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We all want to be great; to stand out within our company, to be the best partner, friend and loved one. The question is how do we have all of this and look after our own health, mind and being?
Statements for motivation are often sacrificial: ‘sleep when you are dead’ and ‘go the extra mile’. In your industry, this may be essential. You might need to separate yourself as a true leader and someone who excels within their role. You’re not going to slow down just because I tell you and why should you?
So I am not going to tell you to stop. I’m going to tell you to become smarter with your health.
Keeping your body in a constant state of having to perform causes your sympathetic nervous system to turn in on itself. Stress is a tool that keeps us alert and focused on achievement. Without optimal amounts of stress, we would not thrive. However, prolonging your body to the effects of the sympathetic state affects you internally.
The sympathetic state is catabolic which means it breaks down molecules to release energy. Too much time spent in it will stop your body from rebuilding. The effects are numerous: the immune system can become weaker, energy levels will be lowered, you will feel more fatigued and may experience erratic shifts in mood. This over weeks, months and years can have severe effects on our health.
The secret to striking the balance between health and work is to enter the parasympathetic states more often. This state is the opposite to when your body is catabolising and flooded with hormones. The parasympathetic state is when the body becomes more anabolic and creates more molecules than it breaks down. This is when your body rests, repairs and becomes restorative.
Now, you do not have to put your career goals on hold. All you need to do is to dedicate time during the day to allow your body to enter into the restorative zone.
The key times we can do this are:
Sleep is the body’s first response to recovery. Yet this is the first to be traded when it comes to work, plans etc. We still do not understand what sleep is but we know that if it has managed to be prioritised over millions of years of evolution, it is something that is necessary and very important. Sleep is when we are most likely to enter the parasympathetic state and allow our bodies to rebuild.
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This can be done throughout the day and it gives your body and mind time to disconnect from the alert state. We should aim for 30 minutes of mental and physical relaxation per day.
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Activities like painting, listening to music and going for a walk can be great to help you disconnect from the stresses/alertness of working life.
Just like physical exercise, striking the balance is a skill that is developed with time, consistency, and discipline. No one can enter the gym on their first day and lift all the weights. Mental strength, resilience and calmness take time to build, what commitments will you be making to build yours?