Have you been working too hard and ignoring your body’s needs? It was probably for a good cause–taking care of a family emergency or meeting an urgent deadline–but now that the problem’s solved, how do you deal with feelings of physical, mental and/or emotional exhaustion?
Here’s my personal recipe for getting back on your feet sooner:
Put down the coffee, tea, soda, Red Bull, or 5 Hour Energy Drink, and stick with water. Caffeine has to be processed by your liver, which leaves your liver with fewer resources for detoxifying all the residual stress chemicals and metabolic waste your cells produced when you were rushing around dealing with the emergency.
Also, water gets used in a number of essential biological processes (including fat-burning), and without the diuretic effect of your coffee/tea/soda, your body will have more H20 available for these crucial tasks.
In times of stress we tend to breathe more quickly and more shallowly–and unfortunately, it’s easy to get stuck in that stressed-out breathing pattern. A little bit of deep breathing can work wonders in restoring energy levels.
You can learn fancy meditation techniques if you want, but here’s a simple deep breathing exercise my grade-school singing teacher used to have me practice:
- Get a big heavy book, like a dictionary.
- Lie on your back on the floor, knees up and feet flat on the floor.
- Put the book on your stomach.
- Breathe in and lift the book as high as it’ll go.
- Breathe out and lower the book as slowly as you can.
- Continue for at least 30 breaths.
If you get dizzy at any point in this exercise, stop and breathe normally until the dizziness is gone.
If you’re at the office and don’t feel comfortable lying on the floor, here’s an alternative method:
- Sit up straight in a chair (no slouching).
- Suck your stomach all the way in.
- Put your hands on your stomach horizontally, so that the tips of your middle fingers are just barely touching each other.
- Breathe in and let your stomach expand, so that your fingertips separate. See how far apart you can get those fingertips by breathing deeply.
- Breathe out as slowly as you can, letting your fingertips come back together.
Your cells’ metabolic wastes tend to shift your body’s pH toward into the acidic range. Eating foods that alkalize can shift you back to your optimum pH. Tips for alkalizing:
- Add some lemon or lime to your water.
- Include a salad or extra helping of veggies to your meals for the day.
- Eat small portions of lean protein with each meal.
- Skip sugar, white flour, and all other processed carbohydrates for the day.
4. Reduce inflammation.
Inflammation and stress go hand in hand, not just because of the stress response itself but because we also tend to eat foods that encourage inflammation when we’re stressed–foods high in sugar and food additives. Foods high in antioxidants, like fruits and veggies, reduce inflammation.
5. Recharge your brain.
If you’re an introvert, this might mean reading for a few minutes, or going for a short walk by yourself, or some other solitary activity. If you’re an extrovert, it might mean some fun (i.e. low-pressure) social interactions, like a chat with a close friend or writing an email to a loved one.
6. Touch base with your spiritual side.
Whether that means saying a prayer, taking a minute to count your blessings, meditating, or jotting a few notes in your journal, set aside five minutes to reconnect with your soul.
7. Move, gently.
If you’re physically worn down, aerobics and strength training can exhaust you further. But your lymphatic system still needs some movement to help pump lymph through your body (which helps clean up metabolic waste more quickly). Try some stretching, some walking, or one of the Eastern disciplines like tai chi, chi gung, or yoga. Or bounce gently on one of those mini-trampolines for a few minutes.
8. Press away the stress.
Acupressure can help your body release stress more quickly and return to a relaxed state.
Here’s a video that shows a short routine for stress relief: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lIF90YXSf-4
And here’s a method of tapping acupressure points (Emotional Freedom Technique, or EFT) to release stress and anxiety: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxk7cVPEOXw
I’ve also discussed how to use Tapas Acupressure Technique for stress relief in past posts.
9. Go to bed early enough that you’ll get a full night’s sleep (8-9 hours).
In this coffee-fueled modern age, we tend to discount the value of a good night’s sleep. But sleep is when your body fixes all the damage you did while you were running around like a chicken without a head. 🙂
If you can manage to nap without disrupting your whole day, go for it, but if you’re like me and can’t manage to sleep for less than a couple hours at a time, get serious about clearing your evening schedule so you can hit the sack at a reasonable time.
10. Turn these remedies into habits.
Practiced consistently, these burnout-recovery techniques will also boost your long-term energy levels and improve your overall health. Why not implement one of these a month and see how much more you like being in your body?