Building in Recovery Time throughout the Day
If you’re experiencing high levels of stress, you may want to consider building in some recovery time during your day. You’ll benefit by feeling more energized, focused, creative, peaceful and happy.
Stress can be good and used to our advantage. Think about exercise. We stress our system in order to strengthen it by lifting weights and doing cardiovascular exercise. And, we also need to recover. We can’t go back to the gym day after day and do the same exact routine because, eventually, it will cause a detraining effect and you will probably get injured.
Your mental and emotional muscles need a break too. It’s not an option, it’s a necessity. However, this is not how many of us have been trained to think. Most of us were taught to work hard, keep pushing, no excuses, just do it. Unfortunately, there is a price to pay when you continue to drive yourself relentlessly and that price is your wellbeing and happiness.
Highly successful and happy people build in recovery time. You may be wondering how to do this when the demands on your time are so high. Let’s shift the focus from what is out of our control to what is within our control. I’ll share some options ranging from little changes in your day to more substantial and long term changes. Let’s start small.
Option #1: Implement the 20-20-20 rule for your eyes.
For every 20 minutes of screen time, look away from the screen at something in the distance that is about 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Give your eyes a break. Allow them to rest.
Next, do some gentle neck stretches. Sit or stand with good posture. Think about opening your chest, lifting your rib cage and pulling your shoulders back while keeping them relaxed.
Gently lower your chin towards your chest feeling a stretch in the back of your neck. Take 2-3 deep breaths and lift your head back up. Next, slowly tip your head to the right bringing your ear towards your shoulder. Keep the shoulders down and relaxed and take 2-3 deep breaths. Repeat on the left side. Finally, do some gentle neck rotations turning your head slowly to the right and left allowing your neck muscles to relax and your distance vision to work as you look around the room.
Option #2: Change your state.
For every 60-90 minutes of focused work, you need to take a break. Focus on one thing at a time and you will be much more productive. Shut off the phone, close down the email and concentrate solely on the task at hand. Set a timer for 60-90 minutes. When the timer goes off, get up and move. Go for a quick walk, eat, check your emails, make a call, put on your favorite song and dance. Change your state, do something different, and then go back to work.
Option #3: Just Breathe.
We’ve heard it before, right? But do we practice regular deep breathing or do we take for granted that we have this unique ability to calm our stressed-out system?
When we do deep diaphragmatic breathing, we activate the Relaxation Response. That name was coined by Dr. Herbert Benson decades ago. We often hear about the fight or flight response/ the stress response but did you know that our incredible bodies can also flip the switch and activate the relaxation response. When we breathe deeply, we stimulate the vagus nerve which tells our body it’s time to relax. The cool thing is you can feel the benefits immediately. The really cool thing is that when you practice this simple and brief exercise, you may be benefiting on a much deeper level. There is research suggesting that deep breathing can reduce stress, anxiety, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and much more.
Next time you feel the need for a little recovery, a decrease in stress, a boost of happiness and overall well being, stop and take three deep breaths.
Sit in your chair with good posture, lengthen your spine, pull your shoulders back and keep them relaxed, rib cage lifted, and chest open. Imagine that there is a balloon inside of your torso and as you take a deep breath in through your nose, that balloon inflates and expands. You feel your belly expand, your rib cage open, and your chest rise. As you exhale, picture the balloon deflating as you allow your body to relax and let go. Repeat 3 deep breathing cycles.
Compare how you feel before and after using these tools. Make sure to check in next Wednesday when I’ll share some ideas for recovery through a good night’s sleep.