I used to go home and just lie on the sofa after work to rest. Later, I wanted to spend more time for self-improvement. Unfortunately, the only time I had to cut into was my “rest” time, which I started replacing with actions like exercising and reading books instead. To my surprise, I didn’t feel more tired. It actually made me feel more refreshed! When I looked into what “rest” really is I found that it’s a poorly understood subject, and why many people often feel tired even if they “rest” a lot.
Letting your mind run free is the quickest path to exhaustion
Most people tend to define rest as:
- Lounging on the sofa or laying in bed
- Doing nothing (is that even possible?)
- “Netflix and chill”
- Not doing chores
And while your body is in a relaxed posture your mind isn’t. Rest is a mental activity, not just a physical one. When you engage in the activities like those in the list above, you encourage mental activity that is counterproductive to rest.
Mindlessly watching television, browsing the internet or reading tweets isn’t mindless at all. This type of mental engagement and stimulation can actually leave you more tired than you were initially. Your brain is not only quietly processing all that you are taking in, it is also preparing for and encouraging you to socialize. A recent study found that when the brain isn’t actively engaged in a conscious activity, it shifts into a state of prep for social interaction with others.
Another important fact to consider is that the brain needs something to focus on in order to achieve a state of symbiotic rest. It needs a purpose. Think about an activity requiring very little focus and attention–such as showering. Most times you are thinking about other things and your mind is busy working out problems and connecting dots. This type of mental activity is necessary and beneficial but it chases away rest. Letting your mind run free is the quickest path to exhaustion.
Human feelings are unreliable
When we trust our feelings, very likely we’d just lie on sofa after a day of work, even if we know for our health’s sake we should exercise for 30 minutes. On weekends, we tend to oversleep as we “feel” that we need more sleep, though that actually disrupts our sleeping patterns. Like taking rest, simply being yourself isn’t necessarily relaxing. When we rely on our feelings, we end up feeling more tired.
What is rest, really?
Rest is an activity. It is not a state of “doing nothing”. Below are 2 important ways to trigger your brain into actively engaging in rest. They directly oppose what society typically considers rest and relaxation but I challenge you to give them a try.
Switch between tasks that are opposite in nature.
If you are working at the computer, after a few hours switch to a more physical task, or go for a walk or short run. If you are working on a very technical and detail oriented project, switch to working on something requiring a bit more creativity. After being in meetings all day or giving a presentation, work on a quiet task, alone that does not involve other people such as balancing your checkbook or prepping food for dinner. As you participate in each activity, be sure you are practicing mindfulness — or being fully present — as you engage in each activity.
The key here is to remember the brain needs and likes focus. After engaging in some of the tasks above, you are most often tempted to just “veg out”. Giving into this feeling will sap you of the remaining energy you have left.
Have light exercise
Exercise is the cure for what ails us. Moderate exercise reduces stress, increases productivity, overall health and wellness and prolongs life. Research shows that regular amounts of light exercise are one of the best treatments for those suffering from exhaustion and fatigue.
This fact holds true for those with sedentary or physically demanding jobs. Whether you are in a tiny cubicle sitting all day or working at a dock loading and unloading heavy freight, studies show that light amounts of exercise beyond your daily routine helps your mind and body achieve rest.
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Georgia found that moderate and low-intensity workouts increase feelings of energy.
“A lot of people are overworked and not sleeping enough,” said Patrick O’Connor, co-director of the university’s exercise psychology laboratory. “Exercise is a way for people to feel more energetic. There’s a scientific basis for it, and there are advantages to it compared to things like caffeine and energy drinks.”
In the study, research subjects were divided into three groups. One group was prescribed 20 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise three times a week for six weeks. The second group engaged in low-intensity aerobic exercise for the same time frame and the third group–which was the control group– did not exercise at all. Both groups of exercisers experienced a 20 percent boost in energy levels compared to the group of non-exercisers. Researchers also discovered that intense exercise is less effective at mitigating fatigue than low-intensity workouts. The low-intensity group reported a 65 percent drop in fatigue levels, while the high intensity group reported a 49 percent drop. It’s important to note that any exercise is better than no exercise.
In order to truly feel rested and refreshed, it’s time to develop a new norm and give our mind and body what it actually needs to rest.
|||^||Forbes: When You Think Your Brain Is Doing Nothing, It’s Really Getting You Ready To Socialize|
|||^||MIT Press Journals: The Default Mode of Human Brain Function Primes the Intentional Stance|
|||^||Hill Writing & Editing: 10 Ways to Prevent Workplace Stress|
|||^||The New York Times: The Cure for Exhaustion? More Exercise|
|||^||UGA Today: Low-intensity exercise reduces fatigue symptoms by 65 percent, study finds|