The ‘finish line’ toward end of year and rest: two contradicting realities! Even with many of us overwhelmed with increased workloads at this time of year, the concept of rest can feel insulting or uncomfortable, given we live in a world that sees exhaustion and busyness as a status symbol. But if we respect how 'busy' our physiology is when we rest, we get a powerful option to shift our practices to a state that'll have us fresh faced and composed by December.
Here’s the thing: our bodies are perfectly made to manage stress – if we don’t push them too far. Stress is not bad per se, unless we have too much.
Think about your own stress triggers: exercise, a challenging email, a threat … These all create neural energy, which are governed by chemical responses (i.e., adrenaline, epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol) in our brain and body. In small bursts, they bolster our immune system. But this robustness is not endless. Stress that lasts longer than seven days starts to work against the immune system and reduces our life-tolerance skills, leaving us more prone to psychological stress. Almost 100 years ago, scientist Hans Selye first described general adaption syndrome (GAS), a three-stage process that our bodies go through when exposed to stress. He found that unmanaged stress lasting beyond three to four weeks leads to system exhaustion.
Pause and reflect on the last seven days and the seven before that. Are you on the road to burnout before year’s end? If so, try these four strategies to optimise energy efficiency:
- Zoom out – Selye’s work shows the importance of ‘periodisation’. Our calendars should reflect a ‘deload’ period every three to four weeks. In this deload period – which should last five to seven days – aim to have less load or intensity on your plate, both in terms of exercise and your work-life practices.
- Zoom in – Blips of emotional stress each day burden the immune system. Recent research has found that healthy cortisol management can be achieved by meditating for 12 minutes, building up to 20 hours of accumulative practice over time. Starting today, commit to two 12-minute meditation sessions each day, and you’ll start to feel the benefits before end-of-year rituals begin. Try Non-Sleep Deep Rest (NSDR) (23:23) or this free 20-minute yoga workout (23:44).
- Stay zoomed in – Ultradian rhythms guide us to organise concentration time into 90-minute blocks, followed by 20 minutes of rest. Efficient rest might mean refuelling with healthy food or doing some exercise – perhaps enhancing your memory with a quick burst of high-intensity exercise or boost your creativity by taking a walk outdoors.
- Don’t overdo the workouts – Excessive exercise is a proven way to compromise your immune system. To check if your body needs a break, ask yourself each day: ‘Did I sleep seven to eight hours?’, ‘Do I desire to train?’, ‘Will I eat enough today to support my exercise?’ If you answered ‘no’ to two or more of these questions, consider taking a rest or adjusting to a more restorative mode of exercise.
When you look at your trajectory toward the end of 2021, which ‘you’ do you want to turn up at end-of-year celebrations? If you can diarise one of the above four changes each week, you’ll boost your chances of being a more balanced and loving host, party attendee, partner, parent and friend, both for yourself and others.
Who is Unna Goldsworthy?
Unna is an exercise physiologist concerned with questions like ‘But why?’ and ‘What will work for you?’ Long-time enlightened to the idea that the creativity and passion of this industry finds opportunities for the majority of bodies to move, but most commonly the minds attached to those bodies are distracted or stuck, blocking the action to participate in healthy choices. She believes moments of success in health are found in knowing yourself and your patterns, asking for help and not walking the same path three times if it didn’t work the two times before. Can’t go left, go right.
You can find out more about Unna here.
– The Coach Place Global
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