In an ideal world we would live fulfilling careers, with perfect work life balance. Our stress levels would be of inspiration and excitement towards a positive end rather than being overwhelmed with too much to do in too little time.
The reality is that life gets ever more complicated, the economic state of most nations’ results in a shift in control to the employer, increasing pressure to stand out in a cluttered, over-supplied market and effectively doing more for less. With hours spent working increasing we try to extract as much value as we can from our lives outside of the office, resulting in some kind of ‘social jet lag’, persistently cheating ourselves of the physical activity and sleep required to purge toxins from our bodies (in particular the excess cortisol and adrenaline created through stress) and enable the body’s natural healing process. Often it’s one or the other with these two, so we end up robbing Peter, to pay Paul, ie. reducing our sleep to fit in exercise time. At least this is a deprivation put to positive ends. Whilst the body still needs sleep (and protein) to enable the muscle fibres to recover, the exercise is helping the body re-calibrate the hormonal levels in the body and reduce the stress hormone levels.
For the most part we can’t continue at that rate. It will catch up with us eventually, whether it’s weight gain from too much cortisol left in the blood or changing the brain’s response to food, disrupted sleep from adrenal fatigue, mental illness like depression, premature ageing, decline in mental faculty or general ill health or the onset of more serious problems like diabetes, we can’t fight the Gods of Sleep. We can try to cheat them but we each of us have our own hours stamped into a sleep contract with them and we have to stick to it or they will shut us down. Literally.
From my own experience, when I rob from the bank of sleep, my immune system starts to suffer, almost immediately. When I make sleep a priority and get enough sleep I am healthier, happier, more positive, my brain makes connections faster and comes up with more ideas and I feel generally more can do. How does the delicate balance of sleep affect you?
Taking the time to ‘reset’ the body is important. This is taking the time to do something as far from toxic on the scale as you can get – is it a physical indulgence like a spa day, spending the day in bed reading your book and dozing or getting out into nature for a long walk? Different horses for different courses, but it should be something ‘low impact’, gentle and resting.
Activities designed to bring the body and mind into a more harmonious state like Yoga, massage, meditation, tai chi, chi-gong can be particularly beneficial to incorporate into life on a regular basis.
Go to bed early, have a lie-in and give yourself a duvet day every now and again. You’ll feel ready to tackle the world again.