This is a subject very close to my heart - for many years I didn't actually know how to rest effectively, and it contributed to my health deteriorating to such an extent I had to give up full-time work. Of course, we all know how to sit down, and many of us (myself included) think that's all we need to do to 'rest' our weary selves! Of course, sitting or lying down will allow us to rest our physical body, however this is not the only part of ourselves that needs to recharge and recoup. See if this scenario sounds familiar; your'e sitting on the sofa or in bed, phone in hand scrolling through a dozen or so apps and websites, the TV is on in the background, which you are watching out of one eye, maybe channel surfing, and simultaneously you are running through the ticker-tape of mental lists that are flicking through your conscious mind. You may also be holding a conversation with someone in your home, on speakerphone or via text/whatsapp - now tell me how 'rested' you feel even reading this?!
Understanding the difference between what I just described, and a useful, therapeutic rest period is your first step towards feeling calmer, happier and more in control. The human body is not designed to go non-stop, hence why we have evolved to sleep on a regular basis, and nobody would ever expect to carry on endlessly without sleeping - but why do we not apply the same principle to our mental and emotional bodies? These two states are as fundamental to our continued existence as our physical body, but because modern medicine is predicated on treating physical ailments, we can often be disconnected to our mind and emotions, ignoring their welfare until we become overwhelmed, over-stressed and anxious.
So, once we are aware that we need to take as much care of our minds and souls as we do looking after our physical bodies, the next step is how do we give them the rest they so desperately crave? The most important thing is to step off the mental treadmill. Most of us don't realise how fast our minds work every day and night (even while we are asleep our subconscious is at work, supplying us with dreams and nightmares) as we are conditioned to work on multiple platforms simultaneously and encouraged to multi-task and stay plugged-in to our devices 24/7. Our mind runs a marathon every single day, and the amount of helpful rest it get is negligible - small wonder most of us end up anxious, stressed and angry, over-reacting and losing our tempers far more often than we need to!
The simplest way to ensure we get at least some regular good quality mind-rest is to meditate. Even five minutes daily meditation will give your mental and emotional faculties a breather and allow your system to go into 'rest and digest mode' (when the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in to repair and refresh at a cellular level). Giving your brain a moment of respite every day will slow the chatter going on in your mind and allow you to experience some peace, thereby ensuring you feel more refreshed and able to carry on with your life without getting to breaking point.
Next time you sit down in front of the TV or turn to your phone, try to spend a few minutes in quiet instead, and enjoy the silence - you never know what you might find....
Next week I'm going to talk a little bit about the Science of Stress, and the fascinating discoveries that are being made about how the the brain works and how our thought processes can directly impact our health and quality of life.