As the buzzing of the alarm clock disrupts your slumber, you roll over to see that the time in fact does say 6:02am and it’s time to get up. Shuffling into the kitchen to grab that first cup of coffee you think to yourself, “Ugh, Monday morning….only 5 more days until the weekend.” Reaching over to turn on the morning news you hear, “This morning on Wake Up Charlotte: how to reduce stress in your life and the toll it takes on your health.” Thinking to yourself, “I need to TiVo that one,” you head to the bathroom to get ready for your stressful and busy Monday.
Sound familiar? Maybe even partially? These headlines surround us in newspapers, magazines, on TV shows, signs posted at the gym, in our doctor’s offices and out of the mouths of most health & fitness professionals. Just the other day I was reading an article on ways to reduce our stresses in life and the importance of getting 8 hours of sleep a night.
There are many definitions of stress. Here are two that I found pertinent:
- An applied force or system of forces that tends to strain or deform a body.
- A physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation.
Numerous people who I come in contact with on a regular basis are just plain exhausted! With that said who would blame them! Most of them are busy moms and dads with demanding jobs who leave work, grab dinner on the way to soccer practice to drop off one child, to turn around and take the other to gymnastics. In between drop offs and pick up, mom (or dad) is ripping through book bags to see if anything came home from school that the kids need for the next day. Then….finally…a sigh of relief as they pull in the driveway. Oh wait, sorry…can’t relax yet! As they sit down (or stand) to eat, the phone rings. It’s the school asking for volunteers for Fun Day. Here’s the SHORT version of how the rest of the night goes…..feed and take out the dog, upstairs to throw in laundry, down to clean up dinner dishes, make lunches, check homework, get kids bathed & in bed, fold laundry, get things ready for the next day to do it all again….and collapse!
We are all so entrenched in the hustle and bustle of life that we don’t take 5 minutes for ourselves. I get it! It is easy not to take care of ourselves. BUT, it is absolutely crucial that we take time out for our own physical, mental and emotional health. Stress has been proven to cause physiological chemical reactions in your body; which, if occurring continually over time are linked to several diseases. Headaches, lowered immune function, high blood pressure, and heart disease name a few.
The same goes for when you dedicate yourself to an exercise program – that day of rest and recovery is SO important. This is when your muscles repair and rebuild, so that you can become stronger and leaner. The American Council on Exercise states, “Improvements in fitness levels occur during the recovery period, not during the workout itself.” If your recovery between workouts is not sufficient you become fatigued & your ability to perform in successive workouts diminishes.
Just as our muscles need rest and recovery, so do our minds/bodies. Take the time to exercise, sit and read, meditate, go out to dinner, or take a Saturday afternoon nap. If we do not do these things, then we are not our best selves and we are not helping anyone else around us, especially those who we love the most.
I took Saturday off this past week. No exercise, no work, relatively no plan for the day. As I sat at the pool with my family and truly relaxed, this is a glimpse of what I was conscious to around me: my kids’ laughter, the slight humid breeze rustling the leaves on the trees, sunlight warming my skin, an airplane streaming through the billowy white clouds. These clouds resembled the ones that as a child, you wondered if you could ever reach them to jump around in or lay down to take a nap on. A mumbling lawnmower in the distance, sounds of Bob Marley playing on an iPod, and a child scratching the pavement with violet sidewalk chalk. It was peaceful. The most simple things, so perfect in their own way….and if I had been caught up in my busy “life” I would have missed it all.
“Life’s most important investment is in you and your health!”