We all know we need 8 hours of quality sleep each night--maybe slightly more or less. And sleep is certainly one way we restore the energy we expend during the day. Although sleep is crucial to our health and well-being, it is possible we might need more than just our nightly 8 hours.
Our physical bodies obviously need rest in order to heal from intense workouts, illnesses, long hours of physical labor, and athletic training. But our daily lives now include many other types of stresses, strains, and challenges. You might be caring for an aging parent, infant, or child. You might have a job which requires care-taking, like a nurse, therapist, or special ed teacher. You might work overtime, nights, or extra shifts. Not only our bodies, but our minds and spirits also need a way to recover.
How can we replenish all the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual energy that we put out?
Most of us turn to caffeine and sugar, usually in the mid-afternoon, to get through that slump. But candy and energy drinks can only do so much. They might give an instant jolt that feels similar to energy, but in the long run, these choices are wreaking havoc with our adrenal glands and causing all kinds of problems like weight gain and cellular inflammation.
In the evenings, we usually go for alcohol to loosen up and relax. And I won't deny that a glass of wine can really hit the spot. But using alcohol as your primary method of relaxation might not be the healthiest choice. At the very least, it's a good idea to have some other alternatives.
There is a better way!
Here is a list of positive possibilities:
1) Quiet time. If you are an introvert, you already know how important it is to find time to be alone. Introverts (like me!) can become exhausted just from spending too much time in the company of others. Although we need social time and value friendships very highly, we easily get depleted when we socialize too much. A party, happy hour, or going dancing might be restorative for others, but this is not how introverts gain energy. We need solitude. And silence.
2) Green spaces. Getting outside in nature is restorative for everyone! Just looking at green things like trees and grass can instantly calm the nervous system. The Japanese use a term that has been translated as "forest bathing." We might call it hiking, or strolling through the woods, but the result is the same: a communion with nature that leaves us feeling relaxed and refreshed.
3) Healing practices. Yoga, qi gong, t'ai chi, mindfulness meditation: all of these are practices that require us to slow down, pay attention to what is happening inside ourselves, and focus on the present moment. Becoming present allows us to let go of the past and the future. This helps to release the tension in our bodies and the anxiety in our minds.
4) Massage. Treating yourself to a relaxing massage might be the perfect antidote to daily stresses. Human touch is healing! Massage schools often seek out volunteers for students to practice on, so you might look into this for a free or low-cost option. If you don't have time for a massage, try getting a hug from a loved one or spend some time petting your dog or cat.
5) Napping. While spending the entire day in bed might be considered lazy (or, on occasion, totally blissful!) naps have been shown to refresh and re-energize. Unless you've been burning the midnight oil and really need to catch up on a lot of zzz's, naps should be kept short. 20-30 minutes is a good length. You can nap in bed, in a hammock, in a lounger by the pool, anywhere that calls to you. Put your feet up, close your eyes, and let the magic happen!
These are just a small sampling of the possible ways you can restore your energy when you feel depleted. Use your lunch break to try these out and see what works best for you. If you have other suggestions, please leave a comment!