The difference between Rest Vs Relaxation and why both are equally important
Rest and relaxation are commonly used interchangeably. But what do they really mean? Is rest really relaxation?
In today’s fast paced world, we are constantly on the go, striving for continual improvement and greatness. We are not allowed to take things slowly, feel tired, or take a break. Despite such a lifestyle providing us with certain achievements at home or work, in the long term, this is not sustainable and can lead to burn out. Our mind and bodies are the only ones we’ve got, and they support us as much as they are able to, no matter what we subject them to. However, if we do not pay attention to our minds and bodies and deny ourselves of rest and relaxation, we can find ourselves getting sick and deteriorating both physically and mentally.
Rest and relaxation are both crucial to maintaining optimal functioning. But what do rest and relaxation really refer to? And aren’t they the same thing?
Rest is defined as an instance of resting, where work or movement is ceased in order to sleep, or recover strength. We rest when we are tired and when we go to sleep at night. Sleep and rest refresh your mind and repairs your body. Most adults require between 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Without sufficient sleep, our bodies suffer a variety of physical and psychological impacts, including:
While we are asleep, our brain sorts and stores information we have gathered during the day. Without sufficient sleep, this process can be cut short, resulting in a ‘misfiling’ of our thoughts and memories.
Poor concentration and impaired judgement
Sleep is crucial in thinking and learning. A lack of sleep negatively impacts on our ability to concentrate, reason, and problem solve. We also become excessively sleepy during the day which further impacts on our cognitive performance. Sleepiness can slow reaction times as much as alcohol can. With impaired concentration, judgement, and sleepiness, poor sleep can therefore also result in the increased likelihood of accidents occurring while driving or at work.
Lowered stress threshold
When we feel tired, routine activities can start to feel like overwhelming tasks. We are also more easily irritated or upset. Additionally, when we are tired, our pain sensitivity also increases!
Reduced sociability and optimism
Tired people find it harder to participate in certain activities that require sustained attention, like watching movies or a television show. Lack of sleep also leads to decreases in libido, and makes us less sociable and less friendly. Reduced optimism and sociability increases our vulnerability to developing symptoms of depression.
Changes in vital signs and tissue repair
Sleep deprivation can result in changes in our vital signs, like body temperature, breathing and heart rate, and blood pressure. These changes can result in the increased risk for the development of high blood pressure or heart disease. A lack of sleep can also result in the premature aging of skin (think lacklustre skin, dark circles, and fine lines) due to the release of excess levels of cortisol (stress hormone), which breaks down the protein that maintains the smoothness and elasticity of skin. Additionally, the lack of deep sleep impacts the secretion of growth hormones. Growth hormones are secreted during slow-wave sleep; when sleep is disrupted, the amount of growth hormones released is compromised and this can impact on children growing to their full potential and normal tissue repair.
Chronic sleep deprivation can also negatively impact our metabolism and undermine our immune system, resulting in weight gain and an increased risk for illnesses. Additionally sleep loss stimulates appetite and cravings for high-fat and high-carbohydrate foods.
Relaxation is the act of relaxing, and can be defined as the release of tension and the refreshment of the mind or body. Relaxation differs from rest, in that relaxation is our mind’s way of rejuvenating, and can assist in reducing the arousal we experience from stress and/or anxiety. This means that while rest occurs while we are asleep, relaxation occurs while we are awake, and involves us engaging in activities that we enjoy. Relaxing has been shown to improve our mood and cognitive functioning, like decision making and memory, and lowers the risk for depression, anxiety, and other heart-related issues. Additionally, when we relax, we boost our immunity and this can sometimes curb our desire of sugary fatty treats! Relaxation also improves our ability to cope with adversity, and helps to improve our quality of sleep!
Rest and relaxation work hand in hand; one is not mutually exclusive from the other. Therefore, it is important that we invest time in both rest and relaxation, in order to optimise our mental and physical health. Make sleep and down-time a priority, particularly when you have had a stressful day both mentally and physically. Do not be afraid to listen to your body and take time out for yourself. Remember: In order to give your best, you have to be at your best. If you do not look after yourself, who is going to do that for you?
If you are experiencing difficulties engaging in rest and relaxation, or find yourself stressed or burnt out, why not give us a call today? Our team of highly skilled and well-experienced psychologists have a variety of highly effective strategies available that can help in managing stress, difficulties sleeping, or engaging in relaxation. If you would like further information, call/email one of our friendly Client Relationship Team Members (i.e. receptionists) and they will be happy to answer any questions you might have. Alternatively, you can visit us at The Psych Professionals.
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