We’re taught our whole lives to work hard and push through the pain to get anywhere good – be it the next career level or a stronger body. It’s easy to end up in a cycle of stress and exhaustion. A shift in activities and priorities will get you on track. When we spend too much time bathed in stress, our chemical wiring gets even more frazzled and our new natural state sets to strung-out. When you’re in frazzled state, your body simmers in the stress hormone cortisol, a breeding ground for even more stress, wear and tear, and ultimately the stuff that gets you sick. Cortisol’s best buddy is dopamine, the promise of reward dripping on our veins, same as is released in addiction, and present with the overworked and stressed. The bummer of dopamine is an empty promise that keeps us itching the scratch for more and more.
Cortisol and dopamine love to throw parties together inside of you, tearing down your walls of immunity, concentration, productivity, and relaxation.
On the flip side, where we want to float is in the relaxation response. This is our happy place where we have no threat, real or perceived, and we can go about digesting, blood pumping to all the right places, happiness levels rising, and creativity ready to pour out of you. How we get there is a lot of regular practice. We are all so busy with work, life and family that we are always doing something, and rarely giving ourselves the opportunity to restore properly.
Our relaxation response allows our body to heal, reduces inflammation, improves focus and digestion, leads to better weight management, higher productivity, increased field of vision, better intuition, and promotes our overall well-being.
It’s not a luxury to strive for a regular relaxation response happening, it’s critical to our health. There isn’t a pill or a button or a one and done action to get on the right foot here, but there is a shift in activities and priorities that will get you on track to getting everywhere good, that isn’t working with the push force and struggle method.
Taking a break from the usual day-to-day stresses and literally going somewhere to relax is a great practice. Try to disconnect from technology as much as possible and spend time in nature to get an energy boost. Even if you’re going for a stay-cation this holiday season, set up your schedule to spend time relaxing. Take walks and deep breaths to come back to your center.
2. Five minutes in the morning
A simple and profound practice to turn on your relaxation response and boost productivity is meditation. Sit up in bed first thing in the morning (before you check your emails or look at a screen). Draw your attention inward and connect with your breath. When you notice your attention shifting and drifting toward thinking, guide your attention back to your breath.
Meditation is simply the practice of choosing to come back to your breath.
Your mind will think. That’s what it does. When concentrating on your breath, choose to guide your attention back to your breath. The spaces between thoughts will stretch over time. This practice will boost well-being and set your day up for healthy choices as well as boost focus and productivity.
3. Practice hard things easy
Take your 5-minute morning practice and your vacation into your daily life, back in the grind. Try using the least amount of effort to do pretty much everything in your day from getting out of a chair, to picking up a glass of water, to giving a big presentation. A big secret of grace and ease and being able to do more with less effort (productivity goals) is using the least amount of effort to accomplish tasks. You’ll have room left over to see possibilities and reflect as well as energy to do more.