ESSENTIAL ELEMENT: Rest and Repair
Critical Concept: Your body requires and expects periods of rest, repair and rejuvenation.
The jury is back and the results are in: the fastest way to promote heart disease and an early death is to combine a high-fat/high-sugar diet with a high-stress life and a low-activity lifestyle. The greatest minds in science could not design a better mix of behavior patterns that would best promote sickness and disease if they tried. Most people are living a life that predictably destroys their health and creates disease. Increased social stress has been identified as the straw that breaks the physiological camel’s back.
A major contributor to this mess is the general lack of rest and repair. As a society, we have bought into the idea that rest and rejuvenation is a luxury, not a requirement. This is fundamentally untrue, physically damaging, emotionally crippling and psychologically devastating. We must take back our rest.
Sleep is an incredibly important part of health and wellness. In fact, experts say that sleep actually rivals nutrition and exercise for promoting health.
Sleep expert Mark Stibich, Ph.D. teaches that when your body is sleep deficient, it goes into a state of stress. The body’s functions are put on high alert, which causes an increase in blood pressure and a production of stress hormones (like Cortisol). Higher blood pressure increases your risk for heart attacks and strokes. The stress hormones also, unfortunately, make it harder for you to sleep.
Sleep reduces inflammation. The increase in stress hormones raises the level of inflammation in your body, also creating more risk for heart-related conditions, as well as cancer and diabetes. Low grade, systemic inflammation is widely considered one key factor in the deterioration of your body as you age. Sleeping can actually slow aging.
Dr. John Madina, author of Brain Rules, says that 90% of Americans are chronically overtired. Although this has noticeable implications in our day-to-day lives, such as midday head bobbing and black circles under your eyes, the silent damage you’ll experience with sleep deprivation is a real killer – literally.
Our body uses sleep to rest and repair our tissues. Our brain requires sleep to process the information from the day. Critical sleep cycles involve hormone balancing that affects everything from your energy and moods to your metabolism and ability to regulate your body weight. Sleep deprivation is actually a predictor of obesity.
Healthy sleep patterns promote complete sleep cycles. Your brain goes through different sleep phases when you rest. REM sleep (Rapid Eye Movement) involves dreaming; non-REM sleep is the deepest and most critical phase of sleep. This is the time that your most vital repair and recharge takes place. The more complete sleep cycles you experience, the better. Tallying seven hours or more of quality sleep has been shown to increase longevity. And, low and behold, the afternoon nap turns out to be one of the most effective and productive methods for increasing energy, improving cognitive skills and focus, while mitigating the adverse effects of chronic stress by lowering circulating stress hormones like Cortisol.
Rest comes in many forms - our daily sleep patterns, including nighttime sleep for most of us, as well as napping or “siestas” during the day. But more broadly, rest includes our morning rituals, meditation, breathing exercises, mealtimes and evening rituals. Rejuvenation patterns include our “time-offs,” breaks and vacations. Most people are severely “vacation deficient.”
Well People are deliberate in their rest and repair patterns. Design your daily and weekly schedules, as well as your monthly and yearly calendar, to reflect your commitment to this critical essential element. There are several Bonfire vital behaviors to adopt that will ensure greater rest. Claim ownership of your time and schedule. Set your bedtimes and waking times, and stick to them. Make a standing “napping appointment” in your daily schedule if at all possible. Even presidents of the United States have made this a priority – and they have a demanding schedule, too.
Design your yearly calendar to include a rejuvenation strategy. Every month schedule a “Sanity Weekend” where the only plans made are for rest and repair. Challenge yourself to do nothing – it’s free. Once a quarter take a long weekend – a “Long-evity Weekend.” At least twice a year, take a week off. We recommend one adventure vacation where you break routine and go experience a new place or activity. A compelling nudge to ensure this trip and prevent “life” from persuading you to procrastinate away another break is to pre-pay for the trip (be sure to take out travel insurance, just in case). We also recommend a “stay-cation,” where you stay home and keep it simple. This is a great way to cut down on complexity, stress and cost. Fight the urge to “catch-up” on everything and simply “be.”
These may be the easiest recommendations to do, yet the hardest to implement. Start today.
At this point in the program you should be….
- Establishing your Peace of Mind Account (PMA) using Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT)
- Getting to bed earlier: working toward sleep before 11 p.m.
- Getting up earlier: working toward 30 minute morning rituals
- Remaining focused on creating the life that you want
- Choosing to develop more influence in your life
- Recognizing challenges as opportunities to grow
- Seeking Alignment between behaviors and Innate Values
- Choosing an attitude of Thankfulness and Gratitude
- Seeking opportunities to get connected with supportive people
- Choosing to extend Unconditional Love and Acceptance to others
- Finding balance by managing your Limited Resources (Time, Energy, Focus, & Money)
- Scheduling your Rest and Repair Strategies