If you’re struggling to get everything to get everything done in your day, your focus is off and you’re drained, it may be time to add a rest break (or two) into your day.
Making time to rest during the day has been proven to boost energy levels and reset the mind which then improves focus and productivity. It has also been linked to stronger immune system, reducing stress and mood.
Many years ago I had a colleague at work who would make time during the day to switch off and close his eyes for 20 minutes. Whilst most of us would feel too self conscious to have a nap in the office, taking a break can help counter the afternoon slump.
My father had the art of the power nap down to an art: every afternoon he would close his office door for 20 minutes, put his feet up, close his eyes and rest. It was a key part of his day that he honoured without fail and helped him run a successful business.
Learning the art of resting
Rest can play a key part in managing energy levels during the day.
As with many things, learning to rest and ensuring you make time to rest during the day is a skill that takes practice.
It can seem counter productive to stop what you’re doing to rest. However, those who do rest during the day, report higher energy levels and better focus.
The Pomodoro Effect
A personal favourite of mine, the Pomodoro Effect involves setting a timer for 30 minutes. During that time you focus on one task (such as writing this blog) and when the timer goes, you stop for a break. Get up, move, drink some water.
It’s a circuit breaker that can help with focus.
The 5 minute mini break
Another strategy is to have 5 minute mini break. Similar to the Pomodoro Effect, the mini break is useful to reset the mind. This can be a short meditation, a simple breathing exercise or doing a few yoga poses.
Rest is not sleep
You don’t have to be still to rest.
In the exercise world we call it active recovery. It’s a change from what you’re doing designed to rest the muscles you have just worked, slow the breathing and heart rate so that you can move onto another exercise.
Examples of active recovery or rest include mindful practice like yoga, tai chi and light Pilates exercises.
Not only will stretching and rest feel great, there are other benefits such as:
- Flexibility & mobility reduce injury risk
- Reducing arterial stiffness – which reduces risk of heart disease
- Quietens the mind
- Reduces anxiety
- Aids sleep
You’ve probably heard of the endorphin kick or “runners’ high” that keeps runners running. This “high” is caused by endorphins being released by the body as a response to prolonged exercise.
I know of many runners who dislike running, but do it because of how it makes them feel.
Running, swimming and walking can also provide a meditative effect due to the repetitive motions as you move. This can be enhanced by walking or running in a green space. The Japanese call this Forest Bathing and their doctors prescribe it as a therapy for depression.
The low down on sleep
Incorporating rest periods into the day can help enhance the quality of sleep at night.
Sleep used to be the ugly sister of the health world with many politicians and business leaders boasting about their ability to function on just a few hours sleep a night.
However, ideally, adults need 7 – 9 hours of good quality sleep a night.
Mild sleep deprivation can leave you feeling irritable, depressed, sad and depleted. Studies have shown that people suffering insomnia are ten times more likely to experience depression and 17 x more likely to suffer anxiety. All this can affect relationships at home and at work. Not only that, lack of sleep increases the risk of chronic conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and dementia.
Scientists are now finding that sleep is one of the key, if not the most important, determinants of good health. When we sleep our body gets busy with the tasks of repair, the mind deals with the occurrences of the day.
Sleep and menopause
Disrupted sleep and insomnia are two of the most commonly reported symptoms by menopausal women. Not only can hot flushes and night sweats disrupt sleep, but progesterone, the hormone that promotes sleep, drops too.
It can quickly become a vicious cycle – the less you sleep, the more irritable and anxious you become, and the more elusive sleep is.
Given that our hormone levels start changing from our early forties, through to our mid-fifties, that’s a long time to be to battling with sleep.
The hormonal changes that start to happen from peri-menopause through to menopause and beyond, are what cause the symptoms so many women report in this time. A lack of progesterone can cause sleep issues, but so can a lack of vitamins and minerals and other lifestyle factors.
Women in their 40s and 50s typically lead busy, high stress lives as they juggle motherhood, looking after aging parents, a career and keeping a relationship alive. All too often, they fall to the bottom of their own to-do list leaving them depleted both physically and mentally. A lack of exercise and often poor nutritional choices all compound to leave women “tired and wired.” They are physically exhausted, but the constant stress in their lives starts to have an effect, particularly on sleep.
- Try some different techniques to incorporate rest into your day. Eg: set a timer to take a 5 minute mini break every 90 minutes
- For a longer break, schedule a walk after your lunch
- Use a journal – take note of how you feel before and after your rests. What about your sleep?
As with anything, finding the right techniques for you will take a bit of time, but it pays off in the long run. Learning to rest can be life changing – give it a try, there’s nothing to lose and so much to gain…
Bye – I’m off to stretch now.
Here’s a little mobility sequence I have filmed for you – a great way to rest, stretch and mobilise. Enjoy
Anja Lineen is a personal trainer and menopause champion, working primarily with women in their 40s – 60 plus.
She also works with businesses to provide menopause education and training to staff and coaches women on natural strategies to manage menopausal symptoms.
You can find Anja at