“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”
– Sydney J. Harris
I’d say I’m safe in assuming many of you don’t have the slightest clue who Sydney J. Harris is, and that is perfectly fine.
As far as this lesson is concerned, it’s quite inconsequential.
That said, of the innumerable profound and witty statements he made over the course of his illustrious career as a writer and journalist, this quote sticks with me more than any other.
If you’ve read my article on Managing Stress, then you remember that each one of us is constantly surrounded by all sorts of different stressors in our daily lives.
And, unless you’re an unemployed, millionaire trust fund baby, you likely face a bulk of these stressors during your workday. In fact, its quite possible that most of your bodies are consistently operating under a stress response throughout a bulk of the day.
This may very well be leading to fatigue, lack of focus, poor memory, headaches, aching necks, shoulders and low backs, or possibly some other equally undesirable symptoms of a stressful work day.
Getting to the point, our next step is to work on breaking up the chronic activation of our body’s stress response at some point, or points, throughout the day. So, we are going to discuss 5 methods you can implement into your daily routine to decrease stress, increase productivity, and leave you feeling refreshed and recharged.
5 Workday Recharges
- Power Naps
Now, I’m aware there is a negative stigma surrounding naps. Some believe it shows laziness or promotes unproductivity.
However, this guy held quite a different view on napping:
“Nature has not intended mankind to work from eight in the morning until midnight without that refreshment of blessed oblivion which, even if it only lasts twenty minutes, is sufficient to renew all the vital forces.”
– Winston Churchill
Yeah, that’s right.
Winston Freaking Churchill was a napper.
Churchill, however is not the only brilliant or well-accomplished, documented napper. In fact, John F. Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Thomas Edison, Napoleon Bonaparte, Albert Einstein all included napping as part of their regular routine.
That’s pretty much a who’s who of people that kicked ass at life.
Einstein even firmly believed his regular napping contributed greatly to his creativity and ideas.
So, were these men correct in believing that regularly taking time out of their busy lives to nap contributed to their success? Or, was Winston Churchill a lazy nut-job for taking daily naps even at the peak of World War II?
Well, as you might expect, the research is on their side. In fact, studies have shown napping to have a laundry list of benefits.
Midday naps have been shown to decrease fatigue and sleepiness, while improving physiological alertness and performance on mentally demanding tasks. There is also significant evidence that naps may help with mood stabilization, control of inflammation, and recovery after a training session. Finally, because the state of sleep experienced during a naps is that of where memories, especially from new tasks, are consolidated, midday naps can be beneficial in learning new tasks and committing to new information to memory.
So, what’s the best application for a midday nap to experience these awesome benefits?
Well, the most realistic option that many of you should be able to fit into you daily routine is a quick 15-30-minute power nap.
Even in this short period of time you can experience the many benefits of napping without interfering with your regular nighttime sleep. Regardless of if you actually fall asleep or not, giving yourself some time in a preferably dimly-lit, quiet, and secluded area will allow your body and mind to recharge and give you the energy to dominate the rest of your day.
Do be careful, however, not to exceed 30 minutes. As enticing as a 45-60-minute nap may seem, this will often result in you being awoken from a deep sleep, leaving you feeling groggy and possibly more fatigued than before.
If there are any alpha-male, meat-heads out there reading this, I’m sure they are rolling their eyes right now.
“Pssh… no way you’re gonna get me to meditate, bro.”
Well, bro, meditation is for more than just yoga-moms and kung-fu masters.
Major corporations including Target, Google, and General Mills have all instituted midday meditation practices that have yielded improvement workplace productivity.
These improvements can be contributed to the fact that meditation can decrease stress, improve memory, and help workers stay on-task.
Whether it’s 5 minutes here and there or a 10-15-minute break somewhere in your day, find a place to relax and let your body shut down for a few minutes. Close your eyes, quiet your mind, and perform a string of good, quality breaths.
If you need a little help, download an app like Brain Wave or Headspace to help you relax or you go online to find a meditation program to help guide you through.
- Release & Reset
Those of you who have completed or currently are performing one of my programs, these terms should be a well-ingrained part of your vocabulary by now. However, for the remainder of you, let’s briefly cover meaning of the terms release and reset.
Release work consists of “shutting off” overly-toned muscles in order to restore mobility. Reset work involves realigning major joints to a more optimal position and unlocking greater range of motion.
Taking time out of your day to perform some release and reset work will help alleviate some of the aches, pains, and stiffness that build up over the course of the workday.
Here is a quick and simple routine that will get you feeling better and ready to tackle the remainder of your day:
- Release (15-20 seconds each)
- Reset (8-10 breaths)
So, if you have a little bit of an open area at your disposal, grab a lacrosse ball or foam roller and get to work.
- Mobility Circuits
As a whole, we sit WAY TOO MUCH.
Even if you work out regularly, or even if you don’t work a desk job I can almost guarantee you’re sitting or stationary far more than you are moving.
For a number of us, this has contributed to chronic aches and pains, as well as an inability to perform even some of the most basic movements.
Honestly, it’s alarming how many adults I’ve encountered in my still relatively young career that are unable to coordinate simple skipping and crawling movements. However, that’s another rant for another time.
Want a simple solution?
Add a quick mobility circuit to the middle of your workday.
Here are a couple quick routines you can perform:
The Full Body Recharge
(8-10 Reps each)
The “I Don’t Want to Blowout My Dress Pants” Routine (8-10 Reps each)
|1. Core-Engaged Straight-Leg Raise||1. Bear Breathing|
|2. Core-Engaged Leg Lowering||2. Reach, Roll, & Lift|
|3. 90-90 Mobilization||3. Yoga Push-Ups|
|4. Yoga Push-Ups||4. Broomstick Pec Mobilizations|
|5. Reverse Lunge with Rotation||5. No Money Drill|
|6. Pull-Back Butt Kickers|
|7. Bodyweight Squats|
If you have a little bit of time left after performing your routine, try finishing with some crocodile breathing.
Pick the routine that works best for you, find a time a place to perform the exercises, do it on a daily basis, then feel the difference!
If none of the aforementioned methods stick, you can always just simply take a walk.
There’s plenty of research, double-blind test studies, and all that wonderful stuff out there that show a bevy of benefits to be gained from talking a regular midday walk.
But, instead of boring you as I usually would, we’ll keep it simple.
If all else fails, simply take 20-30 minutes at the end of your lunch break or in the middle of your afternoon, get up, go outside if the weather permits, and just walk.
You can go by yourself or with a friend. You can listen to music, meditate, pray, or just zone-out. Whatever you choose, you will return to your desk refreshed, re-energized, rejuvenated, and any other redundant adjective you could insert here.
Listen To Sydney
There’s no denying that making one or more of these workday recharges a part of your regular routine is going to take time and dedication. While time and dedication are required in the development of most habits, this one in particular may be difficult as it involves, for many, taking time out of busy workdays and breaking up some extremely well-engrained routines.
I’d imagine there are more than a handful of you out there somewhere who may already be writing off this lesson because you believe you are far too busy or set in your ways to dedicate the time necessary to make one of these recharges part of your routine.
However, for those of you who hold this sentiment, it comes back to that simple and profound quote from the beginning of this lesson:
“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”
Sydney J. Harris hit the nail on the head with this one.
In truth, the busiest of you are those who will benefit most from taking this lesson to heart.
So, regardless of what your schedule looks like, your challenge is to make time to fit one of these recharges into your routine. If it’s 20-30 minutes, fantastic! If it needs to be 5-10, that works too.
One way or another, make the it a priority. Give your brain time to shut off and your body to recharge and you’ll be feeling better, moving better, and more productive!