Why is it Important to “Unwind”?
Moving on, let’s take a look at why it’s so important to unwind at all.
At first glance, the idea of unwinding might be thought of as one of those “good” ideas, but not a crucial one. What you might not realize is just how much being wrought up or worn out impacts us. When you’re not able to unwind, you start seeing these problems very quickly:
- Muscle tension
- Poor memory
- A decline in cognitive skills
- Suppressed immune system
- Increased symptoms in chronic conditions such as pain
- Irritable Bowel
At the same time, we start to see other effects over time. People who consistently fail to unwind will become more irritable and find it difficult to communicate well. Over time, they might become less outgoing socially and even avoid social situations. Stress, worry, and overwhelm can trigger depressive thoughts and emotions. These feelings left untended can have dire consequences.
Note: If you feel any depressive emotions or thoughts, please reach out to a trained professional or trusted loved one.
The problem is in our body chemistry. Think of a car. If you run a vehicle for a long period, it’s normal to expect it to need some maintenance. You can put gas in the car over and over again to keep it moving, but unless you change the oil at some point, things are going to break down.
Of course, that is something of an oversimplification, but you get the idea. The human body is much the same way. We run on a lot of adrenaline, especially when stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed. It can be good sometimes because it’s what our bodies are designed to do. It’s what feeds the “fight or flight” urge, which can be useful in getting things done. For example, a small panic over a deadline can throw extra adrenaline into the system, enough so you can pull an all-nighter and get your project done.
The problem is, your body isn’t designed to work like this 24/7/365, much as we try to prove otherwise. This is why it’s fairly normal after finals week at college for students to come down with colds. The immune system can no longer handle the load it’s being given.
When we unwind, though, we give our bodies a break. Your hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA), which is responsible for keeping you going under adverse conditions, can finally rest and replenish. At the same time, when you unwind:
- Your blood pressure lowers.
- Your immune system gets a chance to recover.
- You experience fewer digestive issues.
- Your muscles relax, and the tension drains out.
- Your brain starts receiving more oxygen, and cognitive reasoning is restored.
- It’s even easier to sleep, and you lose your overall feeling of exhaustion.
As if this isn’t enough, consider a few bonus items you gain by unwinding:
- Creativity soars
- You gain a clearer picture of the world and your place in it.
- You have a better sense of progress on your projects.
- Your motivation rises.
- You have new life and energy to tackle whatever happens next.
With so many benefits to unwinding in the fullest sense, you have to wonder why we don’t emphasize its importance.
In the next blog we will look at why it’s hard to emphasize because of pitfalls that hold us back. We will even delve a bit deeper into just why we need so much time to unwind in the first place.