In today’s world, we often perceive life as being busy, chaotic and stressful, always on the go, which often leads to feelings of being overwhelmed, exhausted, fatigued, anxious and even burnt out. I would go as far as saying, we have become a nation of human beings that are over-worked, tired and are operating continuously at maximum capacity.
What happens with our minds, our bodies and our souls when we get tired, bombarded or run down?
We become sick. We become fatigued. We become anxious. We become ill.
In order for us to succeed in life and to be the best versions of ourselves, no matter what avenue of life that may be in – first and foremost, above anything else, we need to be well.
In order to be the best mother or father, the best CEO or director, employer or employee, friend or colleague, husband or wife, daughter or son, you must be healthy, you must be well.
Well in your mind as well as your body.
For me, this is a question I get asked over and over again – Miriam, how do I become well?
One of the first ways to becoming well – is to find rest. And to find rest regularly. In fact, rest and recovery is vital for our overall health and happiness. We don’t need more noise, or more busyness, or more loud music, or more adrenaline. What the world needs is more stillness. More silence. More space. More time out. More recovery. More rest. More breathing. More connection.
I think it’s important to note that rest can take on many different forms.
Resting doesn’t just mean ‘doing nothing’. Practicing rest is one of the basic fundamental needs of human beings, it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. In fact, it doesn’t cost anything at all.
Finding rest is about finding some stillness or silence in your life.
It’s about allowing yourself the time and space to get off the thread mill of life for a few minutes every day to unplug, to switch off, to breathe, to tune in to your internal world of emotions, feelings, thoughts as well as your physical sensations and sensitivities.
Resting is all about changing something from your normal day to day activities, and switching your awareness to using a different part of your brain and body.
If we use the same part of our body and/or mind too much without switching it off or allowing it time to recover and repair – It becomes overwhelmed and over stretched which in turn drives anxiety and stress. This constant usage of similar areas and pathways leads to other areas becoming underutilised and undernourished. Areas such as creativity, focus, clarity, rest, repair, reflection, fun and laughter.
As mentioned above, rest can take on different forms, and because we as human beings are all different and bio individual, it’s important to find something that works best for you, for your lifestyle, for your body, for your mind, for your soul.
I like to categorise rest into two main sections;
- Gentle Rest; such as sleep, meditation, breath work, pranayama, silence and mindfulness.
- Active rest and recovery – such as journaling, painting, colouring, yoga, stretching, mindful walking, massage, reflexology, holistic energy treatments.
What are the Benefits to resting and allowing your body to recover?
By allowing the body and mind to rest, you enable the body to activate its own inner healing cascade. This allows the body to return to its natural state of homeostasis, enabling the body to repair, recover and reset. When we rest, we automatically activate our para sympathetic nervous system, which is our rest, digest and repair system – the exact opposite to our sympathetic nervous system which is fight or flight – a state of being many of us spend far too long operating from today.
Some benefits of resting and repairing;
– Increased productivity and performance
– Reduced risk of disease and illness
– Reduced stress and anxiety
– Increased clarity, focus and concentration
– Increased happiness and sense of peace
– Increased level of inner ease and harmony
Our entire bodies/systems are built to survive and thrive in a series of short sprints, where we go at high speeds for short periods of time and then pause or rest to allow the body to recover and repair so we can perform consistently and focus again and again.
Life is not a marathon, a constant slog, it’s a series of sprints, the quality of rest and recovery is what determines the quality of our next sprint.
Therefore, it so important that we start living our life like so, going but then stopping. Living but then pausing. Being but then resting. Doing but then reflecting. Acting but then processing. Operating but then feeling.
Why do so many of us find it difficult to take time to rest?
I believe this to be the case because we don’t priorities time in the right way. There are 168 hrs in every week and this does not or will not ever change. Time is not going faster, time is constant. Time has never changed. What has changed is how fast paced our thoughts and minds have become.
It’s not that we should try to manage time, we simply need to manage what we prioritise and what we dedicate our time and energy to. We must challenge ourselves to be honest about how much time we spend on social media, watching tv, scrolling on the internet, sending snap chat or what apps message and so on. What if we were to use this time for more productive morning or night time routines or rituals?
The brain is highly capable of re setting itself even if we use short rest practices that range from as little as 15 seconds to 10 or 15 minutes. Elite athletes have mastered the art of mentally and emotionally resetting in seconds using simple reset triggers. Building simple triggers and routines into our day are key ways of utilising the time we have in a far more productive way. Of some of these restful techniques include things like –
– taking 5 deep breathes regularly throughout your day (e.g. 5 deep breathes before eating your breakfast, 5 deep breathes before you start your car, 5 deep breathes before your turn on your computer, while you boil the kettle etc etc)
– Saying a simple prayer,
– Doing a 3-minute body scan,
– Doing some yoga or stretching,
– Saying positive affirmations,
What are the best ways we can take time out to rest our bodies and minds?
One of the ways to reduce stress and increase rest in your life, is to give yourself a break. Give yourself permission to self-care and nurture. I think it is very important that we learn that self-care is not selfish.
