I adore Sundays.
I used to hate them.
They used to filled with a mixture of ‘hangxiety’ and impending doom for the day/week to come.
But now, I call them my ‘Sacred Sundays’
Have you ever heard that saying ‘a Sunday well spent brings a week of content?’
I could not agree more.
Using your Sunday to prepare for the week ahead and fill your metaphorical cup – physically, mentally and emotionally is one of the best things you can do for yourself when it comes to bringing some calm and contentment to both your working and personal life.
For some, this may entail a hardcore gym session but sometimes it’s nice to change things up a bit and partake in some wholesome activities that stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest) and rejuvenate the mind, body and soul.
I have outlined below my Top 6 'Day Off' Workout activities that I have found from personal experience fill me with such joy and leave me laying my head on the pillow on a Sunday night feeling fulfilled and excited for the week ahead as opposed to staring at the clock counting down the hours till the alarm is due to go off Monday morning.
Although I call them my ‘Sacred Sundays’, these activities can of course be added to any day of the week to promote overall physical and mental well-being.
Hiking & Trekking
Being in nature does absolute wonders for your mental health. Spending quality time in the great outdoors can reduce stress, calm anxiety and can lead to a lower risk of depression.
Participants who went on a 90-min walk through a natural environment reported lower levels of rumination and showed reduced neural activity in an area of the brain linked to risk for mental illness compared with those who walked through an urban environment.
Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation
Gregory N. Bratman, Paul Hamilton, Kevin S. Hahn, Gretchen C. Daily, James J. Gross.
Being outdoors also opens up your senses to your surroundings and improves your sensory perception. Taking in the sights, smells, and feelings of nature has so many health benefits and can really increase our ability to be in the present moment. Hiking offers an amazing opportunities to experience nature while spending some quality time with friends and family.
Choose your route. The first step of a great hiking trip is choosing your trail and making sure it suits your level of fitness.
Choose the correct footwear. Footwear can make the difference between an enjoyable hike and hours of torture and pain.
Safety first. Hike with a partner, join a hiking group and always make sure to let people know of your hiking plans.
Layer up & bring sun cream. Be prepared for all weather conditions.
Bring food, water and plenty of snacks.
Yoga is a fantastic additive to an intended ‘rest day’. I do not recommend any high intensity power vinyasa classes on a rest day, but I would recommend opting for a restorative yoga class which works on a musculoskeletal level to aid in the restoration and recovery of muscle fascia.
Restorative yoga is a style of yoga that encourages physical, mental, and emotional relaxation and it is 100% suitable for all levels of practitioner. Restorative yoga is practiced at a slow pace, focusing on long holds, stillness, and deep breathing. This style of yoga “restores” the body to its parasympathetic nervous system function, which, in turn, helps the body rest, heal, and restore balance. A key feature in restorative yoga is the use of props such as blocks, bolsters, or blankets. The props help you hold passive poses for longer without exerting or tiring out your muscles. It also allows you to feel comfortable and supported, regardless of your experience with yoga.
What are the benefits of restorative yoga?
Relaxes your mind and body.
Soothes the nervous system.
Enhances your mood.
Reduces chronic pain
Gentle on your body - PERFECT for a rest day!
Works as part of an overall treatment plan for chronic health conditions.
Safe to perform during pregnancy.
Find a Yoga Studio near you and research the different classes.
If you are unsure as to what the names of the classes mean, pop into the studio and ask.
Book in for your first class and maybe take a friend with you if you don’t want to go alone.
Before your class, make sure you bring any required equipment and let the instructor know it is your first class, they will then usually ask you if you would like any adjustments throughout the class.
Relax, enjoy and prepare yourself for an incredible night’s sleep after.
‘I don’t know how to meditate’ - I hear this ALL the time. Clients/friends/family, they get so frustrated because they think they need to STOP their thoughts to meditate ‘successfully’. It is worth pointing out there isn’t just one way to meditate. There are so many ways to practice meditation and I can wholeheartedly tell you; the sole purpose does not need to be to stop your thoughts, especially when you first start to practice. We have a monkey mind that is constantly jumping from one thought to the next. There is nothing wrong with this unless you are allowing this to dictate your life and you are unaware of it. Think of ‘thoughts’ as a guest in your house that does not want to stop talking. You can’t make them stop talking but you can choose to only listen to parts of what they are saying and observe that just because they are saying something doesn’t make it true. It is about becoming aware of the fact that YOU ARE NOT YOUR THOUGHTS, you are the observer. So how do we do this? We meditate.
Sometimes the easiest way to begin is by downloading an app that guides you through daily meditations. There are so many great apps out there such as Headspace and Calm, but my personal favourite is Sam Harris’ app ‘Waking Up’.
If you do not wish to go down the app route, however, follow the steps below.
1. Take a seat and close your eyes or soften your gaze. Find place to sit that feels calm, quiet and comfortable to you. Bonus points if you can do it in nature.
2. Set a time limit. If you’re just beginning, it can help to choose a short time, such as three to five minutes and try to extend that period each week/month, etc.
3. Start to become aware of your body. Notice any pain or sensations in the body. Notice, without judgement.
4. Notice your breath. Become aware of your natural breath. The inhale, the exhale and the subtle pauses in-between.
5. Notice when your mind has wandered. Your attention will, undoubtedly waver, that is completely fine, just come back to your breath.
