Words by Rosie Underwood
One of the biggest lies we’ve been told of our generation is that being quite literally run off your feet means you’re somehow on an incline, professionally, personally and physically. So many of us living in this strange, technological era are busy, but not necessarily productive. We’re not just distracted, we’re trained in distraction, we ‘do’ instead of ‘be’, we rush instead of walk, scroll as opposed to stop and think.
Busy-ness does not equate to worthiness and it doesn’t always equate to success. Small changes in your life can have a big impact on the way that you feel, live, act and be and it all starts with rest. By simply slowing things down you’ll boost productivity, your health and as a result, your enjoyment of this precious life!
SIGNS OF BURNOUT
We have incredibly ancient mechanisms working in our bodies constantly with our best interests at heart, but they’re trying to navigate an uncharted modern world and we’re not helping ourselves. Adrenaline communicates to us that we’re in danger, taking us into fight or flight, or a gut instinct about a person or situation that encourages you away or draws you towards something, allows for us to live a life in accordance with who we really are.
The trouble is, the modern world is distracting us from these mechanisms constantly, and the only way to access them is rest. If you start to experience headaches, stomach aches, lack of creativity and feelings of reduced professional ability, that’s your body speaking its language to you, it’s a physical language and it’s telling you you’re close to burning out.
THE IMPORTANCE OF REST FOR THE BODY
Our perspective on stress is all wrong and it’s reaping havoc on the way our bodies function. A stressful day for us today doesn’t involve fighting off a Saber-toothed tiger, or avoiding spears flying at us from opposing tribes. Instead, our endless to-do lists, emails, family, meetings and deadlines mean we unknowingly put our bodies into fight or flight, our adrenaline levels are increasing throughout the day – but we’re often pretty sedentary and pumping our adrenals with caffeine as a result.
We’re giving our bodies the message that they need to run and fight without utilising the biochemical changes happening within, leading us to experience signs of burnout. This causes inflammation, digestive stress, injury can occur, and our bodies don’t use fat as fuel effectively when in this state. So, even if we’re sweating it out in a daily HIIT class, it’s easier to gain weight if we don’t combine our exercise with rest.
THE IMPORTANCE OF REST FOR MENTAL HEALTH
Sometimes it’s hard to really sit with ourselves because we get scared of what we might find. Consumerism knows this, so we’ll distract ourselves with nights out, binge watch TV, go to endless classes, go shopping, scroll through Instagram, whatever your fix, its more readily available than ever. Yes, all this is ok in moderation, but we’re living in a time where we’re constantly being reminded that we’re always lacking in something, and we’ve become far too over stimulated as a result.
When you can’t rest, the mind starts to rely on distraction. We can’t selectively numb emotions, so if we distract ourselves too much, we don’t just numb the negative emotions, we begin to numb the positive ones too.
Feeling is healing and we need to find contentment in connection to ourselves and in turn others, not just pleasure in distraction. As a species we’re so over stimulated, we don’t even know what rest for the mind is anymore.
Reading isn’t resting the mind, going for a walk or watching TV isn’t resting the mind, just being with yourself and doing absolutely nothing, being horizontal so the fluids in our bodies can level out, no blue light, slipping into that gap between stimulus and response will nourish the mind beyond measure.
EASE OFF THE CAFFEINE
Caffeine can be a controversial subject, but when it comes to taking stress levels down, it’s important to consider how your body might be responding to your personal intake. Caffeine pumps adrenaline into the body meaning your adrenals are working in a way they wouldn’t work naturally.
It puts us on high alert, which may seem beneficial when life throws so many demands, curve balls and hard-hitting news our way, but this level of stress sends a message to the body to hold off on ‘non-essential’ bodily functions like digestion, when really, in times such as now, we need to send a message to our bodies they are safe to rest and repair.
PRIORITISE DIAPHRAGMATIC BREATHWORK
Most adults subconsciously breathe high into their chests, they use secondary respiratory muscles that are up near their collar bones and closer to the thinking mind. When we look at babies breathe, they know to breathe in through their nostrils, their chests and deep into their bellies.
This is called diaphragmatic breathing or deep belly breathing. The diaphragm is shaped like a balloon and we can consciously breathe there and feel the rise and fall of the lower belly. The phrenic nerve runs down the sides of the diaphragm and when you breathe in this way, the phrenic nerve activates the parasympathetic nervous system, the rest and digest state.
Practicing various methods of breathwork can be a very rewarding method of rest. Where you can call the mind, and allow your body to restore and repair its resources. Carving out even just 4-6 minutes for mindful breathwork during the day will set you up to enjoy the benefits of a more calm, centered outlook.
BE KIND TO YOURSELF
When we rest, we communicate to every cell in the body via the nervous system that we’re safe, and most importantly, that we love our body and that we care. From this place, I believe good health and happiness are incredibly optimal. Practicing positive self care, and self-acceptance is a vital step in rest and it manifests physically in our bodies.