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-time-cure/201607/the-importance-our-time-perspective

The idea of this theory and understanding how you look at the past, present, and future may help you. How? Understanding your needs and values, whether those are reminiscing the past or brightly planning the future, may help you find balance and stability while identify toxic triggers. If you think about it, a lot of people who are unhappy, anxious, rushing around, acting out in a grumpy manner, etc. may simply be out of balance with their time perspective. Picture a coworker or companion that unexpectedly snapped at you recently. It may be a result of them obsessing over past pains, like a divorce or simply wishing it was the way it was before Covid, unable to pull themselves to the present. Another example is someone like myself, too busy plotting a productive day I miss out on the taste of my coffee, the warm shine of afternoon sun, or the smell of fresh rain. We often snap when our mojo is off, and I’m starting to see how essential time-perspective is in achieving sustainability and stability.

We all take time for granted. I think this may be one valuable lesson Covid taught us: we may not realize what we have until it has been taken. Especially intangible things, like freedom and time. We all know living in the past or worrying about the future takes joy out of the present. Understanding time perspective may help us slow down, gain perspective, act with kindness and empathy. So, what are some ways we can balance our time perspective? I’m so glad you asked!

Depending on what your time-perspective is, you may need an individualized approach to finding balance. My first suggestion is to seek a therapist that seeks to understand your past traumas, future burdens, and present mentality. Therapy is always a helpful resource – speaking from experience as I still keep in touch with my trusted therapist from high school! A few examples of balancing time perspective can be found below.

If you identified with the past-negative approach, boosting positive experiences may help lessen the traumas deeply rooted in your past. Boosting positive past experiences or memories may be helpful, as well as identifying bright future events. Enlightening yourself with positive past and present events regularly may be helpful!

If you identified with present-fatalistic, giving yourself permission to do things you enjoy may help balance the fear and trapped feelings you feel in the present moment. Perhaps hanging out with some present-hedonistic types will help! Relationships that have different time perspectives may prove useful to all types.

If you identified with future focused but find you’re a bit extreme or obsessive with planning (or extreme future focused), you may miss out on the pleasures of the here and now, like relationships and intimacy. Making more time for present activities may need to be intentional at first but working it into your future plans by scheduling “activities in the present” may soon become more natural. Asking friends and family to hold you accountable may be wise!

Whether you realize you need to make time to read or give yourself permission to do things you enjoy more, it’s important to deep dive your views on past joys or traumas while understanding how you view the future. This may help you be more present. I know I’ve incorporated simply breathing and taking in my current surroundings as a way to let go of past stressors or future worries. I like the way I feel when I’m in the moment: enjoying the taste of the food I’m eating, the touch of a loved ones fingers interlaced in mine, the smell in the fresh air (or chlorinated pool water, going back to my opening story), or the feel of a hard effort in a workout. Awareness of each sense leads to an experience specific to that moment alone, and all those moments added together make up my life, my memories. Why waste them with negative emotions of the past or future? Reminiscing and planning will always be important ways to remember things or be productive, as long as it’s not at the expensive of my presence.

Be well. Love,

Becca


Why You’re Fat

Lifestyle management is a daily challenge. One slip, two slips, three slips…and a bad habit is formed with consequences that can be ten-fold. The purpose of this article is to raise awareness about lifestyle choices, without any bullsh*t. I’m here to speak truth, and offer a way out. If you need some life changes, this article will help get you on the right track. Let’s get right down to it. 

Main Causes of Obesity (from a trainer’s perspective) :

  1. Stress – 1 out of 75 adults experience panic disorders (National Institute of Mental Health)
  2. Lack of sleep – 1/3 of American adults report getting less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep/night (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) 
  3. Poor nutrition – The nationwide count for fast food restaurants has doubled since 1970! 

Common sense, right? The prior are three key ingredients to the Obesity Recipe and, quite frankly, get swept under the rug too much. While it may seem easy to “fix” stress, sleep, and nutrition, it’s actually the three topics I’m constantly stuck on with most clients. American lifestyle is high-paced, competitive, and busy. Is that an excuse? No. It is, however, an explanation – a piece to everyone’s individual puzzle.

Let’s look at stress, the causes and consequences, and address how to manage your lifestyle with proper sleep and nutrition to battle the bulge. 

Stress – the start of it all.  

To name a few of many causes: 

– Work – 80% of Americans reported feeling stressed at work, while almost 50% cited they need help managing stress. (American Institute of Stress) Changing careers, pressure to perform and hit deadlines, receiving promotions, and/or working split or night shifts are more specific examples of work related stress

– Fitness Routines – while it’s often a positive stressor, it’s still stress on the body. Training for a specific race, meet, and / or weight loss goals are examples of stressors. Even more specifically, high intensity and specific overload sessions are examples of things that can cause stress. 

– Family-  whether its chasing kids or helping a family member with an addiction or ailment, family can be stressful!

