By Louis Neilson |
As Josh Taylor puts it, in Half•Alive’s song ‘Rest,’ “Living busy isn’t giving you your worth.”
Our goal for this week has been to help our colleagues understand the concept and value of resting more. Relaxation is often misunderstood with a common misconception that rest is a bad thing; that if we aren’t busy earning, we are busy failing. In reality, lack of sleep can lead to a wide variety of physical and mental negatives, including a lack of perspective and a drop in our performance ability.
What is rest?
Rest is activities that engage our parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) and help bring about a physical state of balance.
In order to understand what rest is, it’s important to shape a functional understanding by gathering more information on how our Autonomic Nervous System controls our body’s response to external stimuli. Rest is formed by two parts: the Sympathetic Nervous System and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). Each of these is responsible for opposite ends of the same coin, and the latter is often not active enough with the stresses and stimulus surrounding us. By informing each other about how to engage the PNS, we are able to explore how we can balance and release tension in our bodies caused by pent-up stress and anxiety.
How do we rest?
Here is a list of tips, techniques, and activities that will help to engage our PNS responses.
Small daily things we can do to help ease the burden:
- Stand Up: You need to stand up from your spot in front of the computer a few times a day and just MOVE. Some torso rotations with your arms elevated is ideal
- Look Away: We want to engage a soft-focus for our eyes. Looking off into the distance can help this response and allow us to lean into that letting go
- Breath: We can slow our heart rates down through simple abdominal breathing, through a response of our phrenic nerve
- Mindfulness: You may find the notion of some of the exercises to be too esoteric, but at the very least we can agree it is important to be conscious of your own self
Medium daily decisions we can make to help ease the burden:
- Cut Down on Caffeine & Other Stimulants: Many of us have emotional responses to stimulants, including nicotine, that we believe to be ‘stress relieving’ be they actually make us more susceptible to stress reactions
- Invest in Good Sleep: Remember, good sleep is not just about duration, but also quality
- Cut Down on Alcohol & Sodium: This is similar to stimulants—you think you’re doing a #TreatYoSelf2021 but really you’re just borrowing dopamine with horrid interest rates
- Week-Long Electronic Reset: This is… extreme. We’re scared of the idea. However, a few studies have shown that spending a week ‘off the grid’ benefits both our sleep and subconscious reactions
Large systemic changes we can make for our own wellbeing:
- Learn to Recognize & Label Your Stressors: You may not be as informed as to what causes you stress, and this can also lead to lashing out in private or professional situations
- Exercise: This is a risky one – in the long-term, a good diet and exercise will make you more resilient to stress, but in the short-term might lead to suffering
With a few changes and an increase in awareness, we have the ability to cut down our stress levels and find more space for relaxation. Further, when we prioritize rest at the right times and in the right ways, it makes a huge difference and opens up the door for improved mental wellbeing in an array of areas in our lives.
Learning Designer at Construct