130726_stressDo you ever feel like you are too tired to keep running and at the same time too scared to stop? Do you look at the pace of your life, the fullness of your schedule, the daily demands of your job, family, and wonder how did it get this way, how are you going to keep up, or maybe how can you stop?!  There is no question about it—we are moving at a pace that is unreasonable. In fact, much of the dis-ease in our society is fully related to the ever-increasing demands on our lifestyle with a direct impact on our life stress. I have seen a dramatic increase in my own experience of people trying to maintain an unnatural and unhealthy pace of life for too long and quite frankly burning out.

One problem with burnout is that we seldom realize we are experiencing it until it is well progressed. Funny how that realization often arises during the holiday season. With technology, cell phone, voice and e-mails pulsing all around us, we are easily seduced into believing the illusion that we should be able to keep up with the ever-increasing speed of life. It is important to remember these are machines and we are not. Our bodies are designed to produce for a period of time and then rest. Our minds are made to be creative, to think and solve problems, then relax and recover. If you are often or presently wondering why you feel off, maybe even depressed, without enthusiasm, chronically fatigued, unmotivated, and searching for a blank space in your day-planner—you must discover the lost art of rest.

First let’s clear away any unfinished business that may keep us from being able to rest. I personally have had to work at this. So much of my over-committing and my inability to say “no” was wrapped up in my lack of self-confidence and self-esteem, and my need for approval and to be liked. Fortunately I have learned through some painful experiences that I truly did not fare any better for stress it caused. I am learning how my own approval that I derive for committing to things that I can and want to do is the very best thing I can do for my self-esteem and confidence. When I am honest and authentic with my commitments, I perform with more zeal and enthusiasm and experience a far better outcome. I fully enjoy the same experience of self-approval and inner strength when I consciously commit to saying “no” and instead use the time to just “be.”

To consciously create periodic “down time” and just be—before you are sick and burned out—is an art and a trust walk. To give yourself scheduled rest, nurture time and space to just relax in one of the most powerful gifts we can ever give ourselves. The people who are the outstanding performers in business, athletics, any endeavors are the ones who know and honor this principle of “periodization” in their lives. Periodization is actively establishing time in your daily life to recover, to recuperate, to allow for healing, rest, and non-performing. If you fear the thought of “down time,” understand this: studies show how the art of incorporating periodization is paramount in performance. Begin by asking yourself in what areas am I doing things that are not necessary, that I truly don’t enjoy and make me feel compromised. Let go of the things you can. If there are people who are not supportive of your best, people who are untrustworthy, energy vampires, gossips, etc. Cancel your plans and spend the time alone being kind to yourself.

Give yourself the permission to nap. Nap? Yes, nap!  Put your guard down. Take off your shoes and close your eyes. Allow yourself to drift off. Research has continually supported the therapeutic benefits of napping. You can even schedule naps into your daily plan. Taking a nap can benefit your evening sleep patterns. Give yourself a day each week to sleep in. Stay in your pajamas if you wish to all day. Take a bath with candles on the tub in the middle of the day. Buy some watercolors and paint for the sake of painting. Hang your art on the refrigerator. I am encouraging you to get out of your usual routine – to bring in some freshness to your life.

A powerful way to loosen the grip of stress from our lives is to go on a media fast. Avoid television, newspapers, sitcoms, for a day, a week, of longer!  Keep your house quiet from technology and noise for a while. Go for a walk in nature with no destination in mind. Bring a picnic and sit in the grass. Does this sound like scary stuff? You may have to face yourself in this, and perhaps learn to stay with yourself and discover who you are, what you love, and give yourself to this love. Rest is a prescription that initially may be tough to swallow. It also has many side effects—joy, ease, peace, and rejuvenation.

IMG_7034e-5About: Dr. James Rouse is a naturopathic doctor and expert in functional and lifestyle medicine. An author of nine books, host and founder of Optimum Wellness Media, and Ironman triathlete, James has coached Fortune 50 and 500 companies, MLB and NFL teams, several branches of US Government and consults for companies including BackJoy, SKOOP and Kroger Grocery. He has shared his message to audiences in the US, Europe and Asia.