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6 Ways Your Body Is Telling You to Slow Down

Deadlines at work, family commitments, chores at home—the demands of daily life can easily drain your energy over time. You might notice your patience running thin, or maybe your workouts just aren't giving you the boost they once did. You're feeling less than your best, but you're not sure why. What's going on?   

These days, life often moves at a hectic pace. If you've reached the point where it's hard to enjoy the daily schedule and your body is giving you signs that all is not well, perhaps it's time to do something about it.
 

1. You're not getting restful sleep.


Dr. James Joseph, medical director of ReJenesis MedSpa, says that poor sleep can be a clear sign you have too much on your plate. "You should feel calm and relaxed when you go to bed, then alert and energized when you wake up," he explains. "The key is to get both REM and deep sleep, and to get enough of it." REM is the stage of sleep when your heart rate and breathing quickens, your brain is active and you tend to have the most dreams. During deep sleep, your heart rate and breathing slowyou’re your body recovers from the day. "Most people need seven to eight hours [of sleep] a night to maintain an active, healthy lifestyle," says Joseph.

If racing thoughts keep you from falling asleep or wake you up in the night, try keeping a notepad next to your bed. Writing down your thoughts can help release them and let you sleep more restfully. Be mindful of what you're eating and drinking in the hours before bedtime, too. Even though caffeine might be giving you the boost you need to get through the day, it could be interfering with your sleep if you're sipping a cup of Joe at night.


2.You keep getting sick.

 

Dr. Jamelle Bowers, an internal medicine physician with Mercy Health, often sees patients who experience the physical effects of putting the body in a constant state of stress. "When your body deals with stress, the brain triggers the release of cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels decrease the response of your immune system to fight off germs." As a result, Bowers says that it's easier to get sick. "Germs that you were easily able to fight off in the past now make you sick because your body has used up its defenses," she explains. 

Bowers commonly sees symptoms such as sore throat, stomach bugs and digestive issues, particularly constipation. "Many times people experience constipation because they are not hydrating properly. This can cause stomach upset, particularly nausea and vomiting," she describes. "If you're not taking the time to care for yourself and your body is in a constant state of defense from stress, physical problems will often result." 

Bowers advises her patients to take some time for themselves each day to unwind. "If you're a busy mom, use nap time to do something relaxing or take a nap yourself," she advises. If deadlines at work or a packed schedule has you stressed, Bowers recommends using evening time to decompress. "At the end of a long day, doing something like meditation or reading for 20 to 30 minutes [will] give your mind time to quiet down and prepare for sleep." 
 

3. You're experiencing memory issues.


We all forget things now and then, but if it's becoming a consistent problem, perhaps the pace of life is partly to blame. Caleb Backe, a health expert for Maple Holistics  says that if you're constantly misplacing things, it could be a sign that you're not present in your life. "One way that an overactive mind manifests itself is through forgetfulness. [For example,] you can't remember where you put your keys down because you were thinking about a million other things at the same time." Backe suggests leaving important things in a set place and start making lists that you actively check off. "[Using checklists can help] slow yourself down and keep things in order," he says.

Inadequate sleep can also contribute to memory issues. Research suggests that getting enough sleep promotes learning and memory.
 

4. You have constant muscle tension.


Posture and movement specialist Sukie Baxter says that muscle tension is one of the most prevalent signs that you need to slow down. "When you are running quickly from task to task with no breaks or time to reset in between, it can put your body into a sort of hyper-vigilance. Any stimulus—be it phones pinging, traffic, work stress, kids, et cetera—activates your sympathetic nervous system, which is better known as your fight or flight response," Baxter explains. "Muscle tension is a natural part of the fight or flight response as your body prepares to deal with threat (either to fight it off or run away). This is normal and healthy; what's unhealthy is when the muscle tension becomes chronic and unrelenting, often resulting in physical pain and degeneration."

One popular technique to manage muscle tension is progressive muscle relaxation, which involves alternating tension and relaxation in all the major muscle groups. To give it a try:
  • Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
  • Working from the top of the body to the bottom (or the other way around), start by tensing the forehead for five to 10 seconds, then release while taking another few deep breaths.
  • Move to the jaw, neck, shoulders and so on, until you reach your toes. 
Deep breathing, meditation, guided imagery and positive self-talk are all other effective ways to help reduce muscle tension.
 

5. You're unusually short-tempered.


Health coach Rachel MacPherson, founder of Radical Strength, says that losing your cool with co-workers, significant other, or kids can be a sign that you need to slow down. "When stress becomes overwhelming, it is hard for us to buffer our reactions to irritation and we tend to get angry faster," she cautions.

MacPherson recommends her clients try avoiding caffeine, processed sugar and overwork. "In order to manage your stress, make sure you take the time to participate in enjoyable, relaxing social activities, [and] get enough exercise, plenty of water and [eat] a healthy diet," she advises. "A perfect activity would be to go on a walk in nature with a friend instead of grabbing that espresso and pastry!"
 

6. You're dealing with overuse injuries.


Pittsburgh chiropractor Alex Tauberg believes that one of the most common ways your body tells you to slow down is with an overuse injury. "Overuse injuries can take the form of tendinitis, epicondylitis, carpal tunnel or a variety of other problems," he says. "These injuries come about because the body is not prepared for the forces that it is placed under. This is your body telling you that you are doing too much, too soon." 

Bowers often sees overuse injuries in athletes who are pushing themselves too hard. "People come in with injuries I wouldn't typically see if they weren't overexerting themselves," she says. "When muscles and tendons don't get the recovery time they need, injuries often follow." When she suspects an overuse injury, Bowers will ask her patient to describe their exercise patterns. "'Are you progressing too quickly?' 'Are you giving yourself enough recovery time between challenging workouts?' These are the kinds of questions I will ask." 

Cross-training is an important part of any well-rounded exercise routine, partly because it gives the body a break from regular activity and forces your muscles to work in different ways, which can prevent overuse. Take care to incorporate regular rest days into your routine to give your body a needed break and progress your program appropriately, as well. Most fitness experts recommend increasing your activity by no more than 10 percent per week. This includes distance, time, intensity and amount of weight lifted.

By taking time for yourself and checking in with your body regularly to see how you're feeling, you can help prevent mental and physical burnout. Be proactive about your health and your body will thank you in return.
 
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About The Author

Jen Mueller
Jen Mueller
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid runner, she is an ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach and medical exercise specialist, with additional certifications in behavior change, functional training and senior fitness. She is also a RRCA-certified running coach. See all of Jen's articles.