How to Rest

If “rest” is a “four-letter” word, then you should definitely read this article.

Our society is a fast-paced, non-stop treadmill. Whether it’s work or taking care of the family, the reality (for most of us) is that resting is incredibly difficult. We know we should rest, and we know we need rest, but we overestimate our ability while underestimating the risk for not taking the time to rest. As someone who was diagnosed with Addison’s Disease (a failure of the adrenal gland), I can tell you that we are often too late in recognizing how quickly we need true rest.

Let’s take a moment and recognize how important true rest really is:

-it signals to our body that it is time for skin, joint, and brain repair

-it serves as a reset for our physiological functions, including breathing, pulse, and blood pressure

-it increases our ability to deal with stress later on by saving and strengthening the endocrine system (adrenal, thyroid, etc.)

Many of us “rest” by watching TV or a movie, eating a favorite food, or by taking that time to make emotional connections while talking to our friends. Although each of these things is beneficial, chances are you need some SERIOUS rest if you experience any of the following:

-lightheadness or dizziness

-frequent forgetfulness

-unexplained moments of depression, anxiety, or anger

-a sense or feeling that your life is out of control

The problem with real resting is that it is an art and a science. Often we will tell ourselves we are resting, but it doesn’t really seem to do much good. Real resting isn’t just sleeping or relaxing; it is a time for healing. Remember: True resting take serious practice; the more you try it, the more benefits you’ll receive from it. Here are some recommendations you should try for a couple weeks.

Let’s start with the most obvious time for resting: sleeping. If you are chronically exhausted, chances are you need more sleep and/or better sleep. If you are sleeping less than 8 hours per night, create boundaries for you and your energy. Ask for help from your friends and family and explain why it’s important to you, and how it can help your relationships with them. If you already sleeping 8 hours per night, but you are still very tired when you wake up, chances are there your body chemistry is “off.” Here are three options: (1) Turn off all electronics at least one hours before you go to bed, and focus on your breath as you breath in through your nose and out through your mouth. It’s okay if your focus wanders; gently bring your focus back to your slow, quiet breathing. (2) Millions of people have turned to sleeping pills, but most have serious side effects. You may want to consider natural approaches, such as GABA (best for taking the edge off a brain that won’t stop thinking at night) and 5-htp (best to deal with discouragement and anger). Start with the lowest doses, and see how you feel. (Of course, talk to your doctor if you have any medical problems or are taking any medication. Some GABA supplements have other aminos in them that may not work well for those with thyroid conditions). (3) Talk to your doctor and see if you have any thyroid or adrenal issues. Many people with serious adrenal issues often wake up in the middle of the night in a panic, feeling very hot.

In addition to learning to truly relax before you sleep is the importance of learning to relax throughout the day. We often get so wired or “keyed up” we forget we need some time for ourselves. This is especially important for introverts. Taking the time to breathe correctly, and laying down if possible, for 10 minutes twice per day at work will give you increased focus, clarity and power to deal with the stressors throughout the day. I find that counting each (very) slow breath, until I reach 60, is about the place where I find intense relaxation. If you decide to use natural aids for relaxation (such as GABA and 5-htp) during the day, be especially aware of how it affects you. Too much can definitely make you groggy (especially during the daytime) and some individuals report having 5-htp makes them anxious. This is another reason to start with very low doses, and if there are any side effects, stop taking them immediately. The key is to find the right dose and balance for your body and hormones.


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