When he works with CEOs, Andrew Wittman likes to get the full picture.

Wittman is a mental toughness coach; he’s also a Marine Corps veteran, a former police offer, and a former federal agent. In his book “Seven Secrets of Resilience for Parents,” Wittman shares the first thing he does when he works with executives who come to him seeking help with stress reduction.

“I have them text me an image of their handwritten journal noting their sleep, nutrition, and fitness activity for each day,” Wittman writes. “If they are unwilling to do so, I don’t take them on as a client. Why? Just like you and me, they own their sleep, their nutrition, and their fitness activities.”

Wittman knows from experience that, when life gets overwhelming, we tend to shortchange ourselves on sleep, skip workouts, and grab whatever’s handy to munch on. This “circle of habits,” as Wittman calls it, only increases stress levels.

Keeping a handwritten journal, Wittman says, is a way to hold yourself accountable for these behaviors.

Once he reviews a client’s journal, Wittman helps them tweak their daily routines to incorporate more healthful habits. For example: Turn off the TV late at night, and read a book instead. Take a walk at lunchtime. Befriend “health nuts,” so you pick up their eating habits.

In some cases, keeping a journal of your health behaviors can yield some big surprises. Quartz reported that many people get more sleep than they think, possibly because people are inclined to make themselves seem busy by reporting that they only sleep a few hours a night.

Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal reported on a study that found people tended to overestimate vigorous exercise activities and underestimate their sedentary times.

Wittman says attending to your own health before trying to, say, handle crises at work, is crucial. “It is putting the oxygen mask on yourself first on the airplane,” he writes, “and then helping the kids with their masks.”

Originally published at businessinsider.com

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