Refresh, Reset, Restore
How we relax is a personal choice that is specific to what we consider personally relaxing for ourselves. For some people, relaxation means immersing oneself in nature. For others, restorative activities include a good massage, pampering or daily meditation. Rest and relaxation restore our mind, body and spirit so that we are able to better take on the challenges and stressors of daily life.
Relaxation involves actively seeking activities that evoke in us a sense of calmness and peace.
Rest on the other hand refers to sleeping in order to recharge and replenish depleted energy.
In order to replenish ourselves we must engage in daily relaxation and rest to ensure that we allow our bodies and minds a sufficient period of restoration.
Relaxation encompasses a good balance between relaxing activities and sufficient rest. We often underestimate just how important these are for us, and when we do not meet our restorative needs, our bodies are unable to function optimally. Relaxation enables us to blow off steam in a way that is completely calming for us. This is our "me time" that rebalances our body, mind and spirit.
Some Great ways to Chill Out:
Spend time in nature: picnicking, hiking, walking in the park/ beach/mountains and breathing in the freshness of the outdoors are highly therapeutic and relaxing activities for the body and mind. Nature ignites a grounding effect in us, brings forth our humility and reminds us of our roots.
Delight in a massage: Massages are fantastic for bringing awareness to the skin’s surface and giving attention to tender areas. Depending on your specific needs, there are a variety of massages, from hot stone, deep tissue, Thai, and Swedish massages, to Reiki, Ayurvedic and Reflexology massages. These are great ways to detoxify the body and replenish natural energy flow. Our skin is the largest organ in our body, therefore providing it with love and attention can promote heightened vitality and a sense of wellbeing.
Pamper yourself: Pampering treatments such as hair, skin, facial or nail treatments are wonderful “me time” activities that provide therapeutic down-time. Spoiling yourself with some beautifying treatments is a great way to boost confidence and unwind.
Meditate: Meditation, focussing on the breath and quietening the mind promotes mental clarity, physical rejuvenation, and allows the body and mind to undergo complete and total relaxation.
Spend time with your loved ones: Spending quality time with good friends and family is highly therapeutic, restorative and soul enriching. Friends and family are particularly important for unwinding. When we are in the presence of those we are most comfortable with, we are more open to talking about the stressors that bother us. Offloading offers us a release and prevents us from harbouring pent up emotion that would otherwise escalate stress.
Laugh: Laughing is a great way to unwind and provides instant relaxation. A good, hearty laugh relieves physical tension and stress, leaving your muscles relaxed for up to 45 minutes after. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving resistance to disease. Laughter also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals. Endorphins promote an overall sense of well-being and can even temporarily relieve pain. Laughter even improves the function of blood vessels and increases blood flow, which can help protect against cardiovascular problems.
Take a Break from Technology: Many of us are slaves to our phones, tablets, laptops etc. When we are not working on them, we are busy surfing Facebook, Instagram and other social media that captivates our attention for hours. Social media can induce stress as can any work or personal concern. Most of the stories or images we see our friends post reflect the best times of their lives. However, in seeing such posts regularly, we begin to believe that our lives are dull and boring in comparison, which in turn makes us feel inferior. For those of us who follow our favourite celebrities or idols, daily exposure to posts depicting perfect bodies, unattainable beauty and lavish lifestyles dampens mood and diminishes self-esteem. Social media has also become a source of major information overload which in turn can trigger stress. Developing bad habits and fixations with social media can trigger negative states of emotion and intensify stress. Therefore it is important for us to set boundaries for our technology. A simple step to detach from technology is to start by sticking to a “no technology policy” after 9pm. This will remove all distractions or temptations, and enable you to fully relax and unwind.
Why is rest so important?
One of the first fundamentals that takes a knock when we do not rest sufficiently is the immune system. Insufficient sleep over a long period of time leaves us feeling run down and more susceptible to disease. Researchers have learned that circadian rhythms—the 24-hour cycles known as your internal body clock—are involved in regulating just about everything, from sleep and weight gain, to mood disorders, and a variety of diseases. Our body has many internal clocks—in our brain, lungs, liver, heart and even in our skeletal muscles—and they all work to keep our bodies running smoothly by controlling temperature and the release of hormones. It is a well-known fact that lack of sleep can increase our chances of getting sick. New research demonstrates that our circadian clocks control an essential immune system gene that helps our bodies’ sense and ward off bacteria and viruses. When we are sleep deprived, our circadian clocks become haphazard and unstable, and therefore reduce our bodies' ability to detect unwanted micro-organisms.
Sleeping well is one of the cornerstones of optimal health, and if we ignore poor sleeping habits, we will in time pay a price. In general, optimal health is maintained when our lifestyle is aligned with our circadian rhythm. It is wise to establish and adhere to healthful eating, exercising and sleeping routines every day, including weekends. Unfortunately, sleep deprivation is so common these days that we might not even realize that we are sleep deprived. Our circadian rhythm has evolved over many years to align our physiology withour environment. However, it operates under the assumption that we are behaving as we did previously. As children we establish a routine of being awake during the day and going to bed at around 9pm every night. As we grow older, we begin staying up later and depriving our bodies of sleep, which causes disruption to this pattern by sending conflicting signals to our bodies. As a result,our bodies become confused and do not know whether they should be producing chemicals to help us sleep, or gear up for the beginning of a new day.
Without good sleep, optimal health may remain elusive, even if we eat well and exercise (although those factors will tend to improve our ability to sleep better). Aside from directly impacting the immune function, another explanation for why poor sleep can have such varied detrimental effects on our health is that our circadian system "drives" the rhythms of biological activity at a cellular level. Hence disruptions tend to cascade outward throughout the entire body.
For example, besides impairing our immune function, interrupted or impaired sleep can also:
Increase the risk of heart disease.
Aggravate or increase susceptibility to stomach ulcers.
Contribute to a pre-diabetic state that creates the sensation of hunger even after a meal which can wreak havoc on weight.
Raise blood pressure.
Contribute to premature aging by interfering with growth hormone production normally released by the pituitary gland during deep sleep.
How can I improve my sleeping patterns?
Avoid watching TV or using a computer at night or at least about an hour or so before going to bed—as these technologies can have a detrimental impact on sleep. TV and computer screens emit blue light; nearly identical to the light we are exposed to outdoors during the day. This tricks our brain into thinking it is still day time, thereby shutting down melatonin secretion.
Sleep in complete darkness, or as close to it as possible. The slightest bit of light in your room can disrupt your internal clock and your pineal gland's production of melatonin and serotonin. Even the tiniest glow from your clock radio could be interfering with your sleep. So close your bedroom door, and get rid of night-lights. Refrain from turning on any light at all during the night, even when getting up to go to the bathroom. Cover up your clock radio. Make sure your windows are covered— blackout shades or drapes are ideal for creating total darkness.
Keep the temperature in your bedroom no higher than 21 degrees Celsius. Many people keep their homes and particularly their upstairs bedrooms too warm. Studies show that the optimal room temperature for sleep is between 16 to 20 degrees. Keeping a room cooler or hotter can lead to restless sleep. This is because when we sleep,our body's internal temperature drops to its lowest level, generally about four hours after we fall asleep. Scientists believe a cooler bedroom may therefore be most conducive to sleep, since it mimics our body's natural temperature drop.
Take a hot bath 90 to 120 minutes before bedtime. This increases our core body temperature, and when we get out of the bath it abruptly drops, thereby signalling our body that we are ready for sleep.
Move alarm clocks and other electrical devices away from your bed. If these devices must be used, keep them as far away from your bed as possible. This serves at least two functions. First, it can be stressful to see the time when we are unable to fall asleep, or when we wake up in the middle of the night. Secondly, the glow from a clock radio can be enough to suppress melatonin production and interfere with our sleep.
Avoid using loud alarm clocks. It is very stressful on the body to be suddenly jolted awake. If we are regularly getting enough sleep, an alarm may even be unnecessary because our bodies are able to wake up at the same time everyday naturally.