Multi-tasking, achieving and excelling, pushing to the limits are all very exciting activities in our lives. The human body is designed to be the best it can be. You can move faster, think faster, accelerate more. Perhaps your job or your role in life at this time requires you to be a greater achiever. Life in the fast lane can be enjoyable and fulfilling. But there is a need to balance it with lifestyle choices to enhance the energy and to increase positive affect.
Definitely it is more flattering to be enthusiastic, energetic, confident and active than to be alert, fatigued, hurried and devitalised. As we clocked in time to be involved in work, we also need to have time- out for rest and recovery. Physical self-care is like the pause between music notes. French poet-philosopher, Paul Valery, wrote, “the pauses between the notes (of a piano piece), ah, that is where the art resides!” The art of practising good physical self-care will bring great harmony to your life.
In this blog, I will focus on 2 aspects and 2 activities of physical self-care. One is active and the other is passive. Active self-care is setting aside time for exercise and movement; passive self-care is taking time to sleep.
Recently my friends gave me a Fitbit, a watch that monitors my physical fitness by counting the number of steps I take in a day. The ideal number of steps is 10000 and the reward of that is fireworks on the watch screen to celebrate the success of a well-moved body. A small gesture as it is, it has huge motivation for me. Knowing that I have done the 10000 steps or more makes me feel healthy and lively.
Psychiatrist and author John Ratey writes that exercise and movement release neurotransmitters into the brain and body that are like a dose of the most important psychiatric medicines. That’s a money saver and a great mental health benefit! Exercise is indeed good medicine just as laughter is (Proverbs 17:22, the Bible). It would be interesting to see how exercise can be combined with laughter to give you double potency!
Exercise and movement is beneficial for just about everything – from elevating mood and enhancing energy to recovering from stress and reducing the risk of sicknesses. The emphasis on health has resulted in the popping up of many fitness clubs and health centres, some of which are 24/7 to cater for people of varying needs. These are great facilities to sign up with, especially with the changing seasons or the preference of specific exercises. Otherwise, the free parks and walking and cycling tracks are great avenues. The key is to find one suitable and more accessible facility or activity to be involved in.
Start small, like me, to encourage yourself into the active regime of physical self-care. I started with taking a walk around my neighbourhood and then I went further to the neighbourhood park. Now I am able to walk up to 3 rounds of the park itself, 7000 steps in all. Physically I am exercising more and psychologically, I would regard myself as an active person and I definitely feel better. See how interrelated exercise is to other aspects of yourselves!
Take steps in being active and you will experience changes in your body, mind and emotions.
We are programmed to sleep in order to have optimum well-being. Each time we hosted people from overseas in our house, the first question I would ask each morning is, ‘Did you sleep well?’ Most times, I get a beaming smile and a positive answer. In fact, most of them would like to get even longer sleep if not for the fact that the planned itinerary beckons.
Dr Archibald Hart would recommend a hearty 9 hour sleep if possible. If that’s not possible (as it is a luxury or an impossibility for many to sleep 9 hours), 7 ½ hours is great. I was in his class in Pasadena and he explained that sleep comes in 1 ½ hour cycles. With 7 ½ hours, you would have gone through 5 cycles.
Each 1 ½ cycle has restorative and recreating functions. There’s deep sleep where the fatigued body literally drops into a state of quiet and non-movement and the body does its repairs. Then there’s the REM sleep where the brain creates dreams and consolidates and files the memories. This is when the brain is most creative and active, sometimes even solving problems that you don’t have solutions earlier in the day. A healthy 7 ½ hour sleep pattern ensures that you have 5 chances of deep and REM sleep each night.
This is interesting trivia – crocodiles don’t sleep fully because they have half a brain that sleeps and half a brain that doesn’t. They don’t need safety because they are predators. As predators they need to be alert for survival. Hopefully as humans, we don’t need to be alert even in our sleep. God doesn’t sleep, we are told in Psalm 121:4 , the Bible, and perhaps it’s best to let God take care of all your cares whilst you sleep.
Do consult with the professionals if you have a sleeping problem so that you can identify what is keeping you from a good night’s sleep. Good sleep is non-negotiable. You don’t want to be tired all the time, irritable and grouchy, forgetful and not nice to be around.
Surround yourself with quiet and restful cues to help you get to sleep. Laptops and TV need to be stowed away, just like when the plane is landing. When you want to descend to sleep, you need to wind down. All artificial lights need to be switched off so that your brain doesn’t have to light up at every trigger. Take a warm bath, have a mug of warm beverage; put on your diffuser of lavender essential oil. Oh yes, if your spouse has a snoring problem, sleep before he or she does! Sleep tight and don’t let the bedbug bite 🙂