Your brain and body need rest.
Plus, a Thanksgiving leftover breakfast sandwich!
I just finished up what felt like the busiest season of my life. I took on a lot of rewarding work which gave me even more connections for my business, but I ended it feeling utterly exhausted. Thankfully, the end of that busy season was met with a week up in the Adirondacks, where I escaped with some friends for the entire Thanksgiving week. And when I finally slowed down to enjoy some much-needed rest, I could already feel the immense difference in my health.
I’ve written about the importance of taking breaks a few times—how Italians prioritize breaks every single afternoon, and how our world is obsessed with hustle culture. And yet, despite the fact that I have already dived into the topic and I know that it’s good to take breaks, I still have yet to learn the lesson myself.
Of course, while taking a break is beneficial for our health—such as going for a walk or getting some other kind of movement in, or grabbing a coffee with a friend—getting rest is a completely different story. And it shouldn’t just be reserved for sleeping at the end of the day.
So, as a small reminder to myself—and anyone else afraid to enter what is likely known as the busiest season of the year—I think it would be beneficial to look at the science behind why rest is key for our health.
How diet culture warped the idea of “rest”
In the past, I’ve done workout programs that promote going hard every single day of the week. They have you go through intense workout sessions each day, and when it’s time for a “rest” day, it’s still active recovery—maybe yoga or a pilates class or something.
So of course, when my body was screaming for a full-on day of rest, I felt like I was failing in some way. That I was weak for needing a day of rest without any kind of workout…which, of course, spiraled into feelings of guilt, shame, and paranoia. If I don’t work out, will the program even work? Does it make me unhealthy? Am I giving up?
And don’t even get me started on programs that promote “refeed” days with rest days, where you can just eat more carbs…such a load of sh**.
Your recovery day doesn’t have to be active. Sure, while some health professionals will say that light exercises and stretching can be beneficial for promoting blood flow and tissue repair, that doesn’t mean you should push yourself to work out every day. Having a full-on rest day where you just relax on the couch and read, journal, knit, meditate, even nap, is actually good for you. It’s known as passive recovery.
Passive recovery is good for muscles, which is needed after any type of workout. The body needs 24 hours of recovery time after a light workout, and up to two to three days of recovery from an intense workout. Straining the muscles to keep going can increase your risk of injury.
Sleep is also another key form of rest. If you’re sleep deprived, you cause issues with your body’s ability to manage blood pressure, insulin, and a healthy immune system, increasing your risk of a myriad of diseases. Plus, the numerous ways it benefits mental health like cognitive performance, memory, and mood.
Why relaxation is just as important as sleep
It’s no surprise that sleep benefits your health. But rest is also a key factor in giving your mental and physical health a fighting chance.
According to Mental Health America (MHA), deep relaxation—like meditation—helps with relieving stress and anxiety while also improving your mood. Physically, it can also decrease blood pressure, relieve pain, and improve your immune and cardiovascular health.
The MHA also points out that incorporating things that bring you joy can even benefit your health; the act of laughing can decrease pain, helps your heart and lungs, promotes muscle relaxation, and reduces anxiety.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that certain types of rest aren’t known to be as relaxing—like stress-inducing television shows or movies, video games, or surfing the web. Doom scrolling on Twitter would absolutely fit into this category.
These types of activities can promote long-term stress, which is what we’re trying to avoid by incorporating more rest into our lives. Long-term stress has been linked to health issues such as chest pain, headaches, digestion problems, anxiety, depression, changes in sexual desire, the inability to focus, and much more.
Quoted in a UW School of Medicine article, Samantha Artherholt, a psychologist and clinical associate professor in the UW School of Medicine Department of Rehabilitation, says stepping away from an overstimulating activity gives your brain peace of mind and calms your central nervous system, returning it back to a “baseline state” instead of keeping it in that fight or flight mode from daily stress.
A direct quote from the article: “Allowing yourself downtime with minimal stimuli helps replenish your brain’s capacity for attention, focus, and creativity, and it allows you to process new information you’ve learned and tie it to other ideas.”
So today, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, keep resting. Maybe go for a walk, but you don’t have to. Give your brain and body the break it needs, and allow yourself to do that calming activity you love.
grab a fork!
I’m a major fan of finding creative ways to use up your Thanksgiving leftovers, so I thought I could share with you a Thanksgiving Leftover Breakfast Sandwich that you can whip up this weekend.
1 roll (2”- 3” diameter)
1/4 cup cooked turkey
2-3 apple slices
Sprinkle cheddar or mozzarella cheese
Butter, for cooking
Toast the roll in the oven or toaster.
In a small skillet, melt some butter.
Crack the egg into the melted butter and cook until the white edges are set.
Flip the egg and press down the spatula into the yolk to break it. Sprinkle the cheese on top of the egg to melt while it cooks. After 2-3 minutes, remove the egg from the heat.
On the toasted bun, spread cranberry sauce, then add the turkey, the cheesy egg, then the apple slices. Close up the bun and gobble up!