Is Your Downtime Restful? by Functional Nutritionist Andrea Nicholson

Today I wanted to specifically talk about rest.  Sleep is a part of rest, for sure (or should be), but this discussion is more about rest when you’re NOT sleeping. Sleep shouldn’t be the only rest you get!

Is your downtime restful? 

When most of us think about relaxation and rest, we think about vegging out on the couch, lazily watching TV, a movie or mindlessly scrolling social media.  This isn’t actually as rejuvenating as you might think. 
Sure it’s not physical or extraordinarily mentally taxing…but you are still being bombarded with stress, you’re on alert, and being stimulated, still getting dopamine hits, and cortisol spikes. 
  • Fast moving images
  • Artificial blue light
  • Noise and compound sounds
  • Violence and suspenseful scenes
  • Drama
  • Exceedingly negative stories
And an overload of divorce, cheating, lying, stealing, criminal behavior, drug and alcohol abuse… all of these toxic images, thoughts, and behaviors that you likely wouldn’t put up with in your own life. But we CONSTANTLY watch these things on TV and movies.  And we tell ourselves that it’s OK because we KNOW it’s fake.  But our brains really can’t distinguish real from imagined or witnessed.  Remember stress can be real or perceived.
So you may be thinking – ok, so I’ll watch more comedies and rom-coms.  Not so much negativity and drama.  I would agree that’s better, but you’re still getting bombarded with stimulation from blue light, noise, and fast moving images. 

All of these things, whether we’re consciously aware of it or not, increase our cortisol levels and put us into a fight or flight state.   But if your adrenals are already taxed or your cortisol is already elevated, this is definitely not helping you rest. 

This isn’t real rest.  This is just another form of stress.

I’m not saying you have to get off the couch and go for a run (although that is one stress-management habit it’s not great for rest) but there are some things you can do to make your downtime more restful:
1. Get outside in nature – don’t take your airpods, cell phone, laptop or even a camera.  Just be.  Watch leaves blow in the wind. Pay attention to the birds.  Lay and look at the clouds.  Look off into the distance for a while. 
2. Read a book – make sure it is not a suspenseful book though!  There’s nothing wrong with a great mystery book, but they’re not the best for helping you rest and relax.  If you find yourself sweaty, tense, and sitting up straighter while reading, you’re not relaxing.  Also, make it a REAL paper book or you’re still getting blue light stimulation!
3. Take a bath – warm water is one of the best ways to unwind. Try sitting in silence in the water without music, a podcast or TV playing in the background. This also works in a hot tub or hot shower.
4. Stretch or do some light yoga – this can not only release tension in your muscles, tendons and ligaments, but it can also help to move your lymphatic system and improve detoxification (remember toxins are stressor)
5. Meditate or practice deep breathing – this may seem obvious as a good way to relax, but most of us don’t actually do this simple practice!  You don’t have to sit like a monk or chant various phrases.  Take a series of deep breaths, trying to clear and calm your mind – even for a few minutes. 
6. Lastly, journal – this doesn’t have to be “dear diary” style writing.  It can be just a random brain dump of the thoughts in your head, a challenge that you’re going through, a to-do list that’s rattling around in your head, how you’re feeling, what you’re afraid of, what you’re looking forward to.  Something magical happens when you put pen to paper. 

Doing things like this will help to lower your cortisol levels if they’re elevated or rebalance them if they’re too low, allowing your body to truly rest so that it can heal.  And when your body is rested and healed, you will feel better, have more energy, be more productive and likely be in a better mood. 

So next time you’re looking to relax, make sure you’re doing things that will actually help you rest!  Don’t wait until you’re totally burned out or wiped out before you get rest.  Build it into your daily routine!

So, now, I’ll ask you again…is your downtime restful?  If not, listen to this episode again and incorporate at least one of the techniques I shared today.  

Do you have questions about stress, stress management, stress reduction or how stress might be affecting your health?  Email me!  I’m going to be recording an episode answering your questions!  

Be sure to subscribe so you won’t miss an episode.  Next week we’ll be talking about being addicted to stress!  

I so appreciate you being here!  If you find this information helpful, please leave the show a 5 star review so that other people will be more likely to find it! 


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