Wednesday 11 December 2019

Pat Divilly: 'How to get out of a personal and professional rut'

It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, be it in our professional or personal lives, but moving out of our comfort zone gives us greater confidence and fulfillment, writes Pat Divilly

ADVICE: Pat Divilly backs intermittent fasting
ADVICE: Pat Divilly backs intermittent fasting

Pat Divilly

Life changes constantly, and as we get older, the thought of starting something new scares many of us.

It may mean leaving something or someone behind or simply changing our level of involvement. But change is nothing to be scared of; it’s part of life. How we deal with it is what’s important.

So, if you’re feeling ‘stuck’ in life or in your career, or you’ve got this feeling deep down that there’s something more in you but aren’t quite sure where to start, ask yourself what subtle changes you can make to begin with.

Try a few of these and gently move yourself forward on a path to new experiences.

Discover your STRETCH zone

What makes us happy? Much of the research suggests it’s the feeling we get from challenging ourselves and growing. We feel fulfilled. Sometimes we mistake pleasure for happiness and end up chasing short-term fixes instead of working toward something that will be truly meaningful.

Start by finding out what ‘zone’ you are in.

Think of the ‘comfort’ zone as the one where you go through the motions and do what you’ve always done. When you decide it’s time for change and bite off more than you can chew, you’ve entered the ‘panic’ zone and feel overwhelmed.

Your ‘stretch’ zone is the magic area in between where you enjoy sufficient growth, giving you a feeling of fulfilment and greater confidence. In this zone, you’re growing just enough to see progress but you’re not feeling overwhelmed. If you continue making these small changes, the compound effect over time will be huge.

So, what is your ‘stretch’ zone? Is it adding a serving of greens to your plate, or running for an extra 10 minutes at the end of your workout? Or is it enrolling on a course that interests you or taking up that long-admired hobby? Or joining a group (professional or social) that broadens your horizons and offers a wider circle of contacts?

So, be brave and STRETCH yourself.

Upgrade your free time

We’ve all got 168 hours in the week and many of us spend time commuting in a car or on public transport. The internet offers an endless array of information that can help us learn, grow and develop in our work and personal lives.

Consider listening to audiobooks or podcasts on your commute rather than scrolling — or tune in to informative discussions on live radio.

When is the last time you did the crossword or went to evening or weekend talks on topics that interested you? Talks are a great way to meet like-minded people and learn from them. I met Udo Erasmus after his health talk in Galway seven years ago — that chance encounter opened doors for me. Upgrade your time and see what doors it opens for you.

Oxygen-boosting exercise

Numerous scientific studies have shown that aerobic exercise gets the heart pounding and pumps freshly oxygenated blood around the body and brain. This helps boost energy levels and enhances mood, alertness, and cognitive function.

If you already exercise aerobically, well done. It is helping to keep your brain awake and your mind focussed.

If not, choose a form of exercise you know you will enjoy. If you have struggled with staying the course in the past, ask yourself what was the cause of this? Do you like the outdoors? Will you need company whilst exercising?

Once you have chosen your preferred exercise, draw-up a plan that commits you to several sessions at moderate levels over the week. This is better than one weekly burst of heavy-duty exercise. Then build the level over time. So for example, if you start with five 15-minute brisk walks per week, extend this to 20 minutes and gradually build up to 30-minute sessions.


Research shows that a restful sleep is paramount to productivity, so shun your mobile phone for at least an hour before you retire. Blue light simulates daylight, disrupting your circadian rhythm. I’m now in the habit of turning the phone off entirely and I’d recommend it. I’ve also stopped looking at any other screen for an hour before bedtime.

If you’re anxious about something when retiring, try Dr Andrew Weil’s 4-7-8 technique. A Harvard-trained medical doctor, I’ve found his six-step method useful in helping to calm my mind. Here’s how it goes:

Step 1 — Place the tip of your tongue against the roof of your mouth, directly behind your upper front teeth.

Step 2 — Exhale through your mouth making a ‘whoosh’ sound.

Step 3 — Close your mouth and inhale silently through your nose for four seconds.

Step 4 — Hold your breath for seven seconds.

Step 5 — Exhale through your mouth over eight seconds making the ‘whoosh’ sound again.

You’ve now taken one breath. Repeat this exercise three times, all the while holding your tongue against the roof of your mouth behind your upper front teeth.

The magic bullet according to Dr Weil is the seven-second breath hold, which allows the breathed in oxygen circulate around your body. This has a calming effect.

Environment audit

Thirteen years ago, decluttering was becoming a ‘hot’ topic in the media. The idea was that our surroundings have a large bearing on how we think and feel; that a calmer, more peaceful environment helps boost focus and clarity of mind.

So, whether it be at work or your home office, clear your desk and the surrounding floor area of anything that you do not need every day.

Put the items you use regularly, but not daily, into the desk drawer. Place anything you haven’t used in the last six months into boxes and store them in a cupboard or another room.

If you have not had to reopen the box within six months, consider recycling or disposing of them.

Given that you spend time in this space, ask yourself: is it as nice as you’d like it to be?

Consider what additions you can make to improve your space. Perhaps a plant, candle, picture or clock?

Are you up for a challenge? If any of these suggestions resonate with you, why not take part in my simple two-week programme, free of charge in health stores and pharmacies? I designed it to help people form new, empowering habits. Just ask for the ‘Udo’s Oil Upgrade Your Mindset Challenge’ booklet. Enjoy the journey

Each of us is the master of our own destiny. Whilst we all have

a different starting point, life offers us choices. It gives us the

opportunity to learn from experience, to adapt and change.

To get started on making a change:

• Open your mind and body to change, see it as an opportunity to grow

• List out the things you’d like to be different

• Make time in your week for ‘you’; this affords the opportunity to

implement change

• Root out those old ‘runners’; the body and brain are made

movement, not inertia

• Always remember that you are overflowing with untapped


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