Life isn’t a straight line – it is ebbs and flows, it is peaks and valleys. It’s the natural energy of life all around us as the tide flows in and out. In order to manage our high performance and delivery in the stress of our energy peaks, we have to dip down to recover. And come back better. For too long, too many of us have been red-lining through life, running at maximum speed, stress and capacity and being always on. If you do that constantly to a car, day in and day, without changing gear, the engine will burn out or overheat. Why are we surprised when the same happens to us?
We cannot wait for a holiday, which often feels like a mythical oasis in the desert – a mirage on the horizon, always too far away. A consistent sleep routine is essential to help our bodies rest and regenerate overnight, but how we spend the other 16 hours of our day sets us up for success in how we manage our energy throughout the day. Intermittent resting is the practice of creating deliberate pockets of rest throughout the day. In these intentional pauses for potency in our every day, we allow our bodies to flow with the energy peaks and troughs rather than forcing an unsustainable level of energy that normally leads to an energy crash at the end of the day as we collapse on the couch. We use our energy much more effectively with micro-breaks or periods of rest during the day. We attune to the natural rhythms of life and honour our circadian rhythm (that controls our 24-hour sleep-wake cycle), as well as our ultradian rhythm, being the cycles that the systems in your body move through during the waking day. These cycles run on repeat throughout the day and we should ideally rest for 20 minutes for every 90 minutes of work.
That is the ideal cycle, although life isn’t textbook perfect, so leverage the momentum of your individual, natural energy flow and understand where your energy ebbs and flows during the day. 5 am is my golden hour, but please don’t ask me complex questions after 6 pm. That is when my body winds down with a full stop at the end of my day as I exhale and prepare for sleep. But it is different for everyone, so tune in and find a flow of energy throughout the day that works for you.
Ride your energy peaks and listen to what your body needs in the dips. Build in micro-breaks within your day to breathe deeply, step outside or go for a walk rather than reaching for another caffeine or sugar hit to force your energy levels to be always on.
Be the architect of your day and schedule these pauses in your diary to hold space for yourself, your energy and your wellness. Predictability and routine create a sense of safety in our bodies, sensing that wellness is not an optional extra. Even taking 5 to 10 minutes for every 60 to 90 minutes in your day delivers exponential energy returns. Shift your energy in the pauses by doing something that brings you joy without worrying about the outcome. Play is one of our most powerful tools. When we change tack and do something that doesn’t feel like work, we create limbic spaces that bring our unconscious thoughts into the conscious. This allows us to be more creative, innovative, and we often solve problems we have been struggling with in these times.
When we rush from one thing to the next, multi-tasking and diluting our energy, we often don’t slow down to understand what we actually intuitively need to support ourselves as we are disconnected from the natural energy cycles in our bodies. We need to become more present in the moments of our days by taking a few deep breaths to centre ourselves. In these moments, engage all of your 5 senses to really embrace the pockets of rest, tuning into what you can feel, see, touch, taste and hear. Ask yourself what you really need to support yourself rather than what task you need to do next. Trust that your to-do list has everything you need to do covered while you rest, as rushing through our days creates a stress response within our bodies. Stressors don’t even need to happen for a stress response within our bodies and nervous systems, as our thoughts and energy alone can trigger it. Pauses become an integral tool to step out of our stress responses, and they are all small yet significant shifts that build a foundation for our energy and resilience daily. It’s time to reframe pauses as potent and productive.
Nicky Rowbotham is the author of Steps to Finding Flow – Flip the Script on Stress and Embrace Your Elegant Power – Your Path to Success with Ease, available in all good book stores, Amazon, Kindle, most audio formats and at nickyrowbotham.com.