I just returned from a week of ice-climbing in Colorado with Phil, who was a novice client who had much trepidation during our first ice-climbing experience in Huntington Ravine on a bitterly cold Mount Washington day. Now, after four years, his skills and ability are on par with those of some of my personal climbing partners. When asked, he said that ice-climbing is his biggest passion — it’s his minimum.

Ice-climbing is a form of physical activity, which is one of four primary foods. You may recall from a previous article that "primary foods" are the things that nourish us that don’t go on a plate. The top four primary foods are: spirituality, relationships, career and physical activity. They take many forms, and ice-climbing happens to be both Phil’s and my minimum.

Let’s find out what your minimum is. Here are four fill-in-the-blank questions to help us get started.

1. Without ________________ I lose myself.

2. When I feel most connected to my center, I am _________________.

3. When I feel connected to something larger than myself, I am _______________.

4. I could live without __________________, but not for long.

Your answers will have some themes and reside in one or two primary foods. For some, the answers may be connected to a higher power, which is spirituality. Others may enjoy conversation with people, which is relationships. Some get a lot of meaning by showing up to work and making the deal or the camaraderie of a common goal — career. If you’re like Phil and me, nature and outdoor adventure are themes for physical activity. What are your themes and which primary foods do they reside in? Knowing this is vital to creating balance in your life.

Phil has a busy career, just like most of us. Long hours, loads of responsibility and deadlines create stress, although he does enjoy the teamwork, leadership and networking that his profession provides. Many of his coworkers will want to see photos and videos of his ice-climbing trip. Nonetheless, stress is a common workplace challenge that we all carry. How we manage stress is vital to our health and relationships.

Identifying your minimum and doing it will create balance by lowering stress; increasing joy, happiness, creativity and love. Who doesn’t want to experience more love in their life? After work, Phil goes to his local climbing gym to move his body and socialize. This stress-relieving outlet is also a training ground for his ice-climbing trips. The physiological and psychological benefits are astounding. Phil goes home feeling like he just pushed the restart button.

Let’s take a short trip down the path that’s regularly taken by millions of Americans – the path that’s filled with screen time, work, people and responsibility. Parents, life’s challenges are significantly demanding on your overall health. There is much to manage and stress quickly builds. Because human beings are such hardy, driven mammals, we tend to stay fixated on accomplishing all of our tasks without enough time dedicated to nourishing our bodies. Time that is focused on giving us our minimum requirement of primary food will reduce stress. This is vital, because stress that overloads is the number-one reason why approximately 60 percent of Americans have chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. The dis-ease in the body is caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices, which you have the power to change.

Join Phil and me by finding out what your minimum is. Incorporate your minimum into your lifestyle with consistency over intensity, like I described two articles back. Intensity is unsustainable. Even too much of a good thing causes stress. So go easy on you, implement that minimum primary food, and enjoy the benefits. What is your minimum? Tell your friends and share the four questions above.