Finding your life's balance: Rest and relaxation

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In a new regular feature Nina Grunfeld presents a wellbeing series for HR professionals. It's time to focus on yourself

Was that a yawn I saw you stifling? Before we start focusing on rest and relaxation, how healthy and fit are you feeling right now? Fill in your Balance Chart again (‘10’ being very satisfied) and notice your scores. Once you become aware of your body and begin to listen to it you’ll see how your scores overall slowly begin to rise.

This month we’re focusing on getting some well-deserved R&R. I remember one HR professional saying to me that they felt very rested and were definitely having eight-hours’ sleep a night. But because they were taking a big exam and had a huge project on at work they weren’t unwinding, were feeling super stressed, and had constant stomachaches.

Taking time for rest and relaxation is often the last thing we think of when we’re on a mission to re-energise our lives. Instead we choose to push ourselves to the limit and wear ourselves out. But think of a firework blazing across the sky: it soon vanishes with a disappointing puff. That puff is an exhausted you.

Rest and relaxation are valuable tools. Taking time to schedule ongoing enjoyment in your life, and creating rituals that ensure a good night’s sleep, are vital. Both can do wonders in giving your life balance and energy. Proper sleep leads to more productive days. Fun on holiday leads to a fresher mind. It might be that the best investments for your future success are a better mattress or darker curtains.

Our bodies and brains are designed to work through the daylight hours, but many of us persist in thinking that if we don’t keep going into the dark of night we’ll miss something important.

The night can seem like an opportunity: hours more to achieve what we didn’t quite have time for in the day. But without proper sleep our days become a haze of unfocused thoughts and mood swings. Research has shown that lack of sleep affects the body in the same way as alcohol. After 17 hours without sleep we’re as alert as if we had a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05, which would make us ‘impaired’ on the legally drunk scale in the US, and close to being too drunk to drive in the UK (0.08).

When we feel ourselves becoming angry, worried, unable to cope, even sad, rather than recognising that we need to rest, many of us take on even more commitments and responsibilities in the hope that we’ll achieve more and feel better. We become part of the cycle of stress.

Once you know yourself and what relaxes you, you can find ways of pacing yourself, and move from feeling stretched and exhausted to energised and productive. Downtime is an essential part of life. Value sleep and leisure and you’ll find you’ll be able to make better use of that brief commodity: time.

Three tasks for May to enable you to feel (even) more rested and relaxed:

1. 10.30pm bedtime

They say you need to have at least one day a week of lights out by 10.30pm. Do that and you’ll have a headstart on sleep for the week.

2. No online devices in the bedroom

It’s tempting to catch up on the latest news and do final emails before you go to sleep, but a good book or calming music will relax you quicker.

3. Book in a perpetual holiday

Know what relaxes you instantly; whether watching a film, having a snooze, going for a swim or visiting a museum. And do it regularly. You don’t only have to do restful things on holiday.

Nina Grunfeld is a self-help and wellbeing guru, author, and founder of self-improvement workshops Life Clubs

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