In order to find some ease and relaxation in our lives we need to first stop, listen and feel. In doing this, we can take some time out from the busyness of life and connect to a space of stillness.
Below are some simple yet very effective ways to slow down and rest, that can be done on a daily basis without any fancy props or any expense;
- Meditation – There is no right or wrong way to meditate. The most important thing that you can do is to bring a passive attitude – allowing, not forcing. Experiencing, not controlling. Don’t worry about meditating the “right” way – just let it happen however it happens without worrying about the outcome. Allow yourself to be comfortable and acknowledge thoughts as they come and go, not attaching to them or fighting them, simply observing them, like clouds floating by, see them and let them go and bring your awareness back to your soft breath in and out or to a specific mantra or word like Om.
- Pranayama – Breathing; by practicing mindful breathing we focus on our breath – which is our life force energy – our Prana. Once we engage with deep mindful breathing, we reduce the anxiety and increase the resting ability of the body by activating our para sympathetic nervous system. When we engage in yogic breathing (see the simple exercise below) we reduce anxiety and nervous tension in our central nervous system. When we are anxious or overwhelmed – our nerve endings can become irritated and excited. They become heightened and activated, and we thus, become “on edge” and anxious and develop nervous tension and irritability which eventually will lead to sheer exhaustion and burn out. By activating this para sympathetic nervous system, it reduces our stress hormone cortisol, thus reducing heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety. Yoga breathing (pranayama) is the foundation of any yoga practice. It begins with deepening your breathing and engaging is a 3-part breath technique
Try this simple breathing technique at least once a day for a week and observe how it affects your body, breath, and mind. This mindful exercise can be done at just about any time of day, though preferably not immediately following a large meal. How to do this;
– Sit comfortably with a straight spine or lie comfortably on your back (with your knees slightly bent and your feet flat on the floor) about hip-distance apart or lie in savasana (corpse pose), whichever is most comfortable for you.
– Place one palm on your abdomen and just breathe comfortably for a few moments. Notice the quality of your breath. Does the breath feel tense? shallow? rapid? strained? Simply observe the breath without trying to adjust it or change it, or without any judgment.
– Then gradually begin to relax your breathing. Slow your breath down, deepen the inhalation and try make the breath as smooth as possible.
– Begin to draw the breath in for a count of 4
– Slowly introduce a slight PAUSE after each inbreath
Then gracefully release your breath through a nice slow relaxed exhalation to the count of 4
Once the breath feels comfortable, relaxed, smooth and rhythmical, notice the movement of the body. As you inhale, the abdomen naturally expands; as you exhale, feel the slight contraction of the abdomen.
To experience the pleasure of giving yourself a full, relaxed breath, gently try to actively expand the abdomen on the inhale and contract the abdomen on the exhale to support the natural movement of the diaphragm. Continue this breathing practice for 6 to 12 breaths.
Check in with your body, mind, thoughts and emotions afterwards. (Have a pen and paper nearby as you may get some moments of insights or clarity afterwards)
Benefits of this deep yogic breathing;
- Quietens the mind
- Calms the entire nervous system
- Reduces stress and anxiety
- Promotes restful sleep
- Improves self-awareness
- Promotes focus and clarity
- Develops inner peace
- Reduces blood pressure and can ease bodily aches and pains
- Promotes overall EASE in the mind, body and soul
- Promotes a sense of wellbeing and relaxation
- Saying a simple prayer
- Doing a 3 – 5minute body scan
- Yoga, stretching, mindful walking
- Fresh air and nature
- Saying positive affirmations and practicing positive psychology
- Practicing Visualisation
- Journaling, colouring, painting
What if I don’t have time to rest?
We can tell ourselves the same story over and over again – “I don’t have time”, “I’m too busy”, “time is going too fast”.
However, if we allow ourselves 15 minutes a day this is only 1% of your day. You can give the other 99% of your day away. All that I am asking is – can you give yourself 1% of your day? Allow yourself this 15 mins every day to practice some mindfulness, meditation, breathing, stretching, walking, getting some fresh air, having a bath, journaling, colouring – whatever it is you like to do. By giving yourself permission to do this, you will not only dramatically change your life but it will also have a huge potential positive impact on those around you. As you allow your mind and body to rest and repair, you become healthier and you become happier. Once we begin to change the story we are telling ourselves and start to become more emotionally aware, of where our mind and emotions are in each and every given day, we can begin to re-create our future through using re-set triggers like breathwork, positive psychology, meditation and so on.
I would encourage you all to make a commitment and decision to get into the driving seat of your own life. This is your own life. It’s not a dress rehearsal. Don’t dim your light in order to fit in or people please. Allow yourself to be the best version of yourself. Allow yourself to dream, allow yourself 15 mins a day to self-care, allow yourself to express your innermost self and ignite that inner beauty and brilliance that is within each and every one of us.
In order for us to express this inner light, we need to be well, we need to be energised, we need to be revitalised.
Give yourself the permission to rest and repair and watch your world unfold.
Love, Light and Blessings,