People live a little differently here in Washington, DC. If someone were to visit DC from a small town in the middle of the country, they’d likely be shocked by the pace of life here. Visitors would also be likely to notice that DC residents work very, very hard; even when they’re technically off the clock, you’ll catch DC denizens firing off emails or cutting deals over dinner. All of this stuff leaves very little time for eating well, so DC residents tend to consume a lot of take-out and restaurant food.
And then there’s the booze; oh, boy, the booze. From government leaders to financiers and from college students to wealthy men and women of leisure, Washington, DC is packed to the gills with folks who like to throw back a cocktail or seven. Studies paint a grim portrait of DC drinking culture; ours is the hardest-drinking city in the country, and one of the booziest cities on planet Earth.
As you go about your daily life in the DMV, you may not realize how exceptional some of these things are. After all, these are the things that everyone here seems to be doing. You need to be careful, because a typical DC lifestyle is not a very healthy lifestyle at all.
Taking stock of your DC lifestyle
Not everyone in DC works long hours, consumes massive quantities of booze, and gorges themselves on take-out. Many of us do, though, and it’s up to us to notice these bad habits and correct them.
Take stock of how you’re living your life. A food and exercise journal can help you keep track of the facts, and so can a daily schedule. Look at how you’re spending your time and your money, and consider what you’re putting into your body and what you’re expecting to get out of it. Are you driving yourself too hard?
Make a list of the things about your DC lifestyle that could be hurting your physical and mental health. Then, resolve to do something to improve each of the things on it.
Making changes and improving your lifestyle
You’ll probably always work hard in DC, and you may never completely banish stress and anxiety. But this doesn’t mean that you can’t make meaningful changes to the way you live. By altering habits and building new healthy lifestyle norms, you could quite literally add years to your life.
To make real changes, though, you’ll have to do two things: Choose sustainable changes and focus on habits. Diets and exercise plans tend to fail in part because those who create them are so bent on making massive changes. Massive changes require massive willpower to implement, and they often end up being short-term solutions. Even if you manage to crash diet your way down to your ideal weight (and you shouldn’t do that, because it’s not healthy), studies show that you’re likely to gain it all back quickly. Why? Because a crash diet doesn’t change the way you eat when you’re not dieting.
So focus on your habits: When do you eat poorly, and why? Break habits loops or, better yet, replace the “reward” with something healthier. Choose moderate changes and keep enjoying a filling diet even as you make it a healthier one.
You should also get some help. There are plenty of therapists in DC who can help you make meaningful changes to your lifestyle that will improve your mood and thought patterns. Therapy has the potential to reshape the way that you respond to stress and negative thoughts, and it can help virtually anyone build a healthier mind and craft a healthier lifestyle.
You won’t change overnight, of course. But you don’t have to let DC’s stresses and unhealthy norms hurt your body and mind. Team up with mental health care professionals, adopt better habits, and get more out of life.
To read more on topics like this, check out the lifestyle category.