My column for Holistic Scotland Magazine this month focuses on the importance of prioritising regular downtime, especially in the winter. A key focus for me at the retreat, I promote Rest with a capital 'R' and find that people get the best results when they allow the body the time and space to heal.
By the start of the New Year, many of us will be feeling pretty tired. If you weren’t already feeling tired this winter, the party season and all the trimmings, will almost certainly make sure of it. Powering through the festive season with all its busy-ness and stress, the majority of us find ourselves fuelled by adrenaline and caffeine (or in some cases, wine).
Our time off is precious and we cram in as much as possible - work hard, play hard - but if the minute you stop for the holidays and you feel knackered or worse still, you get sick, your body is crying out for more rest.
On my retreats, I promote Rest with a capital ‘R’ – the antithesis of a bootcamp, in fact resting is actively encouraged. A challenge for many; often people say that they don’t know how to relax, and sometimes it takes ill-health to force us to learn how to slow down. But at the retreat, when we take away the caffeine, the need to be busy and the guilt of ‘doing nothing’, some find that they just sleep for the first three days, amazed at how exhausted they truly are.
The winter is a natural time for us to ‘hibernate’, so it’s really important to strike a balance between operating at 100 miles an hour, and giving yourself valuable downtime to recharge. Adopting some restful habits (where you can) and allowing yourself to hibernate from time to time, is one of the most powerful things we can do for our health, our weight and our happiness.
1. Going to Bed Super Early Once a Week – When it comes to rest, sleep is the Holy Grail, but in the midst of all our commitments time in bed can often be cut short. An early bedtime is always something to aim for, but if you have a jampacked schedule, then even just finding one night a week where you can head to bed far earlier than normal (9.00pm) can make a huge difference to how your body copes with the week.
2. Being Picky About Saying Yes – We all need to appreciate just how precious our energy is at this time of year. Rather than finding ourselves saying yes to anything and everything, and feeling totally frazzled, are there things that you don’t really need to be doing? When we don’t spend our energy wisely, we often end up paying the price with our health later on.
3. Listening to a Daily Guided Meditation – Having this as a non-negotiable part of your day is one of the best things you can do for your health and happiness, regardless of the time of year. Whether you practice mindfulness, use a guided meditation app or even just choose to notice and follow your breath with your eyes closed for 8-15 minutes, this timeout sets the tone for a more peaceful day ahead. If you have children that are constantly demanding your attention, then what about finding a guided meditation that the whole family can listen to together?
4. Slowing Down When We Eat – When we wolf down our meals, we are less likely to feel satisfied and our bodies struggle to digest anything that hasn’t been properly chewed. By slowing down at mealtimes, putting our fork down between mouthfuls and chewing (a lot), we encourage optimal digestion, reduce weight gain and create a calmer pace for the rest of the day.
5. Scheduling Downtime in your Diary – How often do you block out time in your diary to do nothing and rest? Winter is a time for hibernating and for retreating indoors, certainly more than we tend to do. Have a glance at your diary and see where you could actually block off some time at the weekends for complete rest, or your next holiday – could you dedicate some time to prioritise rest?
Time out is often seen as self indulgent or selfish and I am forever explaining that it’s the complete opposite: it’s absolutely essential for us to recharge. On my retreats, the unsung hero in people’s transformations is the rest, as it allows the body to heal, repair and regenerate.
Even if it’s a case of planning a movie afternoon with the kids at the weekend, scheduling a bath for yourself two evenings a week or blocking off time for a cosy, pyjama day where the objective is to do absolutely nothing – your body will thank you, and your chances of side-stepping the dreaded winter cold will be considerably higher.
The Body Toolkit award-winning retreat programmes share simple, yet powerful things we can all do to nourish the body, reduce stress and help ourselves to thrive. For dates, availability and prices for upcoming retreats: www.thebodytoolkit.com/book-a-retreat