All work. No Zen?
We’re becoming better educated at finding ways to cope with life’s pressures… So why then are most of us still feeling burnt out?
– Leading life coach, Fiona Wainrit explores this issue.
For starters, the reality is that most of us seem to rush from place to place, worrying about that next appointment, or meeting, without taking time out to stop and get grounded. The downside is living what the Buddhists refer to as a “yang” lifestyle, catches up with you eventually and many fall into the ‘crash and burn’ cycle.
When it comes to resting, a big factor for many is a guilt associated with doing ‘nothing’. These people struggle to come home from work and just chill out, with lingering thoughts they should constantly be doing something more ‘productive’. Here’s a quick tip to counteract this habit:
- Start practicing doing nothing every now and then. For example, try committing to an organised form of ‘nothing’, such as yoga, pilates, walking or meditation. By regularly practicing these “ying” activities, allowing yourself to slow down, you will function optimally when you do need to respond to life’s demands.
- Become more attuned with your body and when it needs to rest. Listening to your body and responding accordingly, will decrease your cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress-causing hormone, which plays a key role in regulating blood sugar levels, energy production, inflammation, the immune system and healing in the body.
Numerous studies have proven that by choosing these activities at the right time, the long-term benefits can include reducing the body’s ability to hold onto excess weight. On the flipside, if your adrenal glands are producing too much cortisol, you may develop conditions such as weight gain (especially around the abdomen), depressed immune function, accelerated aging and stomach ulcers.
Since stress increases cortisol, instead of doing hours of pointless cardio and strenuous activities, a different approach is required. However, before you go fourth and burn your gym gear to opt for the couch and chocolates, you need to realise that like everything, it’s a matter of finding the right balance to suit your body. ie. How much cardio vascular activity you need each day versus how much down time you need. The experts recommend that we only require around 30 minutes of high intensity/ interval training a day, whilst the main focus should be on strength training, regular movement, stretching, core work and breathing properly.
So in short, too much exercise + over-exertion = increased cortisol levels Þ weight gain.
This may explain why yogis have such great physiques; because they have mastered the act of calming the mind with the right balance of physical activity designed to stretch and strengthen the muscles, without putting too much pressure on the system (or increasing cortisol levels). They also suffer fewer stress-related health conditions and tend to have longer life spans.
The good news is, you don’t need to be a Buddhist monk, or live in the Himalayas to achieve greater mind/body awareness. There are so many different practices on offer ready for you to sample and find the one (s) that work best for you. The key is to discover a few activities you enjoy, so you can mix it up and have some fun with it. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and get some Zen back in your life!
 Source: http://www.advance-health.com/cortisol.html