Burn-out and fatigue are some of the top diseases in the western world we live in today. These diseases are caused to the degree many experience them, by ignoring the importance of rest, physically and mentally. The topic of rest came up within the first days of our anatomy and the fascial body workshop we just did with Gary Carter here in Goa. Gary pointed out the importance of rest for our body for maintaining overall health and also for improving. It seems like a simple topic, but it made me think:
do I truly rest enough? Doing one thing that is supposed to be relaxing is not necessarily relaxing if my thoughts are all over and my body isn’t still. I also started looking around me at people I know and noticed that many, including myself at times, actually do not allow themselves to relax. So it brought me to write this post with the aim to help myself and hopefully you as well to realize patterns in ourselves and in our society that aren’t always healthy, to find ways to truly rest more often, and with that improve health and well-being.
The nature of our being is very sensitive and we are able to know exactly what we need, how much of it we need and when we need it. Rest is very important for us and should be a regular part of life. The benefits of rest, are numerous and here is a list with some of them:
- Increases blood flow to the muscles
- Relaxes the muscles
- Relaxes the connective tissue in our body
- Allows the nervous system to implement newly
acquired knowledge (mentally and physically)
- Increases energy
- Better sleep
- Better immunity
- Increases motivation, concentration and focus
- Increases mood and a sense of well- being
- Decreases emotional issues (such as anger, anxiety, and frustration)
- Boosts memory
- Balances appetite and with it weight
Why then is it that so many of us deprive themselves of this so important feature of life? It seems as if unfortunately many people’s sensitivity has been overridden by the noise of their mind and they are no longer in tune with their body and mind.
Today, everything is about moving, competing, doing, and getting somewhere. It can easily carry us away, but this only happens if we allow it. We have a choice and this choice is in our own hands.
On a physical level many people who practice sports do so either obsessively without giving their body a rest or with a negative intention, which agitates the mind and the body. It is, however, when we are relaxed and rest that the body and mind can incorporate the information it has received during the exercise. This means that taking a rest will actually increase performance and ignoring this fact will over time decrease performance and cause diseases.
If we overstrain our body we expose it to stress and it reacts accordingly, cortisol levels go up, your mood goes down and physical and mental fatigue can appear. Our body is a very smart system and if we force our body to do something, it knows how to protect itself and it starts to resist. That’s why we don’t improve when practicing, studying, or working excessively. Our body is intelligent, but our mind is extremely strong and some people unfortunately use it in a way that it goes against the body until the body can’t protect itself anymore.
Also mentally, if our body and mind can be separated as such at all, many of us deprive themselves of rest. Our mind is full of expectations and thoughts about what we did in the past, and what we are going to do in the future. At many workplaces employees believe that they cannot allow themselves to take care of their well-being and take it a bit easier, because the felt competition is too strong and people are afraid of not performing well enough. At school and university it is all about performance and even among friends some individuals compete.
The ways many people today think they relax are quite problematic. Sitting on the couch with the TV turned on and at the same time using the smartphone really isn’t rest. It is of course completely fine to do it sometimes, but we have to be aware that it over stimulates our mind and preoccupies it with different material, instead of allowing it to rest. If that is someone’s default and main way of relaxing that person never really relaxes and truly rests. This leads to a build up of tension in our mind and body that is in need of being released.
The good news is: it is in our true nature to be able to rest and relax. So the sentence ‘I can’t rest’ or ‘Rest is not for me’ is not a true one. The correct sentence would probably be ‘I don’t allows myself to rest’. Different psychological issues can get in the way and are sometimes very deep and it can be difficult to take care of them by yourself. In that case it is best to look for help and to see a professional who can go with you through this phase. What we need to do is to allow this true nature of being able to rest to unfold again, taking off the layers we have put on over years of depriving ourselves of this privilege. In order to do so successfully we need to want to help ourselves, we need to want to do good to ourselves, and to be patient.
A great way is to step by step include minutes of true rest in your daily live and make it part of your routine. Important also is to rest mindfully. The effect of the action or non- action strongly depends on our intention and attitude. We must be able to let go and want to do good to ourselves in order to truly relax.
There are so many beautiful and fun ways of resting and taking care of yourself. I would like to encourage you to find the ones that you can connect to and to each day practice at least one of them. Below you can find a list of things that are great I find great to relax. Maybe there are a few things among them that work for you or they can just get you started on thinking of things you like to do to rest. I’d also like to invite you to read my article on the importance of choosing a positive attitude for your well- being (beingmebysarah.com/2016/01/10/choose-your-attitude-wisely). I think it is really helpful to chose the right attitude in order to be able to relax.
- Going for a walk in a beautiful place
- Drawing or coloring mandalas (there are really nice ones you buy in book stores, don’t stereotype it as something only ‘those spiritual’ people do. It is for everyone)
- Yoga (especially more mindful forms of yoga are great to relax, such as restorative or yin yoga)
- Breathing exercises
- Meditate (even if it’s just for 5 minutes)
- Laying or sitting down, closing the eyes and listening to nice slow music
- Treating myself with a massage
- Going to a therapy/ coaching session
- To read an inspiring book
- Spending some time with our dog Emma
- Preparing myself some tasty food or a nice juice and eating/ drinking it with joy and intention
After eight days of intense learning and practicing we are off to the beach now with a great book. Looking forward to some well deserved rest today. Try to find some time as well, if it’s just for a few minutes in the evening after work.