One Change Could Save Your Life by Caryn O’Hara

Almost dying may not give you bragging rights, but what it does give you is the ability to offer sound advice about how to pull through a game changing experience. Two years ago when I was unable to breathe, pee, poop, talk, and sit up on my own, I had a choice to make. I could let my head swarm like a termite infestation eating away at the sound structure of my brain, or I could choose to look closely at what was happening and embrace it. At least these are the two options I saw for myself at the time. In retrospect, it still makes sense.

In a society that thrives off of perfectionism, consumerism, and competition, it is no wonder most of us have spent some time being riddled with anxiety. Or maybe it has been happening the majority of your life. However long you felt the experience, looking back you can definitely identify when it has happened. It may have weighted you down with overly analytical thinking. It may have slowly yet methodically draped a blanket of disorganization or confusion over your existence. Or it may have hit you like a ton of bricks: a car accident, a death, a spouse walking out on you, or, like me, feeling particularly put together one day and knocked out on a surgical table the next.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are three main factors for heart disease, which is the #1 cause of death of men and women in the United States. Specifically “that’s 1 in every 4 deaths”. Just below half of Americans have one of the three primary risk factors for heart disease, which are high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol, and smoking. The CDC explains that “several other medical conditions and lifestyle choices can also put people at a higher risk for heart disease” like, diabetes, obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol use.(1)

If you are a smoker, the good news is your odds for having heart disease might be slightly less. And yes, some of these disease-related factors are hereditary. But many can be eliminated or avoided altogether by decreasing the number of components in your life that nurture stress on the heart. Like, for instance, stress. In fact, “Coronary heart disease is also much more common in individuals subjected to chronic stress and recent research has focused on how to identify and prevent this growing problem, particularly with respect to job stress. In many instances, we create our own stress that contributes to coronary disease by smoking and other faulty lifestyles or because of dangerous traits like excess anger, hostility, aggressiveness, time urgency, inappropriate competitiveness and preoccupation with work.” (2)

However, with a single practice, your odds could be considerably reduced for becoming a part of the current statistics around heart disease.


If you need to tend to a relationship that is falling apart, make time for it. If it is your health that is being neglected, take notice. Then take action. Think right now. What in your life about which you care deeply has fallen by the wayside? What can you eliminate to spend more time focused on that weak spot in your life?

The challenging thing about living simply is that it isn’t simple at all. I make a living coaching very intelligent, successful people on how to do less and be more for this very reason. Simplicity is the key to freedom. It’s the key to health. It’s the key to survival. But as human beings, we dishonor compromise because we are obsessed with complexity. We feed on big, blazing fires. We seek to climb the highest mountain.

Now that doesn’t mean that my mountain looks or feels the same as your mountain. Your mountain most likely doesn’t mirror your significant other’s either. But we all strive to accomplish more. So I ask. What if we could spend some time every single day to reprogram our minds to believe that accomplishing more doesn’t mean doing more?

Accomplishing more is actually BEING more. Choose to BE there to taste your lunch during the work week. Chose to BE there to feel the pain that throbs when your heart is broken. BE there to console a friend who needs it.

When you simplify, you gain control of what you eat, where you go, what you do, and the company you keep. Your desires are less lusty and more driven. There is purpose in your conversation, your meal, and the dates on your calendar. The irony of our society is that we often catch ourselves thinking “if only I could physically be in two places at once”. Why not re-frame the question to ask how we can be in one place mentally more fully?

To hell with multi-tasking…at least when it’s feasible. Carve out time to make sure there are moments in each one of your days that have a single pointed focus. It’s urgent for your mental, emotional, and clearly your physical well-being.

It’s a matter of presence. Learn to dial down your need for excess so when unexpected chaos draws near, choose to redirect your focus. Take a hike. Strap on your boots and head for the hills. Hit a yoga mat. Sit on your meditation cushion. Hop online in search of mealtime inspiration so you can thoughtfully plan out your next meal, to make slowly at home.

If you don’t have time for that, turn off any noise within your control: phone, radio, TV. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply. And give yourself a KISS. Keep it simple, stupid.



This article was originally published on Caryn’s website.

Feature image by Yuliya Ginzberg.