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August 11, 2016

You probably didn’t know this but stress feels pretty darn good. The chemicals released when we are under pressure keep us focused, energised and pumped full of fatigue annihilating adrenaline.

And this is exactly why we are addicted to stress.

Our coping mechanism lets us disconnect from the emotional burden of being tired. We override our fatigue and push on. We buy into the story that we are coping just fine with no rest.

But our body’s needs for rest do not really disappear, as much as we will ourselves to be superhuman.

The impact of constant stress is quite insidious in fact and you may not even see it coming. When we go and go and go without rest we inevitably hit the wall and burnout.

You see rest isn’t an indulgence or a weakness. It’s a biological need. Digestion requires rest. Sex hormones require rest. Happiness requires rest. Our health relies on rest. Every time you push yourself past your natural limits you are denying your body an opportunity to stop and repair.

And I know a secret. I know deep down you’re exhausted and you want rest. Good solid rest. We all do. Mindfulness and stress both affect rest, one promotes it, one prevents it. 

The most common health complaint I see in my practise is fatigue. We are not resting enough because we are stressed. We need to slow down and connect with the body, cue mindfulness.

Dr Richard Chambers is a Clinical Psychologist and internationally recognised expert in the practice of mindfulness and stress reduction.

“The body is a wonderful tool for showing us reality...The moment we tune in and notice the effects of our busy-ness and lifestyle on the body, we immediately start to regain balance.’’

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Your choice between mindfulness and stress.

Rather than waiting for the vacation or the special day before you relax, why not start relaxing and resting before you go do that special thing. Get grounded little by little using daily mindfulness exercises, rather than all at once. This is a small but significant shift in mindset, a little preventative mindfulness medicine that could make all the difference to your long-term health and happiness.

In fact one study demonstrated it only takes one mindfulness meditation session to begin reducing your stress and promoting rest in the body.

"Our results show a clear reduction in anxiety...Participants also had reduced mechanical stress on their arteries an hour after the session. This could help to reduce stress on organs like the brain and kidneys and help prevent conditions such as high blood pressure." - lead study author John J. Durocher, PhD

We seem to have gotten accustomed to this new fast pace, but it wasn’t always this way. Remember? We didn’t used to have access to work emails and newsfeeds 24/7. Life was simple, we did one thing at a time, we sat on porch swings, we had down time in the garden, in nature, or waiting for a bus with no phone in our hand.

The one thing technology doesn’t provide us with is a way to make the best use of the technology. We now are exposed to so much information, but are lacking the time and tools to sift through it. It’s a perpetual cycle that the mind struggles to keep up with.

Researchers in the new field of Interruption Science have found that it takes an average of 25 minutes to recover from a phone call. Yet such interruptions come every 11 minutes in our daily lives. You do the math - we’re never caught up. And no one’s winning here.

Fortunately we are not a lost cause. If you need more rest and the choice is between mindfulness and stress - you now know what to choose. There are things available to us every day that will bring us immense peace and grounding, if only for short bursts between the hustle, and they don’t require a plane ticket or a lot of planning.

Go to your yoga class, but don’t rush there. Stop and breathe. Spend time in nature. Step away from your device and your desk. Make time to meditate and be mindful.

In fact, Just. Do. Everything. More. Slowly. And. REST!

Thich Nhat Hahn, offers this short mindful meditation in his book Being Peace:

“Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.”

Using Smiling Mind mindfulness and meditation app is a fantastic way to easily incorporate more mindfulness into your every day.