Women

If the buzz of life is eating up your quality time, it’s time to get busy relaxing. Katherine B. has low-key solutions for high-energy people

Think back to the last time you truly relaxed. A time when you weren’t rushing from one activity to the next, with 101 thoughts racing through your mind and a to-do list as long as your arm. Hard to recall, isn’t it? ‘Nowadays, we are grabbing as much of life as we can get our hands on,’ says Donna Hubbard of Be Dynamic Coaching (bedynamic.co.uk). ‘We are constantly looking to do, achieve and be more, so running from one commitment to another has become the norm.’

Research has found that we don’t sleep enough, we eat on the go more than we do at home, and we’re not spending enough time with the people we love - and experts reckon these habits can affect your health in myriad ways. It’s time to stop, take a breather and acknowledge the importance of downtime.

Worker bees

Between juggling a demanding career and hectic home life, it’s little wonder that downtime is the first luxury to go. ‘Thanks to technology, the boundary between life at work and life outside work has merged,’ says Gina Hayden, director of Sphere Consulting (sphereconsulting.org). ‘Emails and phone calls come in at all hours of the day, night and weekend and, even worse, we’re expected to respond to them immediately!’ We face huge pressure to be constantly available, and our reliance on our many devices is more profound than ever. ‘How many times have you sent a work email while waiting for a fitness class to start, or fielded a business call when out running with your phone?’ says Donna.

We face huge pressure to be constantly available, and our reliance on our many devices is more profound than ever.

We face huge pressure to be constantly available, and our reliance on our many devices is more profound than ever.

Demands in the workplace are the number one culprit as we’re expected to work longer hours and meet more targets. ‘The recession has increased our fear of unemployment,’ says life and confidence coach Georgina Elliott (thelondonconfidencecoach.com). A study by the TUC found that one in five workers is regularly putting in seven hours of unpaid overtime every week. That’s almost a full day of work! But research from Harvard Business School has shown that working harder and longer doesn’t necessarily mean getting more done - in fact, it was found that downtime not only benefits workers, it also benefits their employer due to increased productivity, greater job satisfaction, improved communication, increased learning and self-development and more respect for colleagues.

Demands in the workplace are the number one culprit as we’re expected to work longer hours and meet more targets.

Demands in the workplace are the number one culprit as we’re expected to work longer hours and meet more targets.

The other culprit? Your daily commute. On average, people in Britain spend 32 hours a year stuck in traffic. That’s 16 movies that could have been watched, or 21 leisurely meals that could have been savored... ‘It’s not just that the time spent in traffic eats into downtime,’ says George Broadbent from Life Coach Directory (Iifecoach-directory.org.uk), ‘it’s that the frustration of rush hour and other drivers causes stress levels to rise.’

What’s the sting?

Stress is one of the biggest side effects of a life without relaxation. And too much stress adds up to a severe dip in wellbeing - both mentally and physically. Stress contributes to headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, anxiety and insomnia. It can also speed the ageing process. ‘Increased stress leads to a depleted immune system and a higher risk of illness,’ says Georgina. When you’re stressed, your body produces cortisol, suppressing other essential functions such as digestion and growth. ‘Cortisol also encourages you to reach for sugary foods,’ adds Donna, ‘so your diet becomes unhealthy and your health is sabotaged.’

Stress contributes to headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, anxiety and insomnia.

Stress contributes to headaches, high blood pressure, heart problems, diabetes, skin conditions, asthma, arthritis, depression, anxiety and insomnia.

Feeling frazzled can also change your outlook on life. If we don’t meet the challenges we face, says Donna, ‘we can become dominated by negative thinking.’ This can have a detrimental effect on self-perception. ‘It’s all too easy to buy into the idea that we must be a “failure” or “not have what it takes” to cope,’ she warns.

While stress take its toll on you, it can also affect those around you. ‘Stress often leaves people tired, frustrated and drained of energy,’ explains George. ‘As a result, they take their emotions out on those closest to them.’

Smell the flowers

‘It’ll allow your mind and body to repair, refresh and rejuvenate,’

‘It’ll allow your mind and body to repair, refresh and rejuvenate,’

The answer? Don’t see downtime as a luxury - treat it as an integral part of life. ‘It’ll allow your mind and body to repair, refresh and rejuvenate,’ explains personal development coach Anita Dhanjal (simplycoachingyou.com). The benefits that you’ll reap are amazing: increased productivity, less stress, reduced health risks and the big one - a genuine work/life balance. ‘Making time to relax will make you more productive and healthy, which results in a more fulfilled life,’ says Anita.

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