“Fatigue is not your enemy. Don’t fight it. Let it call you to breath, to rest, to release. You’ve done enough. You are enough.”
~ Dr. Thema Bryant
Fatigue and Autoimmune Disease
No matter the diagnosis, fatigue is a common symptom of autoimmune disease. Many of us try to ignore that feeling and “push through” because we all have things we want to accomplish in our days. We might also fear that if we stop to rest, we’ll never be able to get moving again. However, rest isn’t optional. If we never take a break, our bodies will take that decision out of our hands in the form of illness or an autoimmune flare. In this article, I share 10 simple ways to rest. Even small breaks can be rejuvenating and restorative, supporting our health not just in the moment, but also long-term. Choose one of these as a gift to yourself today.
1. Take a break from the internet
In the modern world, we can feel overwhelmed from the minute we wake up to the minute we go to sleep. We’re not just influenced by what’s happening in our immediate lives; we’re connected to events globally. Our brains weren’t designed for this, and it can be exhausting. One of the most relaxing things you can do is put your smartphone in a drawer, walk away from your computer, and take 15 minutes of internet-free time (or longer if you like). Combine it with some of the other ideas in this article or choose whatever internet-free activity feels the most joyful and relaxing to you.
2. Go outside
Most people in the United States spend 90% of their time indoors, and it’s very confusing for our bodies. We have an internal clock that’s meant to be set by the day/night cycle outside, and it regulates everything from sleep and wakefulness to hormone balance and immune system health. Going outside helps reset your body. Not only that, but indoor air pollution can be 2 to 5 times higher than outdoor air pollution. Sometimes fatigue is simply a need for fresh air. One of my favorite things to do is step outside and tune into my senses. For a moment in time, my mind empties and I’m fully immersed in the present moment. It’s a beautiful and refreshing feeling.
3. Move your body
Often when we think of rest, we think of stillness…and indeed that type of rest can be very beneficial. But if you spend your days at a computer where you sit most of the time, one of the greatest gifts you can give your body is to move. Go for a walk, do some gentle stretching, or take a dance break. The goal isn’t to “work out”. The goal is to move your body in a way that feels good, and allow yourself to experience the physical and mental health benefits of “active rest”.
4. Snuggle with a person or a pet
Many of us are touch-deprived. Some may live alone. Others share homes with others, yet touch may not be prioritized in daily life. Often, we spend more time looking at screens than at each other, focused on our to-do list instead of our relationships. It’s not intentional. It’s what can happen when we aren’t paying attention. While the internet has connected us globally, it often comes at a cost of disconnection at home. I’ve been married over 25 years, and one of the best things we did for a marriage was start having daily “snuggle time”. We take 15 minutes to hold each other. Sometimes we talk; other times we snuggle in silence. That physical connection strengthened our emotional connection in a way that still surprises us. It’s a favorite moment in our day. If you don’t have a person to snuggle with, pets are powerful companions and snuggle champions.
5. Seek solitude
It’s absolutely true that connection with others can be restorative, but sometimes we need to reconnect with ourselves. Are you someone who takes care of countless people every day, both at work and at home? Do you meet everyone else’s needs before considering your own? Are you an introvert whose battery is recharged by solitude? If you answered yes to any of these questions, give yourself a solitude break today. You deserve it…not just today, but every day.
6. Listen to music
Most of you know that I host a podcast, so it probably doesn’t surprise you that I love listening to podcasts as well. Podcasts bring joy to my life, but like all technology, it comes at a cost. I don’t listen to music as much as I did before, and that means I’m missing out! Music has special benefits for our body and brain. Music releases dopamine (the feel-good hormone), shifting our mood in a positive direction. It builds new neural pathways which can improve brain health. And music can both relax and energize, making it a perfect companion for your next rest break.
7. Choose silence
Just as music has benefits, so does its opposite: silence. In fact, there was a scientific study which tried to determine what sounds were the most relaxing, and they used silence as a neutral “control” to compare the positive or negative effects of other sounds. The scientists discovered something they didn’t expect. Silence was the most soothing. If you are a highly sensitive person prone to sensory overload, this might be especially true for you. To be clear, this doesn’t mean music is “bad” and silence is “good”. It’s simply an encouragement to try both, and see which your body likes best (and that might change from day to day).
8. Take something off your to-do list
The pressure of an unending to-do list can be exhausting in itself. It can make us tired just thinking about it. Today, I invite you to remove something from your list…permanently. There are two ways to go about doing this. A lot of us have things on our lists that actually don’t need to be done. Maybe you have a perfectionist streak. (If you do, I can relate.) Releasing ourselves from an impossible standard can be a huge relief. There also may be things on your list that do need to be done, but not necessarily by you. That can be freeing to realize as well. Can you ask for help? Can you delegative it to someone else?
9. Make time for joy
Is joy part of your daily life, or is it something at the bottom of your priority list that you rarely get to experience? We need to stop thinking of joy as optional. One of my favorite functional medicine practitioners gives every patient a prescription for joy. He literally writes it down. That’s because joy has health benefits, and it’s a wonderful antidote to fatigue. What brings you joy? Make time for that today.
10. Lie down
When we talk about rest, this is the first image that comes to mind. I saved it for last because I wanted to explore other ways to rest as well. But lying down is indeed good medicine. It’s not always available to us if we’re not at home, but if you are at home, take advantage of it! Often we spend our downtime at home scrolling our phones or watching TV. There’s nothing wrong with those activities, but they’re not the same as rest. TV and the internet keep our brains engaged, and fatigue isn’t just physical. Our brains get tired too. Lying down and closing your eyes allows you to fully rest. One option is to take a 20 minute “power nap” which has proven health benefits. However, if you’re someone who feels more tired after a nap (the opposite of your goal), try lying down to rest without sleeping. The simple act of lying down activates the parasympathetic nervous system and calms our stress response which is excellent for autoimmune health. You can also experiment with some yoga poses that involve lying down, including Savasana (with variations), and Viparita Karani (legs up the wall pose).
You May Also Be Interested In
Credit: image at top of page purchased from iStock.