Anyone who knows me well knows that I never stop. I don’t mean that I’m literally always on the go, rushing from one place to another. If I did that, I’d be a skinny rake, and, well, anyone who know me well knows that’s just not me.
My inability to stop is a mental thing. I have been known to work stupid hours at my day job, which a lot of us do, but I don’t stop there. In fact, my ‘never stoppingness’ starts long before the day begins, at ‘sparrow fart’ as my paternal grandmother so eloquently put it. Long before my alarm goes off, I’m awake. I don’t get up, because I know the value of resting, but I can’t go back to sleep, and so I don’t bother trying.
I will read on my phone, play a few games on my phone, drop my phone on my face and doze for a bit before waking up again and picking up my phone. Maybe that’s an addiction, but I do this to try to tire myself out so that I can sleep some more. And to quiet my ever-speeding mind.
And then I get up, write for an hour, work for eight hours or more, maybe have a chat with my mum, or my life coach, or my husband, all the while planning what I will do the next day, the next week, the next year, when I retire. What book am going to review? Have I written the review? My mind never stops.
I found myself with my self-imposed fortnightly newsletter deadline approaching and I burned out. I had planned for it, knew what I was going to include, and had even written some notes for my book review and my blog. But I couldn’t bring myself to actually put it together.
And so here I am on Sunday night, frantically putting things together, and thinking … of course… about my life and where I’m heading.
I don’t think I’m unique, here, although I know it’s not the norm. When my mother reminds me I need to slow down, I always have a comeback like: “No rest for the wicked” or “There’ll be plenty of time for sleeping later”. She usually comes back with something along the lines of if I don’t stop now, I will be forced to, one way or another. And of course, she’s right. This brings me to my topic for today’s blog.
In our fast-paced world, where hustle and productivity are celebrated, we often find ourselves pushing our minds and bodies to the limits. We're constantly striving to meet deadlines, achieve goals, and keep up with the demands of our busy lives. In the midst of this frenzy, we tend to forget one crucial aspect of our well-being – listening to our bodies. Ignoring the signals our bodies send can have serious consequences, making it essential to understand the importance of resting when you need to.
I had a scare of my own earlier this year. After having damaged myself by wandering about in the dark and not remembering about a rusty back of a back boiler that was in my path, I found myself at A&E having to have the skin on my shin pieced together with a thousand steri-strips, a tetanus shot (at least if asked I can now say when my last one was!) and being bandaged up.
During the course of my treatment, I also discovered I had dangerously high blood pressure. This necessitated an extended leave of absence from work while I tried to get it under control. Interestingly, though, I found that the more I ‘relaxed’, the worse I was feeling. I just did not know how to relax and take it easy. This is something I desperately needed to learn, and if I’m being totally honest here, still do.
However, I am working on it.
Our bodies are incredibly sophisticated machines, and they communicate with us in subtle ways. Aches, pains, fatigue, and stress are the body's way of telling us, "You need a break." When we ignore these signals, we risk developing physical and mental health issues. It's essential to pay attention to what your body is telling you.
Resting when your body requires it is essential for maintaining good physical health. Overworking yourself can lead to a weakened immune system, making you more susceptible to illness. Chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and a host of other health problems. I remember hearing about a young football coach who had died at the age of 36 from a heart attack. This isn’t something I had previously associated with a fit and otherwise healthy person. Now, I’m not at risk of a heart attack from over-exercise but burning the candle at both ends while I try to juggle my day job with my ambitions for the future has had a similar effect on me. Inadequate rest, coupled with a lack of gentle physical exercise can be equally detrimental.
Just as important as physical health is mental health. Ignoring your body's cry for rest can lead to stress, anxiety, and even depression. Mental exhaustion impairs your ability to think clearly, make decisions, and solve problems. It can also affect your relationships and overall quality of life.
Taking the time to rest will enhance your performance in the long run. Allowing your body and mind to recover is crucial for peak performance. Rest is when your body repairs and strengthens itself, allowing you to return to your activities with renewed vigour and focus. Rest can also contribute to a longer, healthier life. Stress and overwork can lead to premature aging and a reduced lifespan. Adequate rest can increase your chances of living a longer, more fulfilling life.
I’m guilty of not taking breaks at work (except for the obvious – who can sit all day without needing a comfort break!), and when I do, I kick myself because I’m then not been able to finish the tasks I’ve set myself for the day, within the eight hours I’m paid for. And so, I work beyond that time. I work beyond that time whether I take a break or not, though, and that needs to change.
Here are some practical steps I’ve discovered that could help you listen to your body…
Self-awareness: Take time to reflect on your physical and mental state regularly. This can be done through meditation, journaling, or simply checking in with yourself throughout the day.
Sleep: Ensure you get an adequate amount of sleep each night. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep to allow your body to recover fully. And perhaps do away with the mobile phones by the bed (note to self…)
Exercise: Include regular exercise in your routine, but also listen to your body's needs. Some days, you might need intense workouts, while others, gentle stretching or a rest day may be more appropriate.
Nutrition: Eat a balanced diet that provides your body with the necessary nutrients and energy. When your body craves certain foods or hydration, pay attention and nourish it accordingly.
Stress management: Implement stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness, yoga, or deep breathing exercises. These can help you manage stress and stay connected to your body's needs.
Our bodies are machines that need to be maintained. Prioritising rest and relaxation are as important to our physical and mental wellbeing as watching what we eat and exercise. Pay attention to what your body is telling you. There is a time for every purpose under heaven – use wisdom to determine what is best for you.