– Future of our country- surprisingly (or maybe not…) this ranked as one of the highest causes of stress in 2017. Some fear the national leader, while others are more stressed about how that specifically translates to things like Medicare. Long story short, Americans are the most concerned and stressed they have EVER been about this topic. (statistically) 

Any of these relate to you? If so, keep reading..

Consequences of short and long – term stress levels

*This is the main takeaway, so if you’re skimming, slow down here.

When we experience immediate stress, our body releases several hormones (you may recognize one in particular known as cortisol). After the removal of a short bout of stress, say a workout, or traffic jam, or busy day at work, some hormones dissipate, some stick around to make sure energy is restored. Here’s where insulin comes in. Elevating blood glucose (aka eating sugar) lowers some of these hormone levels. As we give into sugar cravings more, our bodies adapt. Soon, we need more sugar to relieve these elevated hormones, and after an extended level of stress (unsustainable amounts of high intensity exercises or prolonged lack of sleep, for example), elevated levels of said hormones hinder thyroid-stimulating hormones, the important ones that account for metabolizing 60-75% of our daily calorie expenditure) which in turn reduces quantities of hormones needed to regulate metabolism. Before we know it, we’re insulin-resistant with high levels of fat in our core. (NASM) Slippery slopes… 

Lifestyle Management 

Stress is a part of life. It always has been, it always will be. The reason why we’re more overweight is partly due to chronic stress from busy lifestyles, and the obnoxious amounts of readily available fast food and sugar. You’re allowed to be stressed! However, your reaction to stress has consequences. Do you want them to be positive (balanced diet and exercise) or negative (sugar cravings, insulin-resistance, weight gain)? *Note: discipline required to read further. 

  • Balance you life. Take 5 minutes at the beginning, middle, and/or end of your day to think about the positive aspects of your life. If you can’t fill 5 minutes with positivity, it’s time to make some drastic changes. If you’re one step ahead saying change is stressful, you bet your a** it is, but if short-term stress leads to relief of chronic stress well, that’s a trade I’d take any day. 
  • Incorporate aerobic activity. If all you’re doing is blowing off steam with ground and pound workouts, or avoiding exercise altogether, think about redirecting your time. If you’re not exercising, start with 30 minute walks 3 x’s a week. If you’re already exercising, step back and look at your approach. Do you need some aerobic activity to help reduce those stress hormones? Try doing 2 moderate workouts to 1 high intensity or anaerobic workouts. If you’re training for a specific, competitive event, be sure to include a recovery week every 2-4 weeks. 
  • SLEEP. Everyone is different, but the majority of us need 7-8 hours of sleep. This means exercising and eating at an appropriate time. Sometimes that means skipping an early workout if sleep quality was poor, while sometimes this means working out early to ensure a timely dinner and bedtime. Lastly, this means lights off and devices away by a certain time. If that’s too much to ask, reassess your priorities. 
  • Feed yourself. Under-fueling is an epidemic, in my dramatic opinion. Too many people work hard at demanding job, stress their bodies in training, and (in a futile attempt to lose weight) restrict calories. If give your body less than it needs to function, you only increase those naughty hormones I discussed. The result is fatigue, not weight loss. That’s depressing! If you’re unsure of what you need to ensure a healthy metabolism, consult a fitness professional. Nutrition is not a cookie-cutter plan. It takes time to find the right caloric intake for optimal performance and / or weight loss. 
  • Proper Nutrition. The minute you pull into McDonald’s after a stressful day at work after a poor night’s sleep is the minute you agree to the negative chain of events we discussed. To be clear: treats and rewards are part of a balanced routine, while stress-responses eating is an addictive habit. If you get promoted and celebrate with a milk shake, awesome! If you’re traveling for work, sleep-deprived, and react with a milk shake, not awesome. Set yourself up for success by grocery shopping for 1 hour, and meal prepping for 2 hours. That’s three hours of time on a day you’ve set aside each week to be successful during a busy week. If that’s still not possible, use an online food service to deliver healthy meals in stressful weeks. If you travel, plan your trip ahead to find walkable distance stores and be strong at company dinners. Skip the alcohol, bulk the vegetables. I could make this bullet a separate post, as this barely touches on ways to have proper nutrition. If you still have questions, feel free to reach out to me personally on this matter. 
  • Routine vs. Ritual: I’ve found most people to be creatures of habit. We prefer to have our schedule “normal.” For example: Breakfast at 7. Workout at 8. Shower and head to work at 9, so on and so forth. Bland, but seems to work…or does it? If you look at your schedule and find yourself going through your daily routine effortlessly, then it’s time to ramp it up a little. Rituals are meaningful tasks that specifically lead us closer to our goal. It’s the mentality behind the actions that make an impact. It’s quite possible your routine is holding you back from reaching your potential, merely by lulling you into mediocrity. Look at your day to day and find ways to insert rituals into your routine that will make you just 10% better. 

That’s it for today, folks!  Feel free to email me personally if clarification or personal advice is needed on any of the topics touched on today. 

BK