What the heck is an MDR?
I was at an amazing talk given by my good friend Dr. Alan Christianson, NY Times best-selling author of The Adrenal Reset Diet and The Metabolism Reset Diet. In his talk on entrepreneurial health, Dr. C introduced me to this concept. So what is MDR?
MDR = Minimum Daily Requirement
Many of us are familiar with the term RDA. But do we really know what it means? RDA is Recommended Dietary Allowance – the amount of a nutrient we need as an average over time. However, most people think of it as Recommended Daily Allowance. Not that it’s really all that necessary to know the nuances of RDA, but Dr. C brought up a great point, if we don’t pay attention to what’s going going on in our lives, it’s unlikely we’ll have much control over what’s going on and unlikely we’ll reach our goals and find true happiness.
As a health entrepreneur, I find myself almost always working or at least thinking about how to further my mission, how to serve my patients more. I find myself staying up late sharing doing live, interactive online events for my tribe at times that I think are best for them. I teach that in order to best help our loved ones and to be there fully for them we need to take care of ourselves FIRST. But, in my life, this has not been purposeful. Well, I set the intention to do it and then hope it happens. Because it’s not an organized process, my personal time often gets lost. Any of us who are parents can easily relate to how our needs can easily get lost in the needs of of our children. We sacrifice ourselves for them. But what if we rarely sacrificed our needs? Rather than being scattered and partially there for our kids, we could be nearly 100% present for them.
So back to MDRs and how they can help us live a more purposeful and fulfilling life.
There are several areas that we can focus on that, when we put them first, will help us live optimally, experience radiant health, optimal brain function and allow love and joy to run rampant through our lives.
Let’s walk through this together.
Minimum Daily Requirements:
In order to function optimally, what is the minimum numbers of hours per day you need of each of the following?
Many years ago, when I was suffering with undiagnosed persistent Lyme and Babesiosis I lived by the motto “sleep when you’re dead.” I never really woke up feeling refreshed and, while I crashed every night, my sleep really wasn’t that deep. I had poor sleep hygiene, untreated infections, and didn’t realize that sleep was like diet, it’s not what I do tonight, it’s my lifestyle. So, my diet is not something I’m doing this month or this year, but my eating lifestyle. Similarly, my sleep lifestyle describes my long term pattern of sleep. Sleeping 5 hours per night for 4 days and then 12 hours per night for 3 days as a routine is not one that allows my body to become rested, restore or function optimally. In fact, this could be worse than sleeping 5-6 hours per night every night because it’s such an erratic schedule. The bottom line, start to think about sleep as an average over time, a lifestyle choice.
How much sleep do you need to function optimally? The National Sleep Foundation recommends the average adult get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. From the research I’ve read, I would suggest most adults need 8-9 and sometimes 10 hours of sleep to really rest, recover, and rejuvenate optimally. For me, once my wife Jill suggested I sleep 8 hours per night and I did this for 10 months straight. YES, you are reading this correctly, 8 HOURS PER NIGHT FOR 10 MONTHS…then I started to wake feeling rested, physically, mentally and emotionally ready for the day.
How do you get 8+ hours of sleep per night? You plan it. You schedule it. You make it your priority. Sleep is likely the most important thing you can do for your health and longevity, not to mention for your relationships with family and friends. And, get tons of sleep, your work and school performance will improve. Your athletic abilities will increase. Want to prevent cognitive decline, like Alzheimer’s, or be more resistant to colds and flus? Sleep more.
I find it hard to get 8 hours a day to sleep, except if I schedule it. Put it in the calendar and make it non-negotiable. When sleep is an afterthought, I miss out on it. When it is my priority, written down, I get my MDR of sleep and I feel amazing. My family notices it, the quality of my work is better and I feel great.
Much the same as sleep, if it’s not planned, it doesn’t happen. I can’t tell you how many days I stay late at the office to finish paperwork, even though I have dedicated paperwork time. I think that by getting more done today, I’ll be able to get more done on my paperwork day. Right, as if that ever happens. The truth is, the more I let paperwork and other activities randomly creep into my day, the more random stuff randomly creeps into my day. When I write out my plan and stick to it, I’m always amazed at how few random distractions come my way.
For exercise, I find I need at least 1 hour each day dedicated to movement. When I’m following my MDR plan, my week looks something like this. I do best with 4 days of intense exercise, 1-2 days of active recovery (walking, family hikes, rowing, biking) and 1-2 days of rest. I make the determination of active recovery vs rest based upon what program I’m doing based upon my current goals and how my body and mind have been feeling. Even on my rest day, 1 hour needs to be dedicated to exercise. On rest days this means REST. I need to give myself 1 hour of me time to do something enjoyable and restful.
In terms of my MDR, when I think about it in this manner, I leave work on time and get my exercise in. I leave the paperwork to the dedicated paperwork time. By focusing on taking care of myself and exercising at or above my MDR, I find that I get paperwork done much faster with higher quality because I’m totally focused and feeling great.
