Today I took a sick day. Yep. Those of you who know me personally are probably doing a double-take right about now. This is not something the old me did. Ever. Yes I was physically sick during the night and I do feel under the weather today, but the old me would have sucked it up and gone to work anyway. Only a fever would have normally stopped me in my tracks. But in the spirit of practicing what I preach, of honoring one’s body, loving her (or him) and truly listening to what she (or he) has to say, today I’m giving it a rest. Today my body is tired. I mean really, truly tired. All the way deep into my bones tired. So instead of pushing myself beyond my limits and doing what I think people would expect of me, I’m just resting (and writing to you, because I just couldn’t help it). I took a bath with epsom salts and lavender essential oil, did some gentle yoga and, despite physically feeling like I’ve been run over by a truck, mentally I feel fantastic. Blissed out. Between snoozes on the couch my subconscious is giving me high fives for doing exactly what my body wanted. Finally. Better late than never right?
Do you ever give it a rest? It is so hard to do these days. We are always on the go, getting things done, checking off our endless To-Do lists, wishing there were more hours in a day. Some of us (and I’m including myself in this one) work insane hours. We stare at computers all day and at TVs or our phones at night. Our body never truly gets a chance to shut down until we turn off the light at night, which always seems to be later than we originally intended (or at least that’s normally the case in my house). Then we wake up after probably not enough sleep and then do it all over again. No wonder so many people today have sleep and anxiety issues. We’re so wired up from our lives that our body doesn’t remember how to just let go.
Our lives today put the body under an enormous amount of stress. As I mentioned in my post on perfectionism, we try so hard to be the best we can be and to achieve the life we have always dreamed of. Stress is a normal reaction for our bodies that originally existed to protect us (aka “a lion is running at you, run away, run away!”). This “fight or flight” response kept us alive way back when we lived among the creatures of the wild. Our bodies really haven’t evolved much since those days, so today when something evokes that response, say at work, your body doesn’t know the difference between your deadline and a lion. It will react the same way. And if the body isn’t given the chance to go back to a state of balance, or homeostasis, then it will slowly burn out over time.
Now let’s take a close look at the “fight or flight” response. When our bodies go into panic mode, our sympathetic nervous system is activated and the brain triggers the adrenal glands to secrete hormones like cortisol and epinephrine (adrenaline). These hormones help to give you that extra boost of energy you need to outrun the lion. Once you are safe, the parasympathetic nervous system kicks in and starts to calm you down. But for many of us today there is always another lion following the first, another deadline, another thing to get done, another responsibility piled on our shoulders. There is so much to do that our poor adrenals just can’t handle it all. This, in a nutshell, is how you develop adrenal fatigue. Does this sound like you? I don’t know about you but I’m nodding my head. That is exactly what happened to me.
So back to giving it a rest. Our bodies need rest. Desperately. When we sleep our internal organs rest and recover, tissues are repaired, muscle growth occurs, and hormones are released that regulate our appetite control, stress, growth, and metabolism. Yep, you heard it right. Do you feel like you’re always hungry or just never get full? Have uncontrollable cravings? Maybe think about how much sleep you’re getting… Leptin, our satiety hormone, is significantly reduced when we are sleep deprived. And when we sleep, our adrenal glands get a chance to rest too before they go on to fight another day with you.
Next time you are feeling bone tired maybe your body is trying to tell you something. Maybe try giving it a rest. You don’t have to take a day off of work for this like I did. Maybe one Sunday clear your schedule, put your To-Do list away and just rest. Sleep in, run a bath, do some gentle exercises, watch movies all day. Do whatever your body wants to do. Sunday did used to be considered “the day of rest” after all. Seems to me that, back then, we had it right all along.
Peace, love and rest,