“The best time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”
I think we can all relate with this quote. You find yourself halfway through the week swamped with a long list of to-dos and no end in sight… Except for maybe a vacation here and there, but let’s be honest, most of us fill those vacations days with just as much stuff to do as when we’re not on vacation.
I’ll let you in on a little secret to “The Art of De-Stressing”: building daily recovery time. Now the key word here is “building”, because you won’t be able to do it all at once to begin with… If you’ve always been on the go, it’ll actually be a bit of a challenge for you to stop for a bit. So start with a little bit of down time and build from there until you find a way to fit all your other stuff around your daily rest time.
Now for the important question: why do we want to build in daily rest time? Well it has to do with our brain, because you see, our brain function can be broken down into two categories: sympathetic activity (“fight or flight” activity) and parasympathetic activity (“rest and digest” activity).
Most of us tend to be in too much of a sympathetic state, whether it be from our jobs, the kids, our relationships, the bills and any other stressor that takes us to that state. When our body’s are in this “fight or flight” state our adrenal glands produce high levels of circulating cortisol and adrenaline, which are good for short term bursts of energy when trying to get away from a threat like a lion chasing us. But when stress is chronically high it can interfere with certain body functions, such as our digestion, metabolism, immune function and reproduction. If this continues it can result in our hormones being thrown out of whack, reproductive dysfunction, muscle loss, fat gain and even chronic fatigue, which does not make for a happy you at all.
Now, what can we do to prevent this sympathetic overdrive from happening in the first place?
Key word: balance. There’s no way you can reduce all the stressors in your life. In fact, you don’t really want to because a certain amount of stress is actually good for us. Instead, you want to focus on finding more activities that promote your parasympathetic state.
Luckily for you, there are all sorts of activities that can help with this:
Yoga and Pilates: certain types are known to be very parasympathetic.
Meditation: offers huge help with rest and recovery.
Spa: can help you achieve a deep parasympathetic state.
Jacuzzi/Sauna: much like the spa can help you deal with stress.
Even if those aren’t feasible options for you due to affordability or time, there are many activities that can be done at home:
Reading: find a quiet spot to read 30 minutes before bed.
Zoning out: drink warm tea and watching an episode of your favourite Netflix series is a great way to wind down.
Music: listening to relaxing music before bed.
Bath and Candles: light some candles while having an Epsom salt bath before bed.
Just remember that it doesn’t matter what activity you choose, as long as you achieve a nice parasympathetic state while doing it. Find the activities that can help you get 30 minutes of quiet, restful, worry free parasympathetic activity every single day and it’ll do wonders for getting control of your stress.