In this punishing and demanding world, rest is often neglected. We go on with our day-to-day activities on autopilot mode. We seem invincible until we have exhausted our minds and body to the point of getting sick. We don’t get ill overnight. Chronic illnesses are developed for a period of time. We may be asymptomatic initially then progress to a full-blown debilitating, and sometimes, fatal condition like a heart attack.
Most often than not, diseases can be prevented. But it takes more than just proper diet and exercise to do the job. Mental, emotional, and spiritual health have equal bearing for health optimization to be achieved.
The body has two types of responses through the nervous system. The first one is the sympathetic nervous system, the fight-or-flight response. This is activated when we are physically active, under stress, or in danger. The fight-or-flight response cannot always be activated, otherwise that would mean we are chronically under stress. It should be given time to shut down. This is a natural response by the parasympathetic nervous system or the rest and digest mode. Unfortunately, we think that taking a rest isn’t vital to existence or perhaps we rest when we are forced to do it because we are already exhausted or, worse, sick.
If you wish to be healthy, rest is one of the most important factors to create optimum health and wellness. What do you do or to what do you turn when you are stressed out? What activities do you engage in as a form of relaxation?
People may turn to unhealthy food, social media, television or multi-media, alcohol, smoking, illegal substances, and other unhealthy ways to counteract stress. Instead of restoring health, they are further damaging their overall health. To make matters worse, this does not only affect the individual but the people around them too.
We can’t run away from stress but we can decide to manage it by learning and practicing restful habits. As you focus more on the process of restoration instead of dwelling on your sad state, you can learn to be resilient, happier, and become healthier. You won’t be stuck because your brain will form new neural pathways to help you cope.
Science backs up several restoration activities that will not only positively impact your mental health through their calming effects, but also restore balance to hormones, the immune system, as well as the nervous system. Here are some restoration activities you can try.
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When anxious or tensed, we may not notice but we take shallow breaths. This leads to fatigue, poor blood circulation, and poor oxygenation. To reduce stress and improve energy when you’re tired, practice abdominal or diaphragmatic breathing. This will activate the brain’s relaxation centers. Find a comfortable position, you can lie down or simply sit. Place a hand on your abdomen and the other hand on the chest. As you inhale through your nose for four counts, the abdomen should rise. Hold the breath for about four to seven seconds and slowly exhale through the nose or mouth. Exhale slowly for eight counts. The pattern is 4-7-8. Throughout the day, you can take some time to practice mindful breathing of one to five cycles or even more. This will help you find your center and concentrate better when the circumstances around you are chaotic.
This is a form of meditation that is intentional and requires imagination. Guided imagery increases relaxation, reduces pain, improves mental health and resilience. It is done by imagining oneself in a peaceful setting and engaging your senses. For example, imagining yourself surrounded by nature, listening to the sounds of the ocean, feeling the breeze blowing on your face. Neural patterns in the brain are created through imagination that is similar to getting the experience in real life. By allowing yourself a few minutes a day of letting your imagination soar, you can transform negative emotions and thoughts into something more positive and productive. This will do wonders with your physiological responses such as stabilizing heart rate and blood pressure. Some audio and video guides for guided imagery are available online.
There are various types of meditation but in general, meditation is defined as focused and contemplative time. One can meditate while sitting, lying down, walking, and even when eating. You can do it in any state or position as long as you can achieve a calm and positive state of mind. Mediation has been proven to stabilize heart rate, control breathing, decrease the production of the stress hormone cortisol. This hormone is related to the development of one too many diseases. To begin meditation, get comfortable and take controlled deep breaths. You can choose to do a body scan. Pay attention to how you feel from head to foot. What are the areas that feel more relaxed or tensed? You can also meditate through prayer. You can also just stay silent and let your thoughts float like clouds. You can focus on one word or one positive thought. The goal is to embrace yourself wherever you are and pursue calmness. It doesn’t have to be a long meditation. It could be a minute or three.
Incorporating rest and pauses throughout the day will surely help you become healthier and manage stress better. You have to make a decision to be intentional in practicing restorative habits in order for it to come to fruition.