Many of us can feel tired, for example at the end of a busy week at work, or after a stressful weekend with the loved ones. Sometimes we feel like we just need more sleep. However, there are other ways to give yourself good rest and in this article I’ll share some tips and suggestions on how to do this.
Stressful times – a reminder to get good rest!
Coming out from the covid pandemic I was working long hours with few breaks of any sort. Even knowing I could sleep for 8.5 hours (this is the length of sleep I need), I had low energy and so I decided to explore other ways to recoup my energy and zest.
If you are regularly experiencing symptoms like brain fog, being unable to think clearly or feeling physically drained, your body might be crying out for some rest. You might have a short temper, no longer enjoy doing creative activity or exercise, or you might alter your behaviour in other ways. Experiencing this occasionally is part of life, however if you regularly feel like this, then maybe it is time to consider, are you getting good rest.
Rest is an important part of our holistic programme here at La Crisalida Retreats, to live a life of maximum health and wellbeing. This article comes from some of the recent research I’ve done and I hope it helps you. At the end, I also share other articles we have written here at La Crisalida Retreats over the years, with practical tips for action to take at home.
What happens physiologically when we rest?
Our body is constantly making tiny adjustments to keep us balanced (homeostasis). This is a natural part of our make-up.
Physiologically we also have two other “parts” – the autonomic nervous system and the somatic motor system. The autonomic nervous system is not generally under voluntary control – it is self-governing – this means it is our body that does this, not our thoughts or decisions. This system links cardiac muscle, many glands (which control hormones amongst other things), smooth muscle and adipose tissue (fatty tissue, which is a type of connective tissue).
You will have heard of “flight or fight” response. This is one branch of the autonomic nervous system – known as the sympathetic nervous system – which activates when we perceive danger of some form. Our heart rate increases and hormones are released to enable us to move quickly.
The complementary branch of the autonomic nervous system is called the para-sympathetic nervous system. This is the system in our body designed to allow our body to heal and re-balance, often referred to as “rest and digest”.
Our body can move between these two branches in an instant. With life being so busy and stressful, we often do not spend long enough in the para-sympathetic state, for our body to re-balance. When we actively aim to put ourselves into a state of rest, we can activate our para-sympathetic nervous system.
Getting good rest
Rest is more than simply lying down and closing your eyes. Rest can take many forms, depending upon our life situation, it’s about knowing yourself and finding the most appropriate way of resting for you.
Here are some tips and suggestions for how to get good rest in different areas of our life. I recommend that you pick a few in different areas and try them out. See how you feel in a week:
When you are physically tired, sometimes we need to lie down – that´s when a sunbed and a good book is great. However, there are other ways that you can allow your body to physically rest, and this is by being active!
Massage, or other holistic body work treatments are a wonderful way to encourage your body to physically relax. Here, someone else is doing the work, physically reminding our muscles to relax and let go!
Yoga – in particular the slower, quieter styles like restorative yoga or Yin yoga. Here there is no rush to move into positions, it takes little physical energy, and we actively encourage our muscles and mind to relax.
Give your digestive system a rest
For a period of time (one day, three days, one week) decide to remove food items that make your system work harder. This might include dairy, meat and/or processed sugars. We like to drink freshly made fruit and vegetable juices, as this helps to give our digestive system a rest and also delivers excellent nutrients. We also encourage you to give up alcohol for a while and smoking. There are lots of recipes for juices and plant-based food available on our health and wellbeing blog.
Planning, organising and even worrying, are all part of living a busy normal life, however it can do us good to take a break. Set aside part of the day to plan and organise, and parts of the day to take a mental rest. How can you take a mental rest? Some people like to play or watch sport, listen or play music, watch a film or read a good book. I suggest an activity that enables you to be completely present in your body for at least 15 minutes.
If you are feeling angry, sad, frustrated, hyper or manic all the time, a change of state is a way to get rest. It might be changing your environment for a while (walking away from a situation) or spending time with someone who appreciates and supports you. Some authors suggest using gratitude as a means to help alter your emotional state.
