Wellness and Productivity: Friends, not Foes

November 4, 2021
Silvan Krähenbühl

The discussion on mental health has received increasing attention over the past decade. After all, mental health struggles affect millions around the globe. Yet, it looks like we still shy away from mentioning this topic in our personal and work lives.

Building a startup is a fulfilling (and demanding!) journey, but this should never imply neglect on your well-being. Productivity and wellness can coexist if you learn how to manage four vital pillars:

  • Nutrition
  • Sleep
  • Exercise
  • Self-Care

Eat Your Way to a Clearer Mind

We’ve all heard how important it is to eat healthy, but this doesn’t mean a good diet is an easy conquest. This is the area where I personally struggle the most — and naturally so, the one with the biggest room for improvement.

It’s easy to understand why: nutrition is never a one-size-fits all matter. One key example of this is insulin sensitivity. If you’re sensitive to insulin, carbs will benefit you more than fat, but if you’re resistant to this hormone, things work the opposite way. But how am I supposed to know what to do? I’ve been eating intuitively my whole life! Don’t worry at all! A comprehensive blood test should be enough to guide you.

But what about those irresistible cravings? Let’s keep it real: we all get the jitters for junk food every now and then. However, constantly gravitating towards sweets is a warning sign that you’re not hitting the required protein levels throughout the day. I used to go through a bar of chocolate without even thinking about it back in the day, so you can imagine how much of an eye-opener this was for me. So, as soon as our protein hunger is fed, we stop craving the bad stuff effortlessly.

My final tips are pretty self-explanatory:

  • Protein overload is also possible, and it can bring unwanted effects such as a higher metabolic burden on kidney function. Balance is key.
  • Steer clear of refined sugars and processed foods.
  • Fats are not all created the same. There is a large distance separating chocolate from avocado or salmon.
  • A Mediterranean diet, including vegetables, fresh fish, poultry and heart-healthy fats, is a good choice for most people. 

Lay the Worries to Rest

Last month's newsletter showed how improving my sleep has been at the top of my priorities’ list lately.

We bite away at our sleep time, always believing we need less and less as we strive for getting more work done. The truth is, an average adult needs 8 to 9 hours of sleep for optimal health. Less than this won't allow your body to fully repair itself from the weariness of everyday tasks, and puts you at risk of chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s, high blood pressure and depression. 

Harm coming from sleep deprivation is insidious because it accumulates slowly over the years. One day, you find yourself feeling drained over a small task. A golden rule to remember is, 8 hours in bed don't necessarily translate to 8 hours of quality sleep. So, to hit your vital mark, you may need 8.5 to 9 hours in bed. Your body will thank you.

Faster, Stronger, Happier

The Romans knew it well: a healthy mind needs a healthy body. When it comes to exercise, I believe two points must be tackled: strength training and cardiovascular exercises

On the one hand, building muscle will not only make you feel confident in your skin, but it’ll also protect your body from avoidable injuries and early deterioration. On the other hand, cardio sure looks boring sometimes, but you really don’t need to burst out running like a hamster on a wheel for hours. HIIT workouts are not only fun and engaging, but much easier to sneak into your routine. All in all, I recommend that you get your body moving at least 3x/week for a calmer mind and a stronger physique. 

A side note on this: never underestimate the benefits of walks. They burn calories, but, most importantly, they are the perfect opportunity to escape those daunting deadlines for a bit and level your headspace. Build a stronger body while you nurture inner peace — now that’s a Roman win/win.

Cultivate Me-Time

Another life-changing habit I implemented is taking time for myself in the mornings. I know this is not possible for everyone’s schedule. My point is, you should reconsider whether your mornings need to be that hectic rush of barely chewing your breakfast while you run off to work. Is this stress desirable (or even necessary)?

Self-care is an universal need, but it manifests differently for everyone. Some great habits to consider for your me-time include:

  • 30 minutes of reading (for pleasure!).
  • Preparing a nice breakfast.
  • Going for a short walk around the neighbourhood.
  • Watching an episode of your favourite series.
  • Listening to a mind-provoking podcast.

Final message

Healthy habits help us confront obstacles with a more resilient mind. We all wish success for our future, and facing hardship is a natural part of the process. However, you should never feel like you need to overcome it all on your own. So, when things look bleak, remember to reach out to your family and friends. The power of community can make all the difference.


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