How many meals have I rushed through in my life? How many evenings have been a blur from the time I get home until the time I crash and need to put my head on the pillow? Come to think of it, how many days have ended in a blur that doesn’t end until the next morning when I wake up?
At our house, healthy, nourishing meals are super important to us, but, admittedly, we often try to squeeze a healthy meal into as really small space. This leads to increased cortisol and lack of time to really unwind with each other. And increased cortisol in the evening screws up sleep, ugh.
The best weeks we have are when we plan meals ahead and do some weekend prep. I have friends who will have a professional chef prepare a few meals per week to free up time and remove stress. During times when I know I’m going to be extra busy, I may subscribe to a food service for a month. Getting healthy, pre-prepared meals delivered that I just need to heat up can make a huge difference.
My preferred method is to set aside a couple of hours one day per week, usually on the weekend, and make a couple of main dishes that can be combined in a variety of ways throughout the week. For example, pork carnitas is really easy to make in a slow cooker or pressure cooker and it can be used as a main meal in the evening and on top of a lunch salad. It’s amazing what having 75% of a meal all ready to go does for your time on Tuesday night. It just takes a commitment to doing a little planning ahead of time and then holding yourself accountable to following through.
The idea here is to batch work. Two hours for food prep on the weekend. 8 hours of sleep per day. Paperwork 2 hours twice a week. And so on. This is sacred time, you must get your MDRs otherwise you are not functioning or living optimally.
Connecting with Loved Ones
This is definitely my favorite one. I love spending time with my family and love putting them first. But, wait….didn’t I just say to focus on yourself first? Yep, this is a trap! For me, it’s so easy to put my family ahead of me, rather than putting me first and IN the family. I have a Connecting with Loved Ones MDR and it’s non-negotiable AND my other MDRs are non-negotiable as well. This is so critical.
I have made a conscious effort to attend all my daughter’s performances and competitions. But really, these are no brainers. When I show up and I’m one of the only dads there, I look good. I stand out. I don’t show up for that reason, but I mention this because it highlights how easy it is for all of us to see how showing up for special events is a good thing as a parent. But what about showing up every day? Do I make time every day to deeply connect with my daughter? Dr. C brought up the point that many people use the quality vs quantity time argument. While he just paused and let us think about it, I’m going to say it…it’s bullshit! All your time with loved ones should be quality time and, at least for me, I want as much of that time as I can. Schedule quality-quantity time, yes both, to spend Connecting with Your Loves Ones each day in a manner that serves your personal MDR. And, if you’re like me, some of your loved ones walk on all fours.
Remember, this MDR isn’t about putting others first, it’s about doing things with them, spending time to connect. Rather than putting them first at the expense of yourself, this approach elevates your life energy and theirs!
So many of the most important things are the least urgent. Get clear on your Connecting with Loved Ones MDR and make it one of the most important things in your life.
Dr. C suggests we carve out space for daydreaming. I have always loved the term white space. It’s kind of like white noise. It’s just space. Your goal is not to fill it, merely to be in it. See what happens. Allow your brain time away from music, away from screens, away from work. As Dr. C asked our group, “can you endure the boredom?” Really, allow yourself to experience boredom and then keep experiencing it. See what ideas start to come into your mind. This is almost like meditation, but there’s no goal. Not even meditating. It’s just being. Now I’m sure we can have a long discussion about what meditation is and is not and whether or not meditation has goals, but the point it give yourself time and space to be and see what happens. Time without distractions. Take a walk (without your phone). Sit on the porch with a coffee or tea. Do something boring that you don’t usually do. Allow space for creativity to effortlessly come into your life.
I often try and create or even schedule time for my creative work. Up until now, my error had been scheduling time to do the creative work, essentially telling my brain that creativity happens between 9-11 am on Fridays and I have to be done with it by 11 am because I agreed to turn in the slides for a lecture on a new topic by noon. Craziness. I’ve begun to schedule time for creativity, open space. This is my time to allow the creative ideas to come. I still have time on Fridays to write up and further develop my creative ideas, but this is scheduled work time, not mandated creative time. Taking the constraints off of creative time and providing time to allow my mind to be free and open to inspiration allows for more freedom, more awareness, more creativity. What is your White Space MDR?
Your MDRs are Your MDRs
Your MDR numbers don’t need to be the same as mine. Take a look at your life and plan your MDRs FIRST otherwise they will get overlooked.
Your MDRs need to be Your Priority
Focusing on your MDRs as your priority, free up and optimize your physical energy, your cognitive energy and your vital energy.
Revisit and Revise
Get into the habit of writing out and evaluating your MDRs on a weekly basis. After awhile, you’ll get into the groove and your weeks will start to flow and the weekly process will become very fast. You’ll likely be tempted to skip weeks because you’ve gotten into such a groove. Stay in the habit of re-evaluating your MDRs at least once every 2 weeks.
Focus on your MDRs and see your physical, mental and emotional health and sense of well-being skyrocket!