15 Small Changes That Transformed My Life (almost) Overnight

I came home from vacation and changed my life.

Photo: Ella Jardim for Unsplash

I’ve been an online entrepreneur for the past 10 years and that translates into A LOT of sitting in front of my computer.

I took a trip to New York last May and I noticed two things: how much more alive (and I mean on a physical, cellular level) I felt by being outdoors, moving around, engaging with “real” people (not just my computer), walking the city 7–10 miles a day, etc. And I also noticed (sad face!) how much my cardiovascular health had declined since I moved back to California two years ago. This difference was totally shocking and jarring to me.

When I got home, I decided that I was going to create a completely new work/life experience.

Here are some of the new shifts I made.

1. I TRADED A SITTING DESK FOR A STANDING DESK.

I now have a standing desk! I no longer sit all day. I move so much more, whether writing, working on the website, or speaking with clients.

The biggest challenge was doing creative, thinking-type work while standing. Usually, I would sort of slump at my desk, staring at the screen, and then the creative work would come from that stationary position. My brain and physical body had to learn how to relax enough to create when standing.

Photo: Stephanie St.Claire (author) // kitchen island by Ikea // computer riser by VersaDesk

2. I TRADED SLOW MOTION TASKS FOR HIGH ENERGY TASKS FIRST THING IN THE MORNING.

I realized that it’s best for me to increase my motion right when I get up. So I now workout first thing and make all my food for the day. I used to drink coffee, journal, meditate, and study something..followed by email and checking social media. All slow-motion type activities. When it was time to get a mid-day workout in, I was “not feeling it” and was also feeling behind on my business tasks. So workouts weren’t really happening a lot.

Having a business had been wayyyy harder on my body than birthing three kids and let me tell you what happens: You start aging. You wake up stiff, you have certain ways you can’t turn your body, your posture suffers, your cardiovascular health declines exponentially, and the fat on your body reapportions itself to odd and surprising places.

3. I TRADED MY FIRST-THING-IN-THE-MORNING COFFEE FOR A PROTEIN + PROBIOTIC SHAKE.

Oh don’t worry, I have a nice big coffee after lunch. I love rituals! And coffee isn’t something I drink to keep me “up.” As a matter of fact, I could drink a gallon of coffee right before bed and fall asleep in 15 minutes. But I love the smell, the taste, and the ritual of it. I found that making a shake with fruits + veggies + nutrients first thing in the morning really helps with the workout action. Which leads me to….

4. I TRADED MY LACKLUSTER DAILY WALK FOR 90 MINUTES OF HIGH-INTENSITY CARDIO + WEIGHT TRAINING.

Can I be honest? Having a business had been wayyyy harder on my body than birthing three kids. From the years of sitting behind a desk for umpteen hours a day, clicking on a mouse, hunched over the laptop reading, fixing, fiddling…to skipping the gym so I could get “one more thing out” — Let me tell you what happens. You start aging. You wake up stiff, you have certain ways you can’t turn your body, your posture suffers, your cardiovascular health declines exponentially, and the fat on your body reapportions itself to odd and surprising places.

I used to walk every evening on a 2–3 mile loop around my neighborhood. I thought I was doing something good for myself, but it wasn’t enough. 3 weeks ago I joined a new gym that I can run to every morning because it’s one mile away, and I’m having the best workouts of my life! I do 20 minutes of stairs, 20 minutes of running sprints, and 30–40 minutes of weights. In the weight room. With the jocks.

I finally found a gym that is “me.” It’s one of those basic gyms with the downhome people. There are no West Elm-looking locker rooms, no steam rooms, no eucalyptus-chilled towels. There are cardio machines and weights all in one huge space. And it costs $25 buck a month.

Photo: Stephanie St.Claire (author)

5. I AM BACK TO DRINKING ONE GALLON OF WATER A DAY.

I was drinking only maybe a liter a day before this. Yes, you pee a lot, especially at first. After about 3–4 days your skin starts to glow. Your elbows and knees become soft, especially if you’re dry-brushing your skin before your shower. Your metabolism has the perfect environment with which to work and you lose weight. It just feels so good, and I swear, it’s that 4th liter that makes the magic happen.

6. I TRADED MY EVENING GLASS OF WINE FOR KOMBUCHA JUICE.

Again, I love rituals! That evening glass of *something* always signals that my day is done. So I’m drinking GT’s Raw Organic Kombucha Gingerade. It’s seriously so delicious! It’s not cheaper, but it’s definitely healthier.

7. I BOUGHT A FOAM ROLLER. OMG. LIFE CHANGING.

I was briefly introduced to foam rolling back in 2007 when I was running a lot. And it hurt so much to roll that IT band that I wasn’t a fan and didn’t do it again. But I remember how much better I felt the next day after a long run or heavy workout: vastly reduced muscle soreness.

So I bought a Trigger Points Therapy Foam Roller and have been rolling out my muscles every night. OMG. Son of a mother’s lover, it hurt like hell the first time I used it. We’re talking tears shooting out of your eye sockets. But within the first week of using it, my flexibility had almost completely returned to pre-entrepreneur status. I can’t even tell you how much better my body feels: longer, leaner, and 1000x more limber. When you sit all day and don’t move your bod, your ligaments and muscles shrink and contort. So step one: stop sitting all day. Step two: Stretch your muscles and work the lactic acid out. Foam roller! You must try this!

