Updated: Jan 19
As we chatted last week, exercise has taught me to be in the moment. Truly connect with my body and mind. But it wasn't until I truly educated myself, did I understand I needed more than JUST physical activity and exercise. I needed adequate stress management techniques and recovery days. I needed to sleep more than 6 hours a night. It took a career change and MAJOR boundaries to be able to stop my "go, go" mentality.
To continue part 2 of the series we will elaborate more on why full rest days are needed and talk about my fave thing- sleep.
Last week we elaborated on why your muscles needed rest, but what we didn't discuss was why your nervous system needs rest. To summarize it simply, your central nervous system is active all the time, that's your brain and spinal column, receiving constant information from the peripheral nervous system. There are other subsystems in the peripheral nervous system which contain the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems (they're part of the autonomous nervous system). The sympathetic nervous system activates in preparation for activity, and the parasympathetic assists in decreasing activity levels for rest and recovery. Think "flight or fight" vs "rest and digest". In order for your body to fully find the "rest and digest" function, which allows for relaxation, we need to move it from it's state of action, to a state of calm.
Most of us with anxiety and high levels of stress have a hard time getting to a state of rest. One way to check your stress level is by your resting heart rate. An average resting heart rate for an untrained adult is 70-80 bpm. Good personal trainers will monitor your resting heart rate (my app allows me to do so when you are connected via Apple Watch or Fitbit) and ask you to rate your stress levels on a weekly basis.
Now, what do we do when our resting heart rate isn't in the average range? Here is where stress reduction, meditation, rest, being with nature, and sleep come in! If your resting heart rate does not lower or stays elevated after exercise (especially running), or has a hard time returning to baseline after walks or just sitting, definitely see a doctor, your heart is working over time. Please note a constant resting heart rate over 100 bpm is a reason to see your doc as well.
An average adult requires 7-9 hours of sleep per night to fully experience the restorative benefits of sleep. Most lack of sleep occurs because of bad sleep hygiene, essentially not setting the time apart to transition from a time of wakefulness to a time of rest. I don't mean for this post to be a doom and gloom post, but inadequate sleep is linked to a variety of health conditions, including heart disease, depression, dementia, and weight gain.
There are a few steps you can take to ensure you are sleeping soundly, night after night.
No phone zone. Try your best to avoid using electronics before bed. Blue light can delay the circadian clock, suppress melatonin & negatively affect the quality of sleep. Try blue light-blocking glasses
Grab some morning light. Sun exposure is important for our sleep cycles, at least 30 min, and wear sunscreen!
Set a schedule and stick to it. Make a point to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. YES. Daily.
Limit caffeine. Alcohol, green tea and pre-workouts can block sleep neurotransmitters. Caffeine also has 5-hour half-life which means half of the concentration is still in your body 5 hours later. Think a 300mg Bang at 11 am will still be in your system at 4pm (about 150mg) and not completely out until about 9 pm, that's assuming you haven't added an energy drink since then. and is in your body for way longer than you think it is.
Take a nap. If you can nap, take a 20-minute nap.
Fortify your diet with magnesium-rich foods like whole grains, dark-green, leafy vegetables, low-fat milk, yogurt , beans and legumes (such as soybeans, baked beans, lentils, and peanuts) and nuts (such as almonds and cashews).
Supplements like glycine, chamomile tea show promising results in helping reduce stress and promoting a healthy sleep cycle.
De-stress. Make meditation, mindfulness, and mindful movement part of your daily life.
It's 2023! I cannot believe it- I hope the year is filled with love, abundance, health and GREAT food.
Psst- did you hear? I am having an START THE NEW YEAR RIGHT SALE!
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Below are a few of the products mentioned in the blog. Remember, as an Amazon Associate, I earn a teensy amount from qualifying purchases when you follow the link to purchase. Always seek physician guidance when starting a supplement.
Xenaki, Niovi et al. “Impact of a stress management program on weight loss, mental health and lifestyle in adults with obesity: a randomized controlled trial.” Journal of molecular biochemistry vol. 7,2 (2018): 78-84.