Rest and relaxation are two of the most important things for your body when it’s been pushed to its limits by a stressful event or busy period. I used to feel that if I wasn’t busy moving forward with things I was wasting time. So, I would push through exhaustion and just keep going. I believed that if I didn’t get X, Y or Z done…well I couldn’t even think about not doing it. It was my responsibility and I couldn’t let anyone down. I rarely took a sick day, rarely said no when asked to do something and never stopped unless I was asleep.
Then one day my body forced me to stop. I could barely get out of bed and I knew something was seriously wrong. I was later diagnosed with CFS – the worst but also the best thing that could have happened to me then.
It was the wake-up call I needed to make some serious changes to my life. Not just what I ate but the way I lived. I learnt how to listen to my body and hear what it needs. I’ll admit I still push it further than I probably should sometimes, but I now give it the time and nourishment it needs to recover.
I’ve realised that running on empty and continually pushing myself benefits no one. As the saying goes: “you can’t pour from an empty jug”.
So today I thought I’d share with you the seven of the things I did this Monday to to help myself rest and recover after an extremely busy period with work. Obviously, what constitutes relaxing will be different for everyone but hopefully this will inspire you to take time out when you need it to rest and recover. Your future self will thank you for it and the world won’t stop turning if you’re not available for a while.
- Lie-in: It might sound obvious but having a lie-in doesn’t come naturally to me, especially not on a Monday morning. I still woke up early as my partner was getting up for work, but I stayed in bed and resisted the urge to make his day easier by making breakfast. I read my book, had a cuddle with the cat and even got a mug of hot water and lemon brought to me – bonus!
- Eat nourishing food: Food is essential to recovery and getting in a good combination of protein, fats, carbohydrates and vitamins and minerals from fresh fruits and vegetables was my aim for the day. I also made sure I listened to my body and the cravings I had. Generally, my body is good at telling me what it needs if I bother to listen! On Monday my body needed complex carbs, fruit, vegetables and protein. Oh, and a few little treats which may have been my mind telling me I deserved them rather than my body needing them but it’s important to listen to those cravings sometimes too. So on Monday I had: porridge with almond yoghurt, apple and cinnamon for breakfast. A green smoothie and eggs and avocado on sourdough toast for lunch and a gluten free salted caramel brownie as an afternoon snack. Then, in the evening my partner took me out for dinner which gave us some valuable and much needed time to reconnect and I had a halloumi and red pepper burger (no bun) with salad and sweet potato fries and a glass of red wine.
- Tidy the house: I know for some people this wouldn’t class as relaxation but for me an organised space makes me feel calm. When I come back from a trip and have a suitcase of washing, post piled up and the house feels chaotic, I feel anxious. So for me spending 1 hour getting everything straight is immensely satisfying and relaxing. It means I can properly switch off. So, if there is something like this which makes you feel calmer it can be classed as relaxation time. But, don’t do too much so it exhausts rather than reviving you. Set yourself a time limit and be realistic about what you can achieve in that time!
- Write a list: As above this may not seem relaxing for most people, but for me a list helps me feel calmer and clears my head. By putting things on a list your brain can rest as it’s no longer using resources to hold on to the to-do list mentally. I use the reminders app on my phone as you can also set alerts for the specific day/time you need to do something. Or sometimes I like to have a good old fashioned handwritten list as I find it immensely satisfying to cross things off! And don’t forget to add something fun and relaxing to your list too.
- Walk in nature: Luckily for me it was a beautiful, sunny Spring day on Monday so I could go for a slow, gentle walk in nature – well through the local park which is the best I could do in London. But it still made me feel alive in so many ways. The sun on my skin possibly gave me a little vitamin D top up (although I’m not sure if it was quite strong enough), the exercise got my endorphins going and I listened to a podcast which helped switch off the whirlwind of thoughts and left me feeling inspired. By the time I got home I was already starting to feel re-energized.
- Laugh: They say that laughter is the best medicine and I couldn’t agree more. Research shows that laughter helps to decrease stress hormones. For me one of my favourite shows to watch when I need a lift is Gavin and Stacey. It never fails to make me laugh out loud so it’s a good job it’s now available on Netflix. But on Monday I was left in hysterics watching Gogglebox (one of my guilty pleasures) I won’t tell you what happens but if you didn’t see it and want a laugh you can watch the clip here Sorry to send you to the Express website it was the only place I could find the video!
- Early night: Sleep is quite simple the best thing to help your body recover from almost anything. When I had CFS I suffered from feeling ‘tired and wired’. This is when you’re physically exhausted but mentally awake and unable to sleep. I still get this from time-to-time when I feel overwhelmed so I try to make sure I have a positive evening routine which helps my brain switch off. Recently I’ve not been following this and I can tell it’s affecting my quality of sleep. I’ll write about my evening routine in more detail in another post but basically I try to turn off all technology at least 1 hour before I go to bed, we dim the lights and light a scented candle. I then go through the ritual of removing my make up and cleaning/moisturising my skin, clean my teeth and get into bed. I normally read a book or listen to a guided meditation to help me switch off from the day. I keep a pen and paper next to my bed so if anything pops into my mind while I’m winding down I can make a note and allow my brain to let go of it.
So, those are some of the things I do to help my body and mind rest, relax and recover. If you feel like you’re in need of a little TLC why not try some of these on your next day off. It can sometimes be the simplest things which help us feel whole again.