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BULNES: Your body deserves breaks for daily work

Opinions Column: Mind Body Scarlet

We do not give our bodies enough credit for everything they do on a daily basis. Without this vessel, we would not be able to accomplish the goals we put our minds to. Our bodies are constantly at work — even while we sleep — to ensure that all natural systems are functioning properly. Therefore, when our bodies demand rest, the least we could do is listen and oblige, but many people push past their point of exhaustion. It seems like the main reason for driving the body to its maximum capacity is because being tired is a trend that has become part of the American culture. Without knowing it, we idolize those who push themselves past their limits often — it is why you have bragging rights if you only got 2 hours of sleep last night or if this is your third cup of coffee today. We should really be admiring those who can perform at their full power on a daily basis, because their body is healthy and allows them to function with ease. 

Due to the demanding and hectic nature of life in the 21st century, rest is essentially frowned upon. Calling out sick from work can be accompanied by a guilt trip, and missing lectures at school causes added workload to the days that follow. But we need to stop thinking about the costs of rest and start focusing on the benefits. Resting is beneficial to restoring the health of our bodies, and it also protects and strengthens our immune systems. An experiment was performed on fruit flies by the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania which proved that sleep is beneficial when fighting off bacteria. Fruit flies who were sleep deprived or genetically engineered to sleep more “survived longer after infection, and were also better able to clear the bacteria from their bodies.” When we are sick, catching up on sleep is essential to the recovery of the body.

Rest days are also important when trying to lead a healthy life. If you have set certain goals for your success and have created a workout routine, you may feel guilty for taking days off or switching to a different routine until you have recuperated from injuries or illnesses. But, do not forget that resting is part of your mental health as well. If your body is telling you that it is not up for what you are about to put it through, there is always a valid reason why. Showing up for a workout knowing you are not prepared usually takes a toll on your training and makes it harder to put all of your energy into it. In my experience, I have pushed myself past my limits in order to reach certain personal goals only to experience dizziness and nausea. It is important to use our intuition and make responsible choices for our bodies when we are given signs to stop. Just knowing that you have the authority to live a healthy lifestyle that you actively want to participate in is freeing — you stop feeling like you have to force your body to do things that it does not want to do.

Allowing yourself ample rest will ensure that you can come back stronger as soon as you are ready. Think of this as your way of rewarding your body for all its hard work. We get months and sometimes even years of use out of our bodies before we catch a cold, sprain an ankle or have any need to truly slow down. During this time, we need to follow our instincts in order to find the best procedures for handling any complications we may face with our bodies. Sometimes, certain parts of the body can be rested while we engage other parts, which can ease the discomfort of being completely sedentary. Done properly, mobilizing other body parts could also help accelerate your recovery. For example, having a knee injury can prohibit running. Instead of being completely sedentary, replace treadmills with ellipticals or do water aerobics to keep the body active and strengthen other muscles around the injury, therefore making it easier to heal faster. 

The goal is to motivate yourself, avoid burning out and remember that rest is as proactive a choice as being active. Pretending you are not sick or tired will not make you better, and it only prolongs the healing process. Giving yourself the recuperation time you need will only make you stronger and more able to accomplish the tasks you have put on hold in order to recuperate. Resting should be used as a reward for the body, and its healing properties should not be overlooked.

Monica Bulnes is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring in economics and minoring in business administration. Her column, "Mind Body Scarlet," runs on alternate Thursdays.


*Columns, cartoons and letters do not necessarily reflect the views of the Targum Publishing Company or its staff.

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