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The image is relaxing. It is so clear in our minds, walking on the beach in the early morning, watching the sunrise on the Atlantic Ocean. The breeze is blowing gently from the east, providing an aroma of fresh sea salt air. The tide is out and wet sand is exposed, which makes it easy to walk at the water line as the waves come crashing onto the beach.
Whether this is an image in the mind or an actual opportunity to be on the beach, it is an effective method of rejuvenation. Many adults do not pay attention to significant recovery strategies which will help them be healthier and more productive.
Americans do an inadequate job of balancing high pressure performance at work and home with the need to let the body and mind rejuvenate and be refreshed. The consequences of ignoring the balancing challenge can have significant negative consequences.
Without adequate recovery, an individual is much more susceptible to injury and illness. Without enough sleep the body does not work as well nor does the mind stay sharp. It is safe to say the body and mind likely are to suffer in terms of health and performance when recovery strategies are not built into everyday routines.
There are two strategies to highlight that can make a huge difference in performance and health.
The first actually is to take a vacation or break from daily routines. It does not matter if the trip is to an ocean, the mountains, a lake or someplace just different from where you normally live. The break in scenery is important. It allows you to change the priorities of your life. Answering a cellphone, writing emails and responding to job demands can go away while on a vacation. In order to benefit from these opportunities, however, limit access to cellphones and email.
Those who have a hard time not answering their cellphones while on vacation might even choose to go to a place where it does not work and there is no Internet service. For some it takes a full 48 hours without electronic contact before they feel totally free from the pressures of these electronic leashes. This type of break can help counter burnout and help the individual feel more refreshed when returning to the work environment.
Because we can’t go on vacation every other week, we need to figure out other strategies to connect to these feelings of relief and relaxation.
Using imagery skills may be very helpful to access these relaxation feelings without making the trip. The easiest way to mentally access an escape zone is to write down the sensory components of it. Bullet points may be used on a piece of paper to connect to these kinesthetic features of the escape zone: what you see, what you hear, what you taste, what you smell and what you can physically touch. Once this relaxation place is in written form, it is easier for the mind to go there and enjoy its sensory components.
One method that works very well is to find a quiet place where you will not be disturbed. Close your eyes, take deep breaths, focusing on the exhale. Then let yourself be immersed in this escape zone. For most, five minutes is enough time to let go of stress and start to feel the body and mind relax. This exercise is great if it can be done at least once a day. It will help the individual know they are in control of their stress level because they have created and executed a strategy to contain the negative stressors of their life.
This summer is a great time to start the discipline of creating recovery strategies in your life. Whether you go to the beach physically or only in your mind, the health and performance benefits can be significant.
Dr. Wilson is the owner of The Wilson Center for Performance with offices in Radcliff and Louisville. He can be reached at TheWilsonCenter7@aol.com.