8. I’M LEARNING HOW TO DO REALLY GOOD MUSCLE MASSAGES ON MYSELF.

I didn’t know this was necessary. But after I was searching for ways to help my rotator cuff injury, I landed on a massage therapist’s channel and he said many rotator cuff injuries are really just conditions caused by muscle knots and shortening, due to repetitive motion. I have been living with shoulder pain and very limited range of motion in my right shoulder — which I thought stemmed from too much lifting during a move in 2011 (actually I moved 4 times — an epically horrendous year). Well, I did his techniques and he was 100% right. I had a ton of knots deep in my deltoid, bicep, teres muscle, and behind my scapula. After I did his massage, I was completely pain-free and full mobility restored. I’ve watched several videos about soft-tissue work since then and that has become a healthy ritual…learn different massage techniques!

9. I FOUND A NEW GROCERY STORE WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE.

Not the biggest change, but I really love being able to walk to the store. Now that I’ve moved to Old Towne Orange, I’m walking everywhere, including the grocery, coffee shop, hair salon, and library. And walking with #allthebags home…you know what that equals? Crossfit.

“I’m not spending my life scrolling on a phone and the emotional real estate that is now freed up is astronomical.”

10. I’VE CUT MY PHONE USAGE BY 70%.

I took several apps off my phone and only kept Gmail, Headspace (meditation app), Instagram, a few photo editing apps, podcasts, and Spotify. In other words, I’m not spending my life scrolling on a phone or waiting for people to see my posts or wait for their responses, etc. The mental and emotional real estate that is now freed up is astronomical. This is one of the best changes I’ve ever made.

11. I’M SLEEPING 8–9 HOURS MOST NIGHTS.

I’m giving my mind and body premium time to repair itself, especially with this new workout, stretching, massaging, and rolling out program I’ve got going. My body is detoxifying and healing and so I’ve been going to bed at 10 p.m. and getting up at 6 a.m. I’m a natural night owl but the extra hours of sleep have given me abundant energy to workout, think, create, and eliminate the afternoon slumps that regularly hit me by 3 p.m. As a matter of fact, I feel like I’m 17 years old again. Boundless energy and ability to focus/switch gears whenever needed.

12. I’VE CUT MY WORK HOURS TO 7 HOURS A DAY.

This was a difficult one, and I’m still adjusting. I’m used to 12-hour days. I used to start my work day at 5/5:30 a.m. and work until 6 or 7. I’m becoming more efficient and on-task with my work objectives for the day.

When I wake up, I no longer jump onto the computer. I make my protein shake, dress for the gym, workout, hit the market, come home and cook all my meals for the day. They’re not fancy, but they’re fresh. And then I start my work day at 9:30. Not scrolling through my phone has helped me A LOT. I’m no longer in the addictive cycle of wondering “what’s going on.” My time on the computer feels really good now.

Photo: Stephanie St.Claire (author)

13. I DRESS FOR WORK EVERY DAY EVEN WHEN I WORK FROM HOME.

Shower. Hair. Makeup. My favorite outfits. It makes a difference when you’re keepin it cute and you’re ready for anything. Most days I don’t feel like doing this. But then I pretend Jonathan, Karamo, Antoni, Tan, and Bobby are coming over for an intervention and I give myself a gorgeous little moment in front of the mirror.

Photo: Netflix

“In the morning I cook all my meals for the day. They are not fancy, but they’re fresh.”

14. I’VE DONE A COMPLETE HOUSEHOLD PURGE.

I went through all the clothes, linens, utility closet, and business materials. I’ve switched everything around in my closets, armoires, bookshelves, and dresser. There’s something about “moving without moving” that makes me inspired!

15. I RELAX AT NIGHT.

I don’t talk about work, dwell on work, or even go over my list for the next day in my mind. I have a weekly plan that I write on Saturday nights, and I follow that productivity map without fussing over it. I’ve been watching documentaries and reading for pleasure. Lighting candles. Giving myself facial masks. Hanging out with my kids. Learning new recipes. And going to bed on time!

So, these are the new experiments and changes I’m having fun with. I hope that a handful of them will inspire and nurture you. Again, I can’t tell you how AMAZING I’m feeling these days. I know when you read through this list it feels like a lot, but each one of these things are small shifts. A little can go a long way in improving your life!

Here’s a handy list of my favorite things mentioned or referenced in this post:

Versa Standing Desk Riser

Sunrise Alarm Clock

Trigger Points Foam Roller

Ninja Blender for smoothies

Favorite wood hangers: Shirts // Pants

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Stephanie St.Claire is a writer and personal advisor based in Orange County, California. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post, Fast Company, Inc., Thought Catalogue, Greatist, Citizens of Culture, Mind Body Green and has been named one of Medium’s Top 100 Writers. She’s on Instagram and is the author of The SuperFoxes’ Guide to Life Planning + Organization

Visit her website: stephaniestclaire.com
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Writer. Reader. Lover of the Oxford comma. Writing for Medium since 2013. Find me at stephaniestclaire.com

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