Your "A game" is probably very strong, referring to "A" as in "Activation." But how is your "R game", as in "Rest and Relaxation?" During these trying times, it’s no surprise that we are all experiencing more stress and anxiety than usual, making it challenging to relax and find a moment of peace in your day. Understanding the connection between activation and relaxation can help you find ways to rest your body and mind, avoid energy crashes, and reduce stress.
The Relationship Between Activation and Relaxation
If you wake up, roll over, and start checking your email or social media before even setting foot out of bed, you’ve activated your body’s stress response. Walk to the kitchen for your morning coffee, and you add even more activation to your body, mind, and nervous system. From there, your day may consist of continued stress and activation with work and family—not to mention the pandemic we’re all living through.
Your nervous system is designed to move between activation and rest. That’s why there’s the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) and the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). Our natural cycle is to become activated when there is a threat, or when we need the energy to perform and get things done.
Activation should naturally be followed by a period of rest where we can recover, heal, and digest. Unfortunately, modern culture has minimized the importance of the rest phase while glorifying the activation phase in the name of productivity. Our bodies aren’t designed to sustain activation all day without any relaxation, and the result is the inevitable mid-to-late afternoon energy crash. That’s your body and mind telling you that they need a rest. Instead of resting though, you reach for that afternoon cup of coffee and sugary snack to give you a short-lived energy boost. This temporary boost may negatively impact your sleep that night, leaving you with even less rest, and potentially spiking your blood sugar levels.
Overcome Your Afternoon Energy Crash
One of the most common questions I get from my coaching clients is how to improve their afternoon energy levels. If you really want energy that lasts all day, you must be willing to give your body and mind moments of stress relief and relaxation throughout the day, in addition to good sleep at night. And the solution may be simpler than you think: breathwork.Watch my video to learn simple and practical breathing exercises and discover how your breath can be a powerful tool to ease stress and help you feel less anxious. And continue reading below for the ideal times to incorporate these practices throughout your day.
Key Times to Relax Your Body and Mind
When You Wake Up
Start your day with a nurturing practice that allows your body to wake up slowly and mindfully. Yoga, meditation, and breathwork are wonderful morning practices BEFORE looking at your phone or drinking coffee. A walk or run outside can also be beneficial.
Moments Throughout the Day
Pause throughout your morning and afternoon to take a few conscious belly breaths in through the nose and out through the nose. Relax your face, jaw, eyes, and shoulders as you breathe. You can do this anywhere, and your nervous system will thank you.
First, take the time to eat a healthy lunch away from your computer. Eat mindfully and slowly. Consider trying relaxation breathing as you sit with your food before you begin eating.
In Ayurveda, we recommend laying down on your left side after lunch for better digestion and refreshed energy. Set a timer for no longer than 20 minutes and lay down on your left side to enjoy a power rest.
Late to Mid-Afternoon
When you feel the energy crash coming on, instead of reaching for coffee or sugar, try the belly breathing and relaxation practices shown in the video. It will take less than 10 minutes, and you’ll be surprised at how effective it can be to improve your energy levels.
Before Bedtime for a Better Night of Sleep
Preparing your mind and body for sleep is important for falling asleep easily and staying asleep. The relaxation techniques in the video can help you relax and help your parasympathetic nervous system kick in so that you’re not activated right before bed. I especially recommend the practice of lying on the floor with your legs up on a chair for this one.
Relax Your Way to Better Health
Optimal health requires both activation and relaxation. It’s time to prioritize your "R game!" In 10 minutes or less, with no extra tools needed, and using only your breath, you can relieve stress and help to settle your nervous system to enjoy greater energy and well-being.
Top photo: Anna Levesque
Middle photo: Scott Martin
Anna is the author of Yoga for Paddling, and an internationally celebrated paddling, yoga and Ayurveda health coach. She creates empowering experiences that help women build courage and confidence through mind, body and adventure. Anna has been featured in mainstream publications such as Outside Magazine, Time, Shape and Self, and was named one of the most inspirational paddlers alive by Canoe and Kayak Magazine. Anna lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband Andrew and adventure schnoodle, Ceiba.