What do you do when you feel drained, exhausted, and out of battery? Are you wondering how to recharge yourself? If you’re like most people, you might try to push forward and keep being productive. We live in a society where hard work is praised, but one which also seems to forget just how important it is to rest, recover, and recharge. When your internal batteries are low, take the wise approach and recharge yourself.
Granted, that’s easier said than done. If you’re used to pushing on, demanding more and more from yourself until you inevitably burn out, taking some time to rest and recharge can feel like giving up all your responsibilities. It can feel like taking the easy way out or being lazy, and you might feel guilty for not doing something more productive.
Understand that when you’re taking time to rest, you are most certainly doing something. And you’re doing something very important. When you prioritize your need to recharge, you’re doing your physical, mental, and emotional health a huge favor.
We need to rest in order to live well. When we don’t allow ourselves to rest, we risk burning out, falling ill, and significantly increasing our risk of anxiety, depression, and a whole host of other mental and physical health issues.
‘But how can I recharge?’, you might be asking yourself. ‘Work demands are high, and I have no time to rest. I need to take care of my family, spend time with my partner, socialize with my friends, and keep up with my hobbies.’
Sure. Life is demanding, and, admittedly, it’s hard to find time to wind down. However, there is always at least some time to wind down, and it’s possible that you might not be using that time effectively.
In this article, we’re going to help you. We’ll begin by taking a look at the impact of stress and what happens to your mind and body when you don’t take time to rest. Afterward, we’ll explore some practical tips and advice on ways to recharge so that you can preserve your energy, apply more self-care, and finally take a break from the endless demands of life.
How does stress impact the body?
Our bodies are designed to handle stress, but not for prolonged periods. Our ancestors used their hardwired stress response system to help them survive threats, such as a lion on the horizon, and they did so very effectively. Their nervous system’s sprung into action to get them as far away from danger as possible, or if the possibility was there, to fight whatever threat presented itself.
However, after the threat had passed, they ‘came down.’ Their nervous systems returned to homeostasis (base state, or equilibrium), and they took the time to rest and recover – recharging their batteries so that they could deal with the next threat or problem effectively.
These days, most of us live in a highly activated stress response. We live in a busy world full of mental, physical, and emotional stimulation, and we often don’t realize just how stimulated we are until we inevitably feel fatigued, exhausted, and burnt out.
We don’t take the time to rest and recharge effectively because even when we’re not working or taking care of those we love, we’re thinking about the next thing we need to do, or we’re worrying about something we forgot to do or didn’t do well enough.
Alternatively, we’re scrolling through social media somewhat mindlessly and feeding our consciousness with extreme news stories, our friends’ drama, pictures of animals, food, and heavenly holiday destinations, all but for a brief second or two before we move on to the next post, and the next, and the next.
When was the last time you just shut off from the world outside and simply rested in your being? That means without Facebook or Instagram, without the latest Netflix show, and without thinking of the endless list of tasks, chores, and responsibilities on your plate?
Don’t worry if it’s been a while; all of us forget to take time away from the world’s busyness. However, the important thing is that now that you realize how much you’ve neglected your need to rest and recharge, you commit to making time for it.
Without sufficient rest, stress reigns. Prolonged stress is toxic to the body and mind. If we let it persist, it can lead to inflammation, which is one of the leading causes of illness and disease. It can also exacerbate underlying mental health conditions, so if you’ve some underlying anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues, then stress is going to amplify them. Even if you’re not usually depressed or anxious, stress can lead to their onset.
How to recharge your mind and body
The first and one of the most highly effective ways to recharge is to take a deep breath. Breath is life, but so many of us ignore our breathing. Sure, it’s not something we have to think about – it happens all by itself without the need to control it. However, many of us don’t breathe well. Our breathing is tight or shallow, and rarely do we take the time to breathe deep into our diaphragm.
Deep, diaphragmatic breathing is one of the keys to recharging your mind and body. When we breathe deep, all the way down into the diaphragm (a dome-shaped area of muscle tissue located just above the abdomen), we signal to the body that we are safe, which elicits the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system. We don’t need to dive too deep into the biology of the nervous system here, but let’s get an overview of the importance of parasympathetic activation.
Breathing and the nervous system
When we are in danger, feeling overwhelmed, fearful or anxious, or just under a lot of stress, our body enters fight/flight mode. All of our energy and focus goes on survival, so our muscles tighten, our heartbeat increases, our breathing becomes shallow. In order to come out of this survival/stress response, the body needs to know deep down that it is no longer in danger.
When we breathe deeply into the diaphragm, we let the brain know that we are not in danger. It understands that there must not be a threat in the environment because we are breathing deeply instead of breathing shallowly as we would be in our threat response.
During parasympathetic activation, essential biological processes take place that help us recharge. The body enters a state of rest and digestion, during which it processes its recent experiences and brings all of the body’s systems, such as the cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, and nervous systems, back to a state of balance.
Get high-quality sleep
How are your sleeping habits? Do you get the CDC-recommended 7-9 hours of sleep every night? Or do you always stay up late and wake up groggy and grumpy in the morning? Perhaps you’re used to over-sleeping and feeling just as foggy and disoriented as you would if you hadn’t gotten much sleep at all.
High-quality sleep is essential for a healthy mind and body because sleep recharges you. Without sufficient, high-quality sleep, the brain ceases to function properly, which is why you can’t seem to focus or pay attention when you had a bad night’s sleep, and why you find yourself in a low mood and unable to engage with the world around you. Without enough quality sleep, you’re even more prone to accidents and mistakes!
During sleep, a broad range of crucial biological processes takes place, without which the body would fail to function at its best throughout the day. During your forty winks, the brain processes and stores new information from the previous working day. The body works on cell reparation and releases hormones that help repair nerves and keep all its systems healthy and functional.
