What do you do when you see the warning light on the car dashboard? Do you rush to the garage to refuel? Do you think you know your car well enough to know you have another 10 miles in the tank? Or do you ignore the signal until you breakdown, now its an emergency and have to walk to the nearest fuel station, buy a can and walk back to your car to refill?
Its similar when our eyelids start to droop, when we yawn frequently, when our brain slows down. Some of us are easily able to take note of the warning light and get ready to take a nap, to start our nighttime routine or sit down and have a rest.
Sometimes we just want to do ‘one more thing’ and then go to bed. Other times its not so convenient to stop and get a rest and we choose to carry on working, caring or being active. And thats fine if we do that once or twice, but whats it like if we make a habit of this?
Many of us don’t take rest and sleep and good food and drink seriously. We might think that ‘sleep is for babies’ or ‘I’ll be more successful if I pull an all-nighter’ and simply don’t go to bed in order to finish an assignment or work report, to meet a deadline. Some of us will eat food we know isn’t good for us, because its easily available, it can be cheap to buy, or we don’t make time to cook and eat fresh food. Sometimes when we need water, we drink caffeine, sugary drinks or alcohol. A bit of this is OK and our body can take what it needs, but when we run out of nutrients and give our body sugar or caffeine, our body suffers. When we need rest and push and push… we put our body into deficit.
My worry is that if we push ourselves beyond our limits often enough we end up depleted and run-down and this affects our immune system and our ability to fight disease. We are not like the car which will breakdown and just wait on the roadside until we bring it more fuel. As humans we keep needing fuel for our daily functioning. If we don’t stop and get food or rest we need, then we get ill. Sooner or later.
Next time you notice yourself getting tired or hungry, just check with yourself, do you really need that fizzy drink, or double shot coffee? Or do you need some fresh food and a rest?
I understand you can’t always stop in that moment, but perhaps you can know you are reaching your limit and stop as soon as you can, and take a rest.
As an Alexander Technique teacher I have a daily habit of resting for about 20 minutes on my back, knees raised, foot pads on the floor, head on a small pile of soft-back books. I call this semi-supine or constructive rest. This daily practice gives me a chance to stop and really take stop of my energy levels, to decompress and notice how I’m really doing just now.
Some days I think I don’t have any fuel left and will assume I need to cancel my evening plans. If I make time to lie down to recover from the busyness of the day in the way I said above, then, when I roll over and stand again – I can check my energy stores again. Now I realise I feel able to go out dancing, or visiting friends.
Other days when I’m on the floor, I can really feel the underlying tiredness and get a true sense of a deep need for rest, to slow down, stop and recuperate.
Next time you get a warning sign, stop as soon as you can and take stock of how you are really doing. See where you can stop, rest, reconnect with yourself and tune in to what you really need. If its food, what would it be like to give yourself the freshest food / fuel you can? If you notice tiredness, what would it be like to really stop and rest for 5, 10 or 20 minutes – or for the night?
When I listen to the signals from myself and take note, and consider what I really need and give this to myself, then I am really looking after myself.
Show yourself some real self-love. Rest when you are tired. Refuel when you are approaching empty. Sooner or later you’ll notice the benefits.
Lucy Ascham is an Alexander Technique teacher who has been to Leeds and back for the day, then to meditate and is now tired and going to rest for 20 minutes. Perhaps I’ll go to bed then, and perhaps I’ll stay up and do something else.