recovery discovery

I have grown to resent the number hours I need to sleep to feel rested. I find myself saying things like “if I could just wake up a little earlier” or “if I could just have a couple extra hours in the day” all the time. Although, I’m quite sure if I had “extra” time, I wouldn’t spend it resting. I would undoubtedly find ways to fill that time with all sort of stuff and find myself in the exact same situation.

Not long ago Crystal posted about slowing down and taking time to enjoy the little things in life. I read it and even commented that I agreed, but have I taken time to slow down since then? No, I have not.

Every day seems like a race against the clock to do more in our waking hours than we did the day before. If we succeed, the bar is raised! (And so is our anxiety from trying to continually increase our productivity.) If we fail, we feel sad and guilty.

So what gives? When our cell phones and tablets indicate a “low battery” we know and respect the limited amount of time left. We stop what we are doing and scramble to find an outlet, we rush to recharge these devices so we can stay connected. People will traipse miles in an airport or conference center to find a place to plug in their devices. We even tote little portable battery packs so that we can stay charged up.

If we can understand the limited lifespan of our rechargeable devices, should we not take it a little easier on ourselves? It’s as if we expect our “batteries” to last forever. If we do actually admit we feel depleted, we make excuses as to why we have to suffer through it and we keep on trucking.

We don’t recharge. We grind away at life, willing ourselves to continue despite our exhaustion. Why? Because we feel guilty.

Self-care is greatly undervalued in this country. Most can agree that we don’t have time to be sick/injured/tired/not in the mood, yet most of us don’t take the steps needed to prevent the maladies from affecting us.

While taking a vacation may not prevent you from getting the flu, research shows that it can relieve stress. Chronic stress can affect a wide variety of biophysical processes AND can weaken your immune system. Regular exercise and a whole food diet may not put more money in your bank account, but it may help you sleep better. Arriving at work well-rested helps us stay positive and productive. 

Taking “personal time” can be seen as a narrowly afforded luxury or worse, as an excuse for slacking off. (The entire concept of playing “hooky” was born from the idea that our personal time is not valuable enough to be taken seriously.) We feel irresponsible taking a “personal day,” like doing something just for fun is not value added. We have talked already about the importance of playtime, but still why don’t we allow ourselves a break?

If we temper our expectations for our devices when the batteries run low, why can’t we also temper our expectations for ourselves?

There is a tremendous amount of research in the fitness world that suggests that recovery is as critical to your routine as the workouts themselves. Elite athletes all over the world tout the benefits of the “off-season”. Think about it, even professional basketball players do not hit the court every single day. They spend long hours training in their chosen modality, but they also take time away. Giving the body time to rest and rebuild between workouts is the keystone to realizing progress.

Recharging does not have to include sleeping, or binge-watching shows on Netflix-although that is pretty darn nice too. Rest and recovery means engaging in low-stress (physical and emotional) activities that stimulate creativity, bring joy, or help us connect with others. Cleaning my apartment has become a favorite off-day activity for me. (I can’t believe I just said that. Mom will be SO proud!😂) I can take it at my own pace, listen to music, and by the end I feel way more relaxed.

Whether your recharge involves being playful, productive, or simply present in the moment, relish in it! Plan for and look forward to it. Make rejuvenation a habit. The ability to recover from stress (whether it’s physical stress from a workout, or emotional stress from an intense day at the office) helps us raise the intensity, to endure higher levels of stress in the future. BUT it is not until we slow down and give ourselves time to recharge that we can actually raise the bar.

The only way to make progress in life is by allowing our minds, our bodies, our spirits, to rejuvenate. Just like our cell phones, sometimes we absolutely NEED to power down and give ourselves a break. If we keep going without enough rest, we become useless…just like an iPhone with a dead battery.

Go hard, my friends! Chase your dreams, and live large. But, if you’re ever feeling tired or stressed, it’s okay! Sometimes rest is best.

Namaste,

E

pause and press play

When was the last time you did something just for the fun of it? I’m talking about gallivanting shenanigans, here. Really try to think…I’ll wait.

So many of us lead full busy lives with hardly any leftover time for shenanigans. It is widely known that play is critical for children to develop creative thinking and problem solving skills. But who has time for playing around in their grown-up lives?

HebrewDawn: pause and press play
The truth is that playtime is important for people of all ages. Engaging in activities purely for enjoyment can bring much more than fun into our lives. Dr. Stuart Brown is the founder of the National Institute of Play. He defines “play” as an apparently purposeless activity; something done for it’s own sake that is fun or enjoyable. There are many different types of play available to adults, but the important part is that we are only invested in the activity as much as it is pleasurable to us. Basically,  the act of playing is more important than what you do or how it goes.

For instance, I teach dance and yoga in Raleigh, NC.  While I am extremely passionate about both activities in any context, I have a much different experience giving a class than when I’m taking a dance or yoga class. As a teacher, I spend a lot of time preparing lessons, creating sequences and choreography, to make sure I can guide my students safely and effectively through each class. Sort of like having a party at your house, my job, as the host, is to make sure everyone is having a good time. When I am NOT the teacher,  I can let go of my expectations and live in the moment. I can be present in what’s happening right now and not worry about where we came from or what’s happening next. It is truly a gift to be a student attending, and I find my practice in both modalities is invigorated by this playtime. Conversely, the absence of playtime leaves me feeling like a stale bag of chips…

Humans are not alone in their need for play. Dr. Brown has researched play among species in the animal kingdom, finding that species that play more when danger is not present are better able to defend themselves when a threat emerges. There is also evidence that animals of different species can communicate through play.  Brown’s famous story about the polar bear and the husky illustrates this amazing concept. This suggests that in some way, from an evolutionary standpoint, play is purposeful. That is an odd concept to wrap around the old noodle…Why on earth would messing around give us an advantage?

Regardless of our age, the act of playing catalyzes some pretty important reactions:

  1. Playing helps us connect with others; when we are children, it’s how we develop communication skills. As adults, it helps us feel trust and bond with one another.
  2. Playing helps improve our brain function. Games from simple to complex engage the mind and increase our cognitive function.
  3. Playing helps us relax. Because we are enjoying the activity, we let go of our sense of time when we’re playing.

Even if we are simply taking a mental break from it all, playtime refreshes us. Maybe animals who play sleep better and are more rested when the time comes to be active? Maybe that group of thirtysomethings playing Magic in the back of the video game store is not really so strange? (I mean clearly, they are having a wicked good time, they are here every Friday night!) Maybe those silly corporate team-building activities aren’t so silly, after all?

This is the first of a series of posts about “playing around” and how we can all stand to invite a little more of it into our routines. Until then, go have yourself a ball, do something just for grins…I Double Dog Dare, you!

xo,

E

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http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/08/06/336360521/play-doesnt-end-with-childhood-why-adults-need-recess-too