THE SUNDAY RELAX
Updated: May 2, 2020
Resting on a Sunday may be more important for your physical and mental wellbeing than you may think. From immune health to creativity, having a rest day among the hectic schedule of your week should be a vital component of your wellbeing regimen.
Ideally spent brunching, doing laundry, or watching Netflix... Sunday's are typically the favoured day of the week. Setting time aside to relax and rejuvenate is something that doesn't come easily in these days, nevertheless, it's importance for your health continues to stand!
To give you a better understanding of the significance that a rest day can have on your health, this list will delve into 5 pivotal reasons taking time out is as important as every other aspect of your wellness routine.
1. Allows you to stress-less
The first (and likely most obvious) reason is that having a day off will allow you to reduce your stress levels significantly. Other than the ramifications that high stress levels can have on your mental health, elevated cortisol levels can affect every aspect of your physical functioning more than you know. Chronic stress is directly linked with low-grade inflammation, and further than this, studies show that low-grade inflammation is a common denominator between major modern diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
When living in stress becomes the norm, understanding the abnormalities of these feelings can become difficult to identify. Contrary to what the western world seems to think, being highly strung all the time is far from normal for our bodies. Historically, our in built sympathetic (fight or flight) and parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous systems were made for very specific aspects of life.
Put simply, 'fight or flight mode' is the autonomic nervous system that has kept the human race alive throughout time. Helping cavemen to fight off wild animals, run from predators, and protect themselves from any external harm, these times of high stress let the body focus on preserving life only. For example, digestion slows, nutrients are released for use by the muscles, and blood pressure raises dramatically.
Now, although we are no longer spending our time running from giant man eating bears (or at least I hope so), these genetic predispositions are still engrained in us today. This mean that sitting at your desk for 7 hours straight feeling stressed out from a work project that's due, has the same affect on our body that it did all those years ago. Even though you may be eating, you are likely not absorbing many of the nutrients present within the meal at all! As well as this, your blood pressure and general low-grade inflammation will impact your body significantly, setting you up for future complications.
It is important to remember that the body was not built to be in the sympathetic nervous system for long periods of time. It is equally (if not more) important to return to the parasympathetic nervous system as often as possible, allowing your body to 'rest and digest' as the name would have it.
So how can you get into the parasympathetic nervous system you may be wondering?
While there is unfortunately no 'on' and 'off' button you can easily switch to get between the two, this is where your trusted Sunday relax comes in! Having a day where you are switched off from as many stressful situations as you can will allow you to give your body the TLC it needs.
Read a book, walk with your shoes off in nature, spend time with people you love, or do a yoga session in the comfort of your room! Merely doing the things that bring you a sense of calm, will set you up for a healthier self and happier self.
2. Increases your immunity
When you are living in a state of chronic stress, your immune function becomes compromised. There have many studies over the past 30 years particularly, looking at the effect of psychological stress on the immune system. All have concluded that the link between the two is indubitable.
Not only is the optimal function of your immune system important for acute illnesses such as the common cold and flu in winter, it is of course also designed to fight against long term diseases as well.
Although it may seem insignificant at the time, giving yourself a day to rest each week is as imperative to your longevity and immune health as eating capsicum for Vitamin C, or following an exercise routine! Don't underestimate it.
3. Adds years to your life
More recently, studies are beginning to show that excessive chronic-stress in your life can actually shorten your lifespan. The way the body ages biologically is somewhat modulated by the different short and long term stressors it encounters on a daily basis.
With all the millions of creams, tablets, and injections available out there that are aimed at simulating an anti-ageing affect on the human body, perhaps a simple day of R&R is the only answer you need? Either way, this is something that you wouldn't regret taking a chance on.
4. Helps you find your creativity
Whether you're naturally the creative type or not, it has been shown that expressing acts of creativity frequently can actually improve your overall health and longevity. It is known that any act of expression can be classed as a creation of some sort.
Individuals who are creative are therefore more likely to let out emotions, thoughts, and stressors in their lives. Studies have indicated the potential effect of creativity on lowering the risk of mortality (believe it or not!)
Taking time for yourself is proven to increase your creativity. So whether you love to draw, paint, or rearrange your house in every which way, incorporating some relaxing acts of creation into your Sunday will allow you to reap the benefits of this pleasant pass time!
5. Improves productivity and focus
This one is generally a given, as you I'm sure you all know how rejuvenated you feel after a day off! That's because switching your mind between different activities improves its ability to perform the specific task at hand. When you spend too much time on the same thing (e.g. 8 hours sitting at your desk at work), you become seemingly less productive.
If you are constantly thinking about work or other life stressors day-in, day-out, chances are you are not performing at your best! If you allow yourself one complete day to not think about something that takes up majority of your brain capacity during the week (i.e. school and work!), you will be able to get the most out of the days and hours where your attention is really needed.
For a complete Sunday switch-off, try turning off your phone, or not checking your emails, as these are not allowing you the break you need. I think that one of the best little slogans to have in your head on a Sunday when it comes to work stressors in particular is this...
"If it's not imperative, don't do it!"
I think that in this modern world it can be easy to get caught up in the drama of everything. Phrases like "I have to send that email!" or "I need to finish this project today" tend to float around and coerce us into taking time out of our personal weekend to finish off tasks that in reality, can probably wait! Now I'm not saying that "trying" at work or school isn't important, because it is, of course! But this isn't about putting in effort, this is about knowing your boundaries. Society has built these man-made stressors to the point that we can't see through what is necessary and what is not! Take a step back and ask yourself, will the world as we know it collapse if I don't do this today (on my Sunday!)??... because I guarantee that 99.9999999% of the time, it won't!!
So whether you are reading this or not on a Sunday, please use this as just 5 little take-home reminders of why having a day off is more important than you really may think. Although not as idolised as superfoods, or thought of in such importance as medicine, having a day of relaxation is among one of the most vital components for optimising your health! Don't underestimate it.
Association between low-grade inflammation and Breast cancer and B-cell Myeloma and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma: findings from two prospective cohorts. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-29041-1
Neurogenic Bladder. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/453539-overview#a2
Functions of the Autonomic Nervous System. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-ap/chapter/functions-of-the-autonomic-nervous-system/
Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361287/
Stress Biology and Aging Mechanisms: Toward Understanding the Deep Connection Between Adaptation to Stress and Longevity. https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/69/Suppl_1/S10/586943#9524790
Creativity Predicts a Longer Life. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/open-mind-longer-life/