Isn’t it ironic? We have all this technology to make our lives easier and more efficient, yet we seem to be busier and more pressured than ever. We’ve entered an era of chronic stress, always pushing ourselves to do more, be more, and succeed more. We’ve equated rest with laziness and busy-ness has become something to be proud of.
We’re ruining our health. You see, during times of chronic stress, the ‘stress’ hormone cortisol is released into your bloodstream and the ‘happy’ hormone serotonin becomes inhibited, making you feel depressed more often. Chronic stress can also lead to hair loss, dental problems (from clenching teeth), forgetfulness, a weakened immune system, heart disease, obesity, accelerated ageing, and premature death in some cases.
Why Take Rest Seriously?
First off, let’s start by saying that contrary to what we all believe, rest doesn’t mean you’re doing nothing or being idle. In fact, your body is so busy ‘replacing’ you, that most of your body (except for your bones, teeth, lens of your eye, cytoskeletal proteins) is made and replaced in a time period of about 3-4 weeks. This is just one of the thousand things your body is up to every second to help you live. High five, body!
We need rest to help our bodies grow, regenerate, and learn. We need rest to help us relieve stress and regulate our health. We need rest to survive and your body will force you to listen (with illness, chronic fatigue, breakdowns) if you pretend otherwise.
How to Rest
In all our obsession with busy-ness, we’ve forgotten how to rest and it’s about time we re-learn it. Here are some ideas for resting:
Probably the most obvious form of rest, sleep is very important but it’s definitely not the only way we should be resting. Struggle to fall asleep? Help your body slow down by avoiding anything too stimulating before bed time – like coffee, bright TV and phone screens, or exercise – and create a night-time ritual like having a cup of tea, journalling tomorrow’s to-do list, listening to soothing music, taking a bath before bed, or deep muscle relaxation like in our next rest idea.
- Try deep muscle relaxation
Starting with your toes, tense (for 5 seconds) and relax (30 seconds) your muscles, one group at a time, until you reach your neck and head, ending off with a final tensing of all your muscles, and a deep breath as you release the tension from your body and relax your mind.
Practicing mindfulness can be focussing on breathing, colouring in, observing your environment using your 5 senses, prayer, meditation, visualisation, or anything that brings your attention and awareness to the present moment. Multi-tasking and trying to juggle too many things at once negatively affects your nervous system and can increase your blood pressure.
Apparently the Spanish got it right with their idea of afternoon siestas. A Greek studyshowed that a 30 minute nap at least three times a week can cut your risk of heart attack by 37 per cent, and a Nasa study found a nap of 26 minutes can actually boost concentration by 38 per cent. Good to know!
Don’t underestimate time spent with family and friends! Just chatting to a friend has been shown to lower stress hormone levels and have a positive effect on your psyche. Social rest is so important that some researchers even believe that your social connections are just as important to your survival as obesity and whether or not you smoke.
Do you take your rest seriously? Do you have any ideas to add to our list? We’d love to hear from you!