Effective Ways to Combat Stress and Fatigue: The Importance of Active Rest

In recent interactions with readers, I found that many people seem to be feeling a little tired.

Maybe it’s because business has generally recovered, and many people seem to be getting busy. Staying up late and working overtime have become the norm. I keep seeing people lamenting: I have been too busy and stressed recently, and I have not had time to do my own things for a long time…

Being busy is definitely a good thing, but I also hope that everyone will not overwork themselves, and pay special attention to handling stress and not overdrafting the body, otherwise the gains will outweigh the losses.

If you only feel tired occasionally, you may be full of energy after a good night’s sleep. However, if you are fatigued and stressed for a long period of time, it may lead to “excessive fatigue” and “chronic stress.” This will not only seriously affect our physical health, but also weaken our happiness and cause us to lose our enthusiasm and motivation for life.

Therefore, in today’s article, I want to talk to you about how to take a break to relieve stress more effectively, and at the same time truly eliminate fatigue and allow yourself to re-engage in the challenges of life.

Many people’s understanding of rest is to be “quiet”. It might be taking a nap, taking a nap, watching a TV series, scrolling through the news stream, or just lying still. In short, it is to allow yourself to “take a break” from your busy schedule, put your work aside, do nothing, and slowly regain your energy.

This is certainly useful, but it’s not necessarily the most efficient.

If you are a manual worker, then this method is suitable and can help you regain your strength. However, if you are a mental worker and your main job is to sit in the office and face the computer, then its effect is not so good.

why? Very simple. The core reason is that the brain cannot be “quiet” for a moment.

As long as we are awake, our brains are constantly active in the background. It’s just that when we focus on work, the brain’s active mode is CEN (Central Executive Network); at other times, the brain’s active mode is DMN (Default Mode Network).

The two have different focuses. The former focuses on “concentration” and the latter focuses on “recollection and rumination.” But their energy consumption is the same, about 20% of the total body energy consumption.

In other words, when you think you are “doing nothing”, your brain is actually still constantly active in the background, still consuming our energy, and you still haven’t gotten a real rest.

And, what’s more serious is: the overactivity of the DMN can easily activate our amygdala and remind us of all kinds of negative worries, anxieties and troubles. They were already hidden in the depths of our consciousness, but they were “picked up” by the DMN and continue to float in our minds – which will further aggravate our stress and make us feel even more exhausted.

A classic experiment in 2010 found that generally speaking, when people are in the DMN, they feel less happy and less happy.

Therefore, a common phenomenon is: the more leisurely you are, the easier it is for you to have random thoughts and feel restless; conversely, when you are busy, although you are tired, you are also very fulfilled, and you are less likely to have all kinds of distracting thoughts and worries. The root lies here.

Such “rest” not only fails to relieve stress and restore energy, but will actually aggravate our fatigue.

So, what is effective rest?

You can understand it this way: there is a hidden “energy channel” in the brain. When we focus on work, this energy tank slowly decreases. Once it bottoms out, we feel tired, irritable, and low on energy. It is necessary to replenish energy in time to regain vitality.

What determines this energy tank? Determined by many neurotransmitters (internally secreted hormones) in the brain.

for example:
Dopamine: A lack of dopamine can cause us to lose motivation and lose interest in everything;

Serotonin: Lack of serotonin can cause us to be emotionally unstable and easily irritable and angry;

Adenosine: Excessive accumulation of adenosine can cause us to feel sleepy and have difficulty concentrating;

Cortisol: Excessive accumulation of cortisol can cause the body to have a stress response and overload;

These neurotransmitters interact with each other, and when combined, form an invisible “energy tank” that determines our current state, affects and regulates our vitality, passion and motivation.

So, what is effective rest? In short, by doing something to increase the secretion of dopamine and serotonin and reduce the accumulation of adenosine and cortisol, we can have a higher energy state.

I call it “active rest.”

Why is it called “active rest”? The biggest difference between it and what we understand as “rest” is that it does not require you to calm down and do nothing, but requires you to be more actively involved in life and get a rest from action by doing more things. , to remove fatigue from action.

This may be counterintuitive: Why would moving relieve fatigue? I’m already feeling very tired. Won’t taking action make me feel even more tired?

Will not. On the one hand, as long as you are using your brain, the “fatigue” you feel is actually caused by a hormone imbalance in the brain. Hormones like dopamine and serotonin are not produced automatically if you do nothing.

In other words: when you “do nothing”, your energy tank is also recovering, but the recovery rate will be very slow – you will always be in a state of low energy limit.

Only when you take the initiative and actively do something and get effective feedback from it, can your energy tank be effectively replenished, allowing you to truly “replenish your blood”.

On the other hand, when we do nothing, we don’t actually mentally leave the scene of work—unfinished tasks and unresolved problems remain hanging over our minds. As a result, it is very easy for the brain to regurgitate work-related information in the background, leaving us still under stress and worry.

Therefore, only when we actively devote our attention to other things can the work be “cleared” from the cache of our memory, allowing the brain to truly rest and recover.

This is what active rest is for.

So, what are some ways to take active breaks?

The simplest way is to do something that is completely different from work and requires a certain amount of attention and brain thinking.

for example:
Suspense and mystery novels that require memorizing information, digging for foreshadowing, and guessing plot developments;

Course videos that contain a lot of information and require chewing, thinking and note-taking;

Scenery, humanities, and documentary documentaries that can take you in and immerse you, diverting your attention;

A game that can help you enter a state of flow and concentrate on it;

In other words, it needs to meet two conditions:

First, it needs to be completely different from work, so that we can be separated from the work scene and temporarily “empty” the background to prevent them from continuing to accumulate in the background;

The second is that it requires you to focus on thinking, and it is best to lead you into a flow state. You cannot just passively receive information and do nothing. Only in this way can we effectively guide the brain’s DMN and let it operate within the scope we want, so as not to lose control and increase worries and stress.

When many people see “focus”, they may start to give up and feel tired – but this is not the case.

For example: when watching a documentary, don’t double the speed or pull up the progress bar. Try to immerse yourself in it, observe and think along with the camera, and let the attention shift away from you and into the world under the camera. , to feel and taste with immersion.

After half an hour of this, you will feel relaxed and energetic, as if you have had a brain massage, very comfortable.

Or, on a sunny afternoon, go for a walk, go to a place where you rarely walk, temporarily put down the thoughts in your mind (you can write them down and put them away), and focus on feeling: what I saw , what did you hear, what did you smell, what did you feel?

This will open up your senses and allow your mind to focus comfortably in the present moment, experiencing that “relaxing sense of focus.”

Another way is to consciously switch your thinking and activate different activities in your brain – I call it “simultaneity”.


I usually mark the “things to be done” in my notebook. What do these things include?
1. Read half of the articles and videos;

2. Organize half of the notes, materials, and documents;

3. Various small writing projects, such as records and observations of life, reviews of a certain book, divergent creativity of a certain idea, and thinking about a certain issue.

Then, just find something from there and keep working on it.

for example:
Open the article, recall the previous content, and continue reading. A break is just enough to refine a knowledge point and convert it into notes;

Open a video that is halfway through, continue watching, take some notes, and record your thoughts and feelings;

Open the half-written content, continue writing the previous ideas, and make some repairs and improvements along the way;

Organize notes and materials, sort them into categories, delete redundant content, integrate similar content, and index them;

Once you advance something and bring it to a conclusion, you will get sufficient feedback – this feedback will bring you a strong sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, stimulate a large amount of dopamine secretion, and make you feel energetic again. .

This is an extremely effective way to help us “recharge” and restore our energy tank.

