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Day of Rest

23 February 2023

Day of Rest

Sometimes we all need a reminder that our bodies are not machines.  I’m as guilty as anyone of this.  For many years now, I’ve fallen into the trap thinking that since I eat well, workout daily and generally take good care of myself that my body doesn’t need rest from my routine.  Funny enough, it does. And as you know, your body (and mine) has a way of reminding you to take a break when you most need it. 

For the last several months I’ve been super busy trying to get several projects off the ground.  Simultaneously, I’ve also been struggling with a nagging plantar fasciitis in my right foot.  Initially, it wasn’t so bad.  Just a small irritation when I stood up in the morning or after I got off the treadmill.  I thought “Oh, I must have just aggravated it doing something.  It will go away.”  No big deal.  My body’s warning went unheeded.  Over the next few weeks, it became a bit more noticeable, but still nothing to write home about.  Just a persistent irritation when walking around and worse after a run.  However, I was too busy to worry about it anyway.  My work and travel schedule were running at full steam and sneaking in those morning runs before the day got going was far too important.  My body’s warning bells were ignored once again.  Fast forward another few weeks and the recipe for disaster was suddenly cooking away with high stress, less sleep and more denial about what was really going on here.  Now I was having pain with every step, throbbing aches in my foot that would wake me up at night and a newfound desire to wear heals to ease the pressure off my foot during the day.  Stubbornly, I shut off my body’s dire warnings with ibuprofen and Voltaren gel so that I could keep on getting my workouts in.  

It wasn’t until I limped into Starbucks (for my 3rd coffee of the day) that I had the “A-ha” moment.  When getting out of the car, the parking spot seemed miles away from the store and I dreaded putting my foot down on the ground for the first time in a while since riding around in the car all day.  But dang it, I needed the pick me up!  I was tired!  As I started to limp in toward the store, I had the realization that maybe I was pushing a wee bit too hard… I certainly had been running on a lot less sleep than I liked.  I wasn’t eating as well being so busy and traveling frequently.  Plus, in an effort to keep working toward some of my goals, I had been pushing hard in workouts despite being chronically tired over the past two months. 

Sometimes what the body really needs is rest…real rest!  This means going to bed early and sleeping late until you’re (at least mostly) caught up on sleep.  This means eating really clean and going for wholesome foods with lots of fruits and vegetables to up your antioxidants and decrease your inflammation.  This also means taking a break from your normal workout routine and considering some active rest like gentle stretching, yoga, hikes, walks or breathing exercises.   For me it has meant all those things as well as some meditation and some ice baths for my poor foot. 

Our bodies were not meant to tolerate the near constant stress we put them under.  Our modern society rarely allows us time to rest and regenerate.  Workdays are now longer than ever, weekends and evenings are no longer sacred, and globalization means time zones are now blurred to stay ahead of the competition.  Between calls, texts, emails, social media and other forms of technology, we are constantly connected to our own worries/stresses as well as the worries and concerns of others.  While wonderful and amazing, we rarely stop to consider the impact of modern technology and lifestyle on the human body that evolved for a much slower pace.  Considering the skyrocketing rates of anxiety, depression and other stress related illnesses, it’s becoming even more critical to learn how and when to rest.  Listening to our bodies is a huge start.  Have you ever woken up in the morning and felt exhausted before your feet even hit the ground?.. That might be indicator #1.  Need 2 or 3 cups of coffee just to get going?.. Indicator #2.  Snap angrily at your kids or spouse for no reason?..  Overwhelmed with just the thought of going to work?.. Have a nagging injury that just won’t go away?.. Chronic headaches or migraines?.. Acne or breakouts?... Frequently sick with colds and coughs?.. Yup, these are just some of the ways the body attempts to tell us that we need more rest. 

So here are some thoughts on how we can achieve a better balance (from a person that is still working on this whole resting thing ?). First, identify your body’s alarm system.  Mine is injury.  After spending almost, a full year in a cast during medical school for a fracture that just wouldn’t heal, I learned that prolonged, highly stressful situations cause me injury.  I’ve been through enough injuries now that any failure to acknowledge that fact is mostly willful ignorance on my part (see description of plantar fasciitis above). 

Second, figure out what is stressing you.  Once I thought about it, I realized that several of my projects had unintentionally come to fruition at almost the same time.  Had I planned better, it would have been easy to predict the overwhelming nature of doing 10 things at once. 

Third, mitigate the damage as best you can.  In this scenario, it meant doing a few things.  I looked at my calendar over the upcoming months and prioritized my activities.  I made a list and then color coded them red, orange and yellow.  I then tried to reschedule any yellow events or plans since they were not as high on the list.  As a person who thinks she can do everything all at once, this hurt my heart more than you know.   However, to get and stay healthy, it had to be done!  Plus, I know that I’ll enjoy those events more when I do eventually get to them if I’m not trying to bust through them with my hair on fire. 

Finally, actually rest.  Take a beat, take a breath and be willing to prioritize YOU for a couple of days.  Rest isn’t just important, it’s critical to keeping us healthy and moving forward towards our goals.  Mental and physical rest needs to be scheduled into our lives, just like our workouts, meetings, work events, etc.  So many times, I see patients who put their children’s and family’s wants and activities before their much needed self-care time.  Remember, self-care isn’t selfish, it's good medicine!