I remember studying the 2nd law of thermodynamics and the related concept of entropy way back in school. Since physics wasn’t my favorite subject by any stretch of the imagination, I have few recollections of what entropy meant – until more recently. It’s only now that I’ve begun to appreciate the importance of understanding how entropy can get in the way of living the lives we want to live every day.
Entropy is a measure of the disorder and disintegration everything goes through as it ages. This applies as much to our relationships and to our businesses and organizations, as it does to the universe itself. However, it doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom. We can stop or slow down this law of nature by stepping in and taking measures that exert the opposite force.
We can work on our relationships at home and at work to keep them alive and vibrant.
We can provide structure to our teams and children to bring out the best in them.
We can take care of our planet instead of accelerating its demise.
This article though is not about our relationships, leadership roles, business management or environmental disasters though. It’s about the entropy of us as living organisms. If we expect ourselves to show up fully in our lives without actively looking after our health and wellbeing, we’d better understand that we won’t be the exception to nature’s rule. Disintegration is not a mistake – it’s the natural order of things. Scientist Peter Atkins has called it “nature’s tax”!
So take a moment to see where you are with regards to your self-care? Do you feel like you’re operating at full force and vitality, or do you relate more to feeling like you’re burning out? If it’s the latter, here are two things you can do to intervene – the first is passive and the other is active.
Create Healthy Habits
Our habits are perhaps the single biggest factor that determines our lives. And because they function from a part of our brains that’s often outside of conscious awareness and takes up next to no energy, we can engage in unhealthy habits without really being aware of it. Like eating uncontrollably when stressed. Like grabbing a bag of chips when you get home. Like scrolling through social media even when the lights have been switched off at night.
Identify the habits that are getting in the way of eating well, exercising regularly and sleeping on time. And then consider what counter habits you can create to feel energized and able, rather than drained and miserable. When you know what you’ll be doing, set yourself up for success. Set a reminder on your phone or a notification on your computer. Stack the new habit on top of something you already do, like meditating right after you wash your face in the morning. Make changes to your surroundings to help you remember, like leaving your gym clothes by the door or throwing out all the junk food in your kitchen cabinets…
Be Aware of Your Tendencies
Unlike habits which work on auto once formed, there are certain areas of our lives where we need to be constantly vigilant. For someone with a sweet tooth, habits of healthy eating can fall by the wayside when presented with the dessert menu! Or for someone who really doesn’t enjoy exercise, it can be a constant struggle to stay committed to it. That’s where they need active intervention.
Identify the tendencies you have with regards your eating, exercise and sleep patterns. Do they come naturally to you and make you feel good? Are they also good for you in the long term? If not, find ways to honor your natural tendencies by striking the right balance between deprivation and indulgence. Give yourself permission to honor your needs without sabotaging your health and wellbeing. How will you enjoy cake without devouring the whole thing? How will you engage in exercise that doesn’t feel like a compulsion? How will get a full night’s sleep while maximizing your natural circadian rhythms?
There are ample forces in our world that have disconnected us from the basics of self-care. Businesses who only have their own profits in mind tell us what we should eat and how much we should exercise. Algorithms that are meant to hook us onto technology keep us scrolling through social media well into the night. The best chance we have of delaying or stopping entropy in our personal lives is to look after our self-care both passively and actively.