Benefits of sleep
With high-quality sleep, you can enjoy a broad range of benefits, including:
- Increased productivity
- Improved mood
- Mental clarity
- Strong immune system
- Improved cognitive and executive function
How to improve your sleeping habits
If you struggle to get enough sleep each night, the good news is that you can improve your sleeping habits with a little practice and effort. Try the following tips to get your sleep time between 7 to 9 hours a night, and watch your mind and body recharge and open up in just a matter of weeks.
- Be consistent with bedtime – go to bed around the same time every night.
- Sleep in a comfortable environment – use a good mattress and high-quality bed dressings, make sure your room temperature is comfortable and that your space is clean
- Sleep in the dark – turn off the lights as much as possible
- Put away your phone – avoid screens (phone, tv., computer) for up to two hours before you want to go to sleep. The blue light from your screen makes your brain think it’s daytime, which interrupts your circadian rhythm and makes it harder to go to sleep)
- Avoid energy drinks, including caffeine and alcohol, before bedtime – Try to keep your caffeine consumption to a minimum, and if you do need it, limit it to the morning or early afternoon. Remember, many alcoholic drinks are high in sugar and will keep you awake or hinder the quality of your sleep.
- Engage in a regular exercise routine – Exercise helps you make productive use of your energy and can make you feel more tired by the time you go to bed.
Nourish your body with diet and exercise
The importance of a healthy diet
When things get stressful, and you need to push through and finish a task, stay awake to complete an essay, or stay alert long enough to take care of someone, how do you get that extra energy? Do you reach for the snack foods? The chips, the chocolate, the soda? Or do you focus more on eating nutrient-rich foods such as peanuts, lemon water, and fruit?
Your diet plays a major role in your energy levels and your ability to get sufficient rest. With a healthy diet, you give your body the best chance of fighting disease, combating stress, and feeling good in general. However, if your diet is not so healthy, you’re more likely to become fatigued, stressed, and feel bad about yourself and the world around you.
Eat foods rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, healthy fats, and high-quality protein to keep your body and mind functioning well. Remember that although foods like sugar, chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, fried foods, and food high in additives can be tasty, they also increase our stress levels and reduce our ability to deal with stress effectively.
Healthier foods, such as oily fish, nuts, root vegetables, green leafy vegetables, whole grains, and fruits, reduce our stress levels in general and help us feel more emotionally resilient in the face of stress when it comes up.
Studies have proven that the way we choose to nourish our bodies directly influences our mental health and well-being. The research links bacteria in the gut microbiome to the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is responsible for governing and regulating mood, along with feelings of well-being and happiness.
Over 95 percent of serotonin is produced by the gut microbiome, which makes your diet a key player in your mental well-being and your capacity to engage effectively, healthily, and happily with the world around you.
The power of exercise
If you’re looking for an effective way to recharge your mind and body, try regular exercise. It might seem counter-intuitive, surely exercise is the opposite of resting and recharging? Yes, and no. While exercise involves an output of energy, it is also a great way to teach the body how to come down from states of stress.
Even if you just go for a short walk or run, you’ll elevate your heart rate to above its average rate. When you stop, your heart will return to its base state. The more you do this, the stronger your heart gets. It finds it easier and easier over time to move from acceleration back to normal. Thus, when you find yourself stressed, it won’t take as long to de-stress yourself.
Research has even found that exercise improves brain function, which means that engaging in regular exercise will improve your overall energy levels and make you function better at work and in your interpersonal relationships.
Further, exercise during the day helps you use up your daily energy and makes you feel more tired by the time you go to bed, which in turn helps you get better sleep.
When people first experience the rewards of deep meditation, they often feel a huge emotional release that can sometimes bring them to tears. Meditation is a simple concept – getting comfortable, focusing on the breath, and letting go of thoughts – but it’s not always so simple in practice. As mentioned, we live in a world that rewards us for hard word work but seems to ignore our need for rest and recovery.
In meditation, instead of focusing on the tasks and responsibilities that await us in the world outside, we shift our attention to our inner experience. We bring mindful attention to the breath, to our physical sensations, and to our mental chatter. We accept the thoughts that come up, then lovingly let them go, as though they are passing clouds and we are the blue sky behind them.
If you’re not familiar with a meditation practice, don’t worry. It doesn’t require a lot of training to get started (though courses, guides, and how-to videos on Youtube and blogs will help). A great introduction to the world of mediation can be found through the work of Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
Immerse yourself in nature
As you may already know from direct experience, a walk-in nature can change your entire day. Taking a break and breathing in the fresh air, feeling the wind on your face, smelling the ocean breeze, or soaking up the oxygen from all those leafy trees and plants in your surroundings can work wonders for your sense of well-being.
How often do you get out in nature? Do you live near a park, woods, or the sea? If so, why not include your natural surroundings into your daily routine. If you don’t live near any natural scenery, try to take some time once a week or as much as possible to visit a local park, or get out of the city and go for a drive or walk through the countryside.
Free yourself from the notion that you have to push yourself beyond your limits to succeed in life. You’re human, you need time to rest and recharge in order to maintain your health. Anyone that tells you otherwise is wrong and is toxic to your health, even if that person is your boss, a friend, or a partner.
Try to apply the advice outlined above to your life as much as possible. Of course, life requires balance, so we’re not suggesting that you sleep all day or spend two hours in the gym every time you go. Rest and recharge so that you can function more effectively in your life and align your actions and behaviors with what you love and believe in.
Remember that the spirit needs care and time to recharge as much as the body and mind. The way to keep your spirit healthy is to align your life with your personal values and beliefs. Consider how you’re spending time when you’re not resting? When you feel recharged, what are you going to do with your energy?