I have just come back from a place where I had no cell phone reception, no internet, no power and no running water. A place that is so calm and tranquil it often causes me to cry when I arrive due to its cleansing nature. I stayed there for just over a week for my holiday where all I did was read, tend the fire, go for walks where I encountered numerous kangaroo, ate and possibly had a tad too much red wine. I got up when I wanted and went to bed when I wanted. I showered once in the outdoor shower and often just sat there staring into space.
Why am I telling you this? Because today I want to talk about the importance of having a break. First of all I will let you know that I was resistant to this holiday, as I imagine many of you will be to my suggestions to you on taking a break. My partner came to me a few months ago and said “I need a holiday” and proceeded to explain that we take a week off and go to the place I described above that we call the Sanctuary. His argument was that it’s close to home, so if I needed to drive back to see clients then I could. My thoughts were “how ridiculous, taking a whole week off my business, who will answer the phones, emails and texts messages that roll into my life every day? Who will order the stock, clean the practice and get on top of my writing for me if I’m not there? Also, I can’t afford to take a week off!” I came up with every excuse in the book for not taking this holiday.
We then went through my objections one by one, I quickly saw that not only did I not have any real reason for not doing this, but that I actually really needed a break. So we put our heads together and came up with a date, and I’m so glad we did. It’s fair to say that between leaving jobs, moving countries and starting a new business I have been feeling a little stretched over the last year or so. Don’t get me wrong I do all the things necessary to increase my energy, I sleep well, I ditched the coffee, I eat more fruits and vegetables in a day than most people do in a whole week, I drink water, I’m active etc. But there is one thing that was missing from that list, taking a good old-fashioned rest. I love my job and I love my life, however it doesn’t matter how much you love something, if you have pushed your body to breaking point you’re never going to be able to conjure up enough energy to do it all effectively.
So needless to say my weeks break was called for. For the first time in a long time I truly switched off and was able to just enjoy being present. I also was able to reflect on my life so far and what my goals were. Surprisingly after having a chance to really listen to my body and think about what I want, some of my goals have changed. This sort of soul-searching, no showering, no phone holiday is now what I am going to recommend that you all take at least once a year. I know, I can hear the excuses now, but hear me out.
Last night I was writing my presentation for my next seminar on Adrenal Fatigue. I was writing the information about what the stress response system is and how it works, and despite the fact that I know this and discuss it with patient’s regularly, it just sort of dawned on me how over stimulated and stressed we all are. How can we truly experience wellness when we always have something stimulating our nervous system and adrenal glands? Our stress response is a primitive, but effective system, but unfortunately it is unable to differentiate between real and perceived threats. In modern society, stressors come at us thick and fast, and in all sorts of forms: nutritional, toxic, auditory, tactile, visual, financial and so on Therefore, although we know that checking our in boxes and seeing a pile of emails to work through, the kids constantly asking questions or a grumpy boss is not actually a threat to our lives, our body is not able to say “ok I’ll just mount the non-threatened stress response instead of the threatened one”, therefore we end up in a state where we are on edge ready to run or fight the threat. This is quite simply not a good way to live!
We hear so often that stress is a major contributor to illness. We know it plays a role in increased blood pressure, changes in the microbiota of our digestive system, suppresses the immune system, inhibits some digestive processes, can affect thyroid and sex hormone levels and much more… It’s been linked to an increased risk of infections, heart disease, premature aging and substance abuse, so what can we do about it? Of course we can’t just uproot and go live at a sanctuary for the rest of our lives, well we could, but most of us are unlikely to do that. Instead we manage it by taking herbs and nutrients, getting a massage, trying to get along to yoga a few times a week and whatever else works for you. These are all well and good, and are things I practice and recommend in my clinic, however if you still have the stressor in your life every single day, then those things will simply be propping you up. In natural medicine we are taught about treating the cause, not the symptoms, and in order for this to truly happen we need to make a change in our lives. It could be something such as reducing your working hours, switching off your phone, not having the TV playing or finding other ways to reduce the stimuli in your life so that you are not shaving off a bit of your adrenal glands every morning you go to work, get out of bed or open your emails. So this brings me back to the point that maybe it’s time for everyone to organise some time off.
Holidays give you the ability to rekindle your love of down time and hopefully integrate it back into your daily life. It gives your body time to actually rest, for your hormones to come back down (or back up depending how far gone you are) to a normal level and for sanity to return. Think of a holiday as being the best medicine you can have, in fact I’m happy to write you a prescription if it makes you feel more comfortable taking a week off to just chill out.
If you’re feeling resistant write down all your excuses and analyse them, see if they’re relavent or if they are indeed just that, an excuse. If there is a legitimate hurdle in the way of you taking some time out find a solution to it. And if you’re still asking why do I need a break then here’s a simple way of putting it, it’s your health and your life. No one else will look after it for you, so you have to do it yourself. Sometimes you have to put yourself first to get the health you want and it’s totally ok to do that.
Enjoy your break x