Rest: The Importance of Slowing Down

It seems we live in a society where we are expected to just go go go. Rest is considered indulgent, and most people I meet these days feel guilty at the thought of taking a minute just to do nothing. True?

Now, obviously we cannot just put our legs up and hope that someone else will do the work for us. Work and school are non-negotiable and if you are a mother, I am very well aware that there is very little time. Rest becomes this foreign concept, far out of the realms of the possible. Already, you are probably raising your eyebrow to this topic and wondering how I am expecting you to rest. I can almost hear you all shouting across the internet from your computer, “I have babies to feed! Bills to pay! A new job I need to perform in! A nagging child at my knee! A million things to do! How do you expect me to rest, Jess?” Read on, and find out how you can incorporate rest into even the craziest lifestyle.

What I’m saying is that taking a moment in your life to rest and recuperate could do wonders for your day-to-day life. It will recharge your ability to deal with your commitments, your relationships and your overall health and wellbeing with MORE vigor and energy. It’s a worthwhile investment of time, because the efficiency of a well-rested mind will make every area of your life more productive and joyful.

When you just go go go, without taking a minute, you are actually mentally and physically exhausting yourself. Remember, your mind and body are intrinsically connected.

More than that, studies show that sleep and rest are essential building blocks of the body and mind; you learn better if you take a nap after studying and retain more information long term. You become stronger and leaner more quickly if you periodise your training (taking rest days, and easy weeks), and you avoid the dreaded corporate “skinny-fat” figure that is driven by cortisol and relentless effort.

Pushing your body into overdrive will manifest physically through tight neck and shoulders and usually digestive malfunctions such as gas, bloating, acid reflux and all the symptoms attendant on an imbalance of good and bad gut flora.

You can say hello to hormonal havoc in your body as cortisol and adrenalin are being pumped through your blood without you even knowing it; the boost of these hormones long term causing your body adrenal exhaustion and an overall hormonal imbalance that can lead to some nasty complications such as depression, weight gain, estrogen dominance, insulin resistance (stress has a direct impact on your blood sugar levels), chronic fatigue and fertility issues. And of course, this will accelerate the ageing process! Hello wrinkles!

What’s worse than this? People nowadays are adding extra stress to their already stressed out life. “I need to run for an hour today after work,” “I need to see this friend and that friend,” “I have a to-do-list that is never ending,” etc.

Mentally, you are internalizing a lot of negativity and losing touch with your own body, which will result in emotional turmoil. You’ll end up with the worst version of your own self – stressed, tired, mentally slow and physically vulnerable. Well, what do you expect if you are never taking time to be present in the present moment? You are out of touch with your own life!

Celebrity Nutritionist Kimberly Snyder says it right: “Our society puts too much emphasis on constant ‘doing’, without recognizing that in the recharging space you can come back to work, duties and relationships in a more productive, enhanced way. Whether you are a mom, a college kid or trying to make your way in the corporate, art, (fill in the blank) world, you may come to a time when you just push and push and push and then leave yourself stressed out and incapable of being the best you can be.”

Any of this sounding a little like your own life?

Well, then!

Please, try to take a moment, a few minutes out in your day – even a few minutes a week if daily practice is impossible. If even a minute a week is impossible, just take a moment in the month to REST. Put it in your calendar! Add it to that overflowing to-do list. Treat it like work or family commitments, because it is ESSENTIAL to life. Your body works so hard for you all day every day; treat it like your temple, and give it some time to replenish. You wouldn’t leave your car to run without a service! You even let your computer sleep! Treat yourself with even that level of respect.

When you take the time to sit and rest even for a few minutes a day (this is why meditation is so powerful), you are allowing your body on a cellular level to recharge itself. Having a simple bath or shower with a few diaphragmatic breaths can be enough to just re-infuse your inner light.

Because when you do, you will actually find that you are more present and have more energy for your children, partner and greater clarity of mind to perform at work and to get through the day without being angry at the world.

What I do to incorporate rest into my life:

  • Daily meditation practice
  • Daily breathing exercises: 20 diaphragm breaths every night before bed time.
  • Yin exercises rather than yang: yoga, tai chi, restorative exercises (Savasana yoga pose)
  • A daily bath with lavender oil
  • Chai tea and ½ hour of reading.
  • ½ hour walk
  • Tea with a friend
  • Massage – get your blood flowing
  • Ayurveda treatment
  • 8 hours of sleep
  • Acupuncture to restore energy flow
  • My favorite TV show
  • I say “NO” to social arrangements when I am feeling overwhelmed, and instead I choose to lay low, read, walk or go for a massage. Your friends will be there for you – if you can’t go to that party, arrange to meet for a walk or some tea! Go to yoga together!

A note on physical activity: My clients know my thoughts on this:

  • Science is telling us to exercise less, but smarter.
  • Give the excessive exercise a break - it is making you age.

We are not designed to push our bodies to the limit, day after day. Yes, we must keep active, but general movement, play and 2 or 3 half hour sessions of interval training a week is enough for our bodies to burn energy, keep hearts healthy and keep our metabolism at optimal level. I am repeating myself I know, but if we overdo the gym, we exhaust our adrenals, which are a central part of our endocrine system. Overtraining in this way depletes us, and leaves us hormonally unbalanced, releasing the toxic stress hormone cortisol, which enhances belly fat storage and leaves you suffering from fatigue, insomnia and musculoskeletal breakdown.

Rather than churning and grinding on a cardio machine for hours each day, try lower impact activities with a mental health aspect to enhance your joy and body awareness.

I am a big fan of yoga, Pilates or body balance to get you back in touch with your real self.

It is okay if you wake up some days and think “today is a day I need to give my body a rest.” When you are in balance, your body will tell you what it needs! It is okay to listen – your body is smart.

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