The Importance of Rest and Relaxation
Resting is an art form
Not many of us know how to do in this frenetic lifestyle, so much so that we need a helping hand. Read below to remind yourself of how to switch off and take time out. And remember, it is ok to do that!
Most of us know that in order to be healthy we need to nourish our bodies with healthy, nutritious food and exercise regularly. Another vital contributor to good health and one which is often forgotten is rest. In today’s world, it is considered a badge of honour to be busy and lazy to take time out. There is so much expectation on both women and men and we continually expect our fragile bodies to keep going and to keep performing. We work too hard, we rush too much, we exercise too much but we sleep too little and we don’t rest enough. Burnout, chronic fatigue, depression and other illnesses are very real and are sadly becoming more common.
Sleep is absolutely crucial for a fit and healthy body. The amount of sleep we need differs from person to person but generally, the optimum amount is 7 – 8 hours each night. Many of us don’t get the optimum number of hours sleep in order for our body to restore itself because we want to pack more into our days. Unfortunately, the effect of this is that our bodies begin to run down, our immune systems become compromised and we become susceptible to illness. Although for a lot of people a continued lack of sleep will only lead to a snotty nose or a week in bed with the flu, for some the consequences can be more serious.
Aside from physical illness, lack of sleep can have other negative effects on wellbeing. Studies have shown that individuals who don’t have enough sleep are grumpier, impatient and snap more easily at others. Depression and other negative feelings are also linked to a lack of sleep.
In addition, tiredness is associated with weight gain as when our bodies are exhausted we reach for naughty foods which give us a sugar-induced pick-me-up. As well weight gain, these stodgy, sugary foods can also adversely affect sleep – a vicious cycle.
Take a Day Off
In addition to sleep, we need to ensure that we have a day or two off each week from our crazy schedule. Don’t pack your diary full of work and social engagements seven days a week or force yourself to the gym every day. Your body and mind need time to repair themselves. It is vital to rest your body and not over-train if you want to avoid getting tired and injured. A tired mind is also less productive and we are more susceptible to emotional issues such as depression when we are mentally and emotionally drained. A day off doesn’t have to be spent sitting on the sofa or lying in bed; a gentle yoga practice, a slow walk outdoors and a massage are all restful activities (pretty much a day at an Adventure Yogi retreat!)
Relaxing is surprisingly difficult for a lot of people. When a masseuse or yoga teacher asks us to relax, we can’t do it! Our lives are such that we are in a constant state of arousal and our muscles are always engaged even if we aren’t leaping about in an exercise class. If you find it hard to relax try this simple exercise:
Before you go to bed in the evening, make time to lie down on a yoga mat, close your eyes and just breathe. With each exhale breathe out any tension which you hold either physically or mentally. Do this for at least 5 minutes, focusing only on your breathing. Over time this exercise should become easier and you will hopefully start to feel more relaxed.
It is as important to schedule a time out as it is to make time for a gym session or a yoga class. Every person is different and you don’t know how your own body and mind will respond to a continued lack of rest. It is better not to push yourself to the point where you are forced to find out how your body chooses to deal with not having enough rest. Be kind to yourself and take some time out.