As we make our way into the holiday season, as we travel, and shop and cook and clean, I think it is very important that we talk about rest, the nervous system, and your adrenal glands. What do these have to do with our energy levels while waking and resting. To begin, our nervous system has 2 states. The sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. From the time we wake up, until we hit that midday wall in the afternoon, our body usually has about 8 hours of reserve energy from the previous nights sleep. In those 8 hours, we are functioning and running using our sympathetic nervous system. After about 8 hours or so, our bodies will attempt to shift into our parasympathetic nervous system, or what many refer to as the “rest and digest” state. This is the state of function our body uses when we are sleeping, but it’s also what our body uses when we have exhausted our energy reserves and need a break.
Unfortunately, this is right about the time most of us reach for more coffee, or some other caffeinated beverage, or we lie down for a nap. The problem when doing either of these things, is that it pushes our bodies into unnatural patterns that will exhaust us more, whether that’s immediately or in the future.
When you go to take a nap, even it’s an hour long “power nap” in that hour your brain and nervous system are under the impression that you are trying to go to sleep. So when you nap for an hour or two, then wake up, your body will protest and you will actually feel groggier or more exhausted than you did prior.
On the other hand, if you are the type to reach for another cup of coffee or an energy drink, you will force your body not only to remain in sympathetic, but you will begin to use the stored adrenaline in your adrenal glands. If this continues into the night, your body will be in a state of fight or flight, pumping you full of adrenaline to do mundane chores around the house like doing dishes, cooking dinner, folding clothes, showering, or just getting ready for bed. By the time you get underneath the covers and attempt to get settled in, you would’ve been running on adrenaline for more than several hours, which will make it very, VERY difficult to sleep. It’s not a wonder most of us are fatigued, restless, stressed, and irritable with our busy lives.
So, you may be asking what the solution is to all this, and you’ll find the answer is actually quite simple. 15 minutes of rest. What does rest entail? 15 minutes of nothing. No talking, no music, and especially no phone, but you don’t need to close your eyes. 15 minutes of quiet, staring at the roof of your car or the ceiling of your break room. Or lying on the couch at home, and focus on your breathing in and out. Set a timer/alarm for 15 minutes on your phone and go. It’s even better if you can do this after you eat lunch, so you can rest and digest, naturally. 15 minutes of rest, no more than 19 (otherwise at about the 20 minute mark your brain will shift gears and start to try and sleep). After these 15 minutes, while not feeling like a brand new person, you will feel less fatigued, and making this a habit over time will help with both your natural energy levels, stress levels, and adrenal health. While there are many other things that can be done to assist in both our waking and resting periods in our lives, this is always a good place to start.
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