I am one of those people who push through in work and in life, and I also have a hard time to allow rest. Don’t get me wrong, I love to rest (really love to rest!), but I am a slave under our society’s expectations of high productivity and learnt behaviors. I often feel I don’t do enough. Partly it is also an effect of running my own business; there is always something to do, and most times no one else to do it.
As you might know, I am one of those students-for-life in psychology, self development, and physical health. A few weeks ago I attended a seminar on burnout and heard of something called ultradian rhythms. It’s a series of natural and biological rhythms in our bodies. I had heard about the 24 hours long circadian rhythm before, which regulates our sleep and awake states, but not about the ultradian.
Nathaniel Kleitman coined it after having studied sleep, rest and activity cycles. The ultradian rhythm is a shorter biological process than the circadian and was first measured during REM sleep. The cycle is repeated over and over again during the 24 hour interval of the circadian rhythm. Basically, it is an activity process that starts, peaks and declines during a 80 minutes to 120 minutes intervals (varies from person to person). Towards each cycle’s end the body needs 20 minutes to slow down and flush the system from stress created during this interval. This is not only true for the sleep cycle, but for all our activity cycles. Fascinating, isn’t it?
Have you ever worked and noticed you were feeling tired, foggy, unfocused or getting restless? That is our biological system (the ultradian rhythm) telling us to let go of the stress created to not overheat our system. Basically, we need a proper break to serve the system. If we don’t, we will see effects on our health, brain fog, tiredness, hormonal disruption, decreased immune system, illnesses etc. Our body’s response to our activity, say if you get tired, calls for rest. If you get restless, it tells you to get moving. It’s so darn simple, yet to many of us, who have grown accustomed to the society’s call for productivity, have stopped to listen to it.
Do you usually act on your body’s signals right away? Well done if you do! If you don’t, it might be a good investment to start!
What I have done for the past few weeks, which is the simplest yet the most difficult thing (since it goes against the productivity values in our society) is to listen to my body’s signal and act on them instantly. And to not push through. It’s not easy to break old habits, it’s a daily struggle, but for every time I do it I am better for it.
If you want to read more about circadian and ultradian rhythms, here are a few links to start:
Link to circadian rhythm: https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/fact-sheets/Pages/circadian-rhythms.aspx
Links to Basic rest-activity cycle and ultradian rhythm: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_rest–activity_cycle https://www.bluezones.com/2020/06/how-taking-breaks-can-increase-productivity-boost-energy-levels-and-help-you-show-up-in-your-life/