For those of you who have been following my self-care journey, I have made tremendous progress.  My back and hip are not completely healed, however, I’m far healthier thanks to my consistent daily habits (not to mention my amazing acupuncturist and chiropractor).  It’s been a SLOW recovery process.  Giving myself the time and space to recalibrate my nervous systems and regain a sense of control is critical to my mindset and my ability to deal with this continued stress.  It has required a shift from the focus on performing in spite of my situation to intentional focus on my self-care. 

If you are in a similar situation, there are 7 kids of rest I encourage you to embrace:

  • PHYSICAL rest – is any activity that releases tension and restores calm to the physical body.  Active rest is also critical to our wellbeing, with movement being one of the most important forms of rest for our bodies and minds.
  • MENTAL rest – any activity that clears your mind, quiets your thoughts, and helps to put things into perspective.  Our brains can only focus with intensity on cognitively demanding tasks for 90 minutes.  Taking a regular brain break by shifting from a heavy cognitive task to a create outlet such as playing an instrument, painting, drawing, taking a walk or run, taking a short nap, or reconnecting with a friend or loved one can help us back to the task at hand refreshed and with renewed focus.
  • SENSORY rest – reducing the amount of sensory sights, sounds and smells you are subjected o by changing your environment.  Step away from technology and the blue light that is so destructive to our eyes and ability to sleep.  Unplug or turn off electronics, stay away from gadgets for at least an hour before sleep, and make our bedroom a sanctuary by removing clutter and lowering the lights.  Meditation can also help to short circuit the sensory overload.
  • CREATIVE rest – is any activity that exposes us to something unstructured and unproductive, like doing easy arts and crafts, or simply sitting comfortably and watching nature.  Take time to appreciate time alone.  Wasting time well is critical to replenishing our energy reserves, as our brains use 10 times the energy of our bodies.
  • EMOTIONAL rest – giving ourselves time to examine the emotions we are feeling without judgement can help us navigate through them much more easily.  Negative emotions are an important part of the human experience; they key is not to become paralyzed by them.  Labeling the emotion shifts our locus of control, particularly when dealing with others.  Thinking “I am feeling irritable” versus “They are irritating me” can help us remove judgement and take back control of our emotional response to situations.
  • SOCIAL rest – surrounding ourselves with people who are positive and supportive and avoiding those who bring negativity and criticism into our lives lets us be our authentic selves.  Finding our community of supporters who will be there in good times and bad creates a support structure that we can lean on in difficult times.  Taking the time to focus on those whom we are grateful for can help us to feel more positive and optimistic.
  • SPIRITUAL rest – adding prayer or meditation to our daily routing connects us more closely with aa greater power and helps us to be at peace with our place in the universe.  It can also do wonders for our minds and bodies.  The sense of awe that a spiritual practice creates curbs our flight/flight/freeze response, reducing cortisol production and  creating an anti-inflammatory response in our bodies by reducing cytokines, the proteins that promote inflammation.  Practicing this form of mindfulness also takes us off autopilot, makes us more present, and connect us to others at a deeper level.

Consciously shifting our perspective to create optimistic neural pathways takes repetition, practice, and persistence.  The more we can nurture our recovery from stress by practicing the 7 steps of rest our minds and bodies need, the more capable we are of avoiding and overcoming chronic stress and burnout.

“While riding the wave of life you must also practice stillness so you can flow with, rather than resist the wave’s motion.” 

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