Rest comes in three basic forms: relaxation, recuperation and sleep. Maximize your output on a day to day basis by ensuring you take the time to care for yourself. The importance of realizing the need to re-energize through these behaviours is beneficial to contributing as a fully functioning individual. When working to burn out, that not only can lead to physical and emotional ailments, but also affects your relationships.
What is relaxation? Relaxation refers to de-stressing the body1. This is different than recuperation in that recuperation is specifically looking to heal micro- stressors, while relaxation is to remove stress before it causes harm, in the sense of becoming chronic. Savansana2, the final posture in yoga classes, is an active relaxation the allows the nervous system to re-calibrate. Other types of relaxation can include: massage, aromatherapy, and music. It’s important to step back form social media3 and television, as those types of mediums can cause excitation.
What is recuperation? Recuperation means to allow the body to heal from micro stresses4 (or from sever disease and illness, but we’ll focus on the former in the blog). Micro stresses can occur in several ways: physical damage to the body through muscle training, cardio, or sport; psychological stress from learning about developing a new project, reading a dense book, or problem solving; and emotional stress from workplace, romantic, family or even platonic friendship relationships.
When you physically damage the body there is a series of bio-chemical reactions that take place to heal it5. For example, when building muscle, first the tissue must tear, then be healed through protein synthesis. This is also applied to cardio training, as the heart is a muscle6. For a sport injury, say a sprained ankle, there are different processes, that involve the swelling of the area, for example, and the resultant effect of applying pressure or temperature controlled compress to assist with healing the injury7. In all of these cases, it is important to note that time is required for the injury to heal (in fact in all stresses, including psychological and emotional).
When exercising strenuously, do so with an articulated sense of what you are trying to accomplish. Is this heavy lifting to build muscle and strengthen bone? Then how many reps should you be doing and how much rest should you be applying in between sets? Just as important is resting muscles in between days of strenuous use. There is a lot of variation in how to exercise and apply recuperation techniques. I’ll leave details for the in another blog. Suffice to say, for the time being, if you are doing a full body work out, three times a week, with rest days in between in more than sufficient.
But don’t forget to remain mobile on your days in between strength training. It doesn’t have to be stressing mobility. For example walking or yoga can be recuperative in getting the blood to flow and working out any kinks. But if you are doing a more strenuous type yoga class, they have savasana at the end. This is an active recuperation posture that allows time for your nervous system to reset (alas, in many classes, this posture is skipped). We should also note, in the gym fitness classes as well, there is no recuperation posture at the end. Individuals are expected to leave, shower and get ready for the next step in the day.
On a side note, I would always take at least 15 minutes after a hot yoga class whenever I could. And when I did not, the sense of energy in the system would turn into anxiety as I entered the workplace. I would also take 15 minutes after cardio classes in the gym room. I would attend in the morning when there wouldn’t be a class afterwards, and just lie down in the room. Of course, the instructor would often check on me to ensure I was okay, and I would just let them know I was recuperating.
Sleep is one thing we do not get enough, now a days8. The high tech world is overly stimulating9. Being able to maintain a life with one foot in the corporate world, while balancing the needs of the body and mind is a challenge. But there are habits you can form to increase the quality of sleep.
Create a bedtime routine10. Good to bed and wake up at the same time. Do not go back to sleep in the morning. taking nap in the afternoon is okay, as long as you are balancing it into your daily routine. Sleep cycles normally last 1.5 hours, so schedule your sleep pattern to that. Using blue blocking glasses or a program like flux to block out yellow light can be beneficial to reduce visual stimulation.
Turn off electronics an hour before sleep. Wash your face and teeth, or even put on a face mask. Calming music, meditation and reading also can help. The point is to make your body and mind trained to the habit of preparing to sleep.
If you cannot fall asleep, do not force yourself. Stay awake and read. the light can be on, but wear your blue blocking glasses. Perhaps try another seated mediation or even a gentle walk. Fresh air can invigorate and relax. Sleeping outdoors in a tent is another option.