If you are creative and come across a creative “block”, then taking a break can make a big difference. This might be swapping what you are doing for a crossword, kicking a ball about with your kids or finding an alternate creative outlet just for the fun of it. And the opposite applies if you are usually computer-based – finding a creative outlet can provide you with a good way to rest from the mental and sensory stimulation.
Environment and social rest
Changing your environment or social group for a period of time can do more than give us a fresh perspective. It can also activate our para-sympathetic nervous system. I find being in nature very restful, listening to the birds singing or walking through a woodland. Walking or sitting next to the sea (whatever the weather for some people!) can help. Alternatively, going into the city and visiting an art gallery, or a new restaurant with a different friend group can also give us a rest.
Take some time away from the computer and from the box or little screen. Whilst TV watching and films might seem like a good way to relax, sometimes they can have the opposite effect! If you´ve had a particularly busy day on the computer, taking 30 minutes away from the screen can give you the time and space to rest.
Meditation is a wonderful tool to give your whole self a rest. There are many different ways to meditate (some links are provided below), so it’s about finding the meditation technique that you prefer. We like to think that meditation is a way to reconnect with yourself – connection with self is our definition of spirituality.
Napping (siesta time!)
The definition of a nap is to take a short break, to sleep lightly or briefly, during the day. Napping is not just for older people! A colleague I worked with years ago (in her late 20’s) used to take a 10-minute nap break every afternoon and came back brighter and with more energy and concentration for the rest of the afternoon.
There are many suggestions on how to get a good nights sleep around (and below are two links to articles we have written in the past).
Summary: Take regular rest breaks that suit you and your situation
Take a regular break from your main activity. This rest can take the form of whatever works best for you. We are all individuals so it is worth taking the time to reflect and notice what enables you to take a rest break.
I know I work best by taking a short 5-minute break each hour. When I’m working, this might mean making a cup of peppermint tea, taking a short walk, putting a washing load on (if I am working from home) or changing the bed. These are not the typical “rest” activities that we might think about! Running a business with 30 staff means sometimes I have people queueing up outside the door waiting with a question. So, I really need to be able to create a boundary to maintain regular breaks. Longer breaks include a trip to the cinema, yoga, meditation, cooking, catching up with friends and family, reading a good book. Sometimes, after doing a large amount of routine work, I want to read an educational book, to switch on my brain. Other times, if I have experienced a mentally challenging day, I look to read a light summer fiction book. Knowing my preferred ways to rest means I have a bag of “tools” I can dip into and I encourage you to find yours.
Read more about how to get good rest
To explore this area more, you might enjoy reading these articles from our health and wellbeing blog. The last two articles cover the area of sleep in more detail:
- Pranayama – yoga breathing – and its effects on the body shares research findings on the health benefits of breathing techniques and explains how to practice some of these techniques.
- To explore nutrition and consider the impact of your diet on your health and energy levels, read eating for health and wellbeing.
- Restorative yoga is a useful tool to encourage your body to rest. We explain some of our favourite restorative yoga asanas in this article: tips for practicing restorative yoga at home.
- For an overview of how our physiology works, read our introductory article: understanding physiology, understanding health.
- If you are feeling burned-out, this article can help: three steps for overcoming burn-out and getting your energy back.
- More tips on how to take time out to prevent burnout.
- Getting a good nights sleep
- Tips on getting good quality sleep
La Crisalida Retreats and rest
Rest is part of our holistic programme for health and wellbeing.
Coming on retreat immediately changes your environment and social group. The classes are there for you – meditation, yoga, walks in nature – and we have siesta time every day. Indeed, the majority of our guests say they feel the most rested and refreshed they have felt in years by the end of their stay.
I hope these ideas give you a few ideas to try out to get good rest at home. Sending you my best wishes for your health and wellbeing, Lisa. x
About the author
- Lisa is one of the founders of La Crisalida Retreats. She is an Epidemiologist, therapeutic hatha and yin yoga teacher and also teaches mindfulness meditation. Lisa has studied NLP and hypnosis, as well as nutrition (she designs the menus).