6. Be kind to your wandering mind. As I mentioned above, we have a monkey mind and that is bound to happen.
7. Close with kindness. When you’re ready, open your eyes and notice how you feel. I love to finish my own practice by placing my hands on my heart and thinking of three things I am grateful for.
Journaling & To-do Lists.
Most successful people plan what they need to accomplish. It has been demonstrated that having a written plan of action increases productivity.
The psychology of the to-do-list. Becher J.
I personally love a good list. I love planning things out on a Sunday. It takes so much pressure off the week ahead. I also like to journal and reflect on the week just passed. ‘What gets measured, gets managed’ and all that jazz.
I look at my calendar and take everything day-by-day.
Take out a notebook, diary, your laptop or an app. Whatever way you prefer to note things down.
Write in the big events/tasks that need to be carried out on each day, this can be work related/family related, etc.
Figure out your training schedule for the week, what days will you be training & what body part, etc. There is no point in scheduling in training days on days when you have no time.
Pop in any social occasions that you have lined up – coffee, lunch, dinners, weddings, etc. and plan your week accordingly.
Write out your shopping list and plan out your meals (especially if it is a busy week, perhaps you may decide to batch cook/bake)
I love to hit the grocery shops on a Sunday when it is nice and quiet so I can enjoy sauntering round the aisles.
What are my goals for this week? Try to focus on process goals as opposed to outcome goals.
What went well this week? Why?
What can I continue doing?
What didn’t go so well this week?
How can I improve on this?
What is one thing I can do next week that will create the biggest results in my life?
Take a Day Off Social Media
‘Smartphones make a good servant but a bad master’.
A study carried out in 2019 found a positive relationship between social anxiety, loneliness, and social media addiction and a 2018 study found a direct link between decreasing social media usage and improvements in depression and loneliness.
The Predictive Relationships between the Social Media Addiction and Social Anxiety, Loneliness, and Happiness. Önder Baltaci.
No More FOMO: Limiting Social Media Decreases Loneliness and Depression. Melissa G. Hunt, Rachel Marx, Courtney Lipson & Jordyn Young.
I personally try, as best I can, to take one day off social media each week. And by social media, I mean EVERYTHING. I use an app that clears all the apps from my phone and just leaves me with the ability to call or text someone if needed. I use an app called ‘Focus Lock’ but if you don’t fancy downloading another app in order to disconnect from the digital world in order to re-connect with the real world, then follow the steps below. I advise a full day off social media a week but if you can’t go cold turkey, here are some suggestions to limit your intake below.
Delete or offload some of your social media apps and keep the apps that you don’t find yourself endlessly scrolling on.
Buddy up! Whether that be a partner, friend or family member, do a digital detox together and notice how much more real conversations you will have.
Ask your friends and family what they think of your relationship to your phone. You may discover you've unknowingly picked up some bad tendencies, like checking your phone mid-conversation.
Put a rubber band round your phone. This simple trick can help you stop mindlessly picking up your device. Now, when you reach for your phone, there is a physical obstacle that knocks you out of autopilot and encourages you to think about what you’re doing,
Set a screensaver that prompts you to ask yourself three questions: What for? Why now? What else? The questions remind you to question whether or not you picked up your phone with purpose.
Give your phone a bedtime. Every night pop your phone on charge (preferably in a different room or on the other side of the room) and switch it to airplane mode.
Don’t pick your phone up and scroll first thing in the morning. According to Dr. Nikole Benders-Hadi, “immediately turning to your phone when you wake up can start your day off in a way that is more likely to increase stress and leave you feeling overwhelmed.”
Tidy Space, Tidy Mind
I know, I know, I can’t believe I actually put ‘cleaning’ here in a self-care article but bear with me.
According to a study carried out by Princeton Neuroscience Institute, having a lot of visual stimuli present when trying to concentrate on one stimulis will result in those items competing for your attention. Put quite simply, if there is too much going on in your line of sight, you will find it harder to get tasks done.
Interactions of Top-Down and Bottom-Up Mechanisms in Human Visual Cortex.
Stephanie McMains & Sabine Kastner
Believe it or not, there are actual mental health benefits to cleaning. It shows that we care for ourselves and it offers a sense of satisfaction. It promotes clearer thinking and improves efficiency. It decreases frustration and can result in further change. Making changes in our living space gives us momentum that we can carry into other areas of our life. You can even make cleaning a group activity and have some fun with it!
My top tip: Blast a good Spotify playlist and you’ll be done in no-time. Bonus points for the fact your NEAT activity is getting a fantastic boost! That feeling of sitting down in the evening in a clean house just adds that extra element of peace and when you wake up the next day to make your coffee, you are instantly at ease with your surroundings.
I have outlined my Top 6 Day Off activities that leave me feeling fulfilled and rejuvenated but it really comes down to identifying what fills your cup. Maybe it’s tea and cake with your Nan, a fun day out with the kids, a coffee with an old friend, or sitting down and tucking into a good book. It’s important in this fast paced world that we take time for ourselves, to look after our own well-being, mentally and physically because we cannot pour from an empty cup and if you want to be the best person for the loved ones in your life, you need to look after yourself first.
Self-care is not selfish, it is necessary and learning to say NO to things that do not serve you is a prerequisite for a happy, healthy life.