Let’s be honest, most people overlook the importance of relaxation and recovery. I’ve definitely been guilty of this myself and I find it can sometimes feel unproductive to just chill out. I’m sure you can relate to this. But hopefully you’re aware of the paradox in this way of thinking.
Adequate rest/recovery allows us to perform better, and wearing the fact that you’re burnt out, overtired and overworked as a badge of honour is archaic. Not to mention, by claiming to be totally exhausted you’re essentially admitting to the fact that, were you better rested, you could be doing even better at whatever it is you’re currently working on; be it a project at work, an exercise session, or just a social encounter. Of course, there will be times in life when you can, and probably should, push yourself to the redline. But if that redline is your ‘normal’ then you’ve got a major problem.
The difficult part about addressing inadequate rest and recovery is that it’s hard to show yourself (and others) how much you’re being affected by fatigue. You can’t just rewind the clock and see how much better you could have done something if you had been rested. The only thing you can do is start implementing better recovery techniques into your life and notice the impact it has on your performance in the future.
The key thing to keep in mind here is that there are better and worse ways to recover, both physically and mentally. These are some things that I’ve used myself and with clients to recover and de-stress more effectively:
- Self Massage: The best parts about self-massage are that it’s very accessible and much cheaper than a real massage. There are lots of different tools that you can use for self massage: Foam rollers, tennis balls, lacrosse balls, myofascial trigger balls, golf balls, massage suction cups and rolling sticks to name a few. I always have fun experimenting with different tools and seeing what works best for me. Be creative and develop your very own self-massage routine.
- Deep Tissue Massage: Few things in life are better than a professional massage. Self-massage is great, but if getting a real massage once or twice every couple weeks is an option for you, your body and mind will thank you immensely.
- Yin Yoga: Yin yoga is essentially deep stretching with a focus on staying with the breath and being present for whatever comes up for you. Take a class, watch a Yin video, or do it on your own.
- Hemp CBD Oil: My 2 favourite ways to use CBD oil are: ingesting it sublingually so that my body feels extremely relaxed, and applying it to my temples to relax the muscles in my face. When applying CBD oil to my temples I use it in the form of a headache rub called “Headache Be Gone.” Don’t worry, even if you don’t have a headache this stuff is incredibly therapeutic with a blend of peppermint, CBD, Eucalyptus, Rosemary and Jojoba oils.
- Relaxing Teas: Winding down at the end of a long day or just strategically relaxing during the day is easy if you drink the right tea. I prefer Ginger/Turmeric tea for it’s inflammation reducing and immune system boosting effects, Chaga tea for it’s antioxidants and calm, focused effects and Valerian tea to help me get to bed at night.
- Guided Relaxation Meditations: If I’m having trouble sleeping I can always count on a guided relaxation meditation to help me get to sleep. My favourites come from The Honest Guys on YouTube. They have a lot of good ones, but I really enjoy The Lord of The Rings series (I know, I’m a nerd and I embrace it).
- Marijuana: Smoking, ingesting or vaporizing a good strand of indica is a nice way to chill out if you’re really having difficulty relaxing and you need some added, surefire assistance.
- Read Fiction Books: If you ever want to escape and get out of your head, reading fiction is a really good idea. I much prefer non-fiction books, but when it comes to relaxing I find non-fiction helps me relax more. My favourites are The Hobbit, The Giver, The Road, The Alchemist, Aleph, Lord of The Rings and anything by John Grisham or Michael Connelly.
- Night-Time Rituals: Developing a consistent night-time ritual is a great way to ensure that you will get to sleep quicker and also improve your sleep quality. My ritual includes gentle stretching, nervous system relaxation drills, deep breathing, light reading, sprinkling some lavender oil on my pillow and trying my best to go to bed and wakeup at the same time everyday.
- Sauna/ Cold Exposure: Many people think that because I’m such a huge proponent of cold exposure that I naturally dislike it’s polar opposite: saunas. This is incorrect. Saunas are great for circulation, cardiovascular health, improving sleep quality, muscle relaxation, mental relaxation, flushing toxins, physical recovery, burning calories and there’s something about sitting in a puddle of your own sweat that just feels awesome. Cold exposure (ice baths, cold showers, cryotherapy and polar dips) is great for reducing inflammation, boosting your immune system, improving skin health, burning fat, boosting your mood/ energy, increasing testosterone and, surprisingly, improving sleep quality. On top of regular isolated cold and heat exposure, I like to do contrast therapy as often as I can too. After a workout I’ll take a 3-minute cold shower, followed by a 20-60 minute sauna and then finishing off with another cold shower.
- Walking: Walking is a simple yet highly effective recovery technique. It’s easy on your body, but it allows you to get yourself moving for long durations of time, so it’s a great thing to include on your rest days. Walking also allows me to clear my mind, boost my energy/mood and achieve more mental clarity.
- Float Therapy: If you’ve never tried floating, you’re missing out. Not only will your body feel more relaxed than it ever has, but in a float tank you can pretty easily lose your sense of ‘self,’ which is surprisingly calming and restorartive.
I hope that by implementing some, or all, of these techniques that you’ll be able to recover more effectively and reduce your daily stress level. Never over-estimate the importance of rest and recovery! If you’re not performing at the level you’d like to be, then take a moment and reflect on your recovery methods and you might just find you’ve got some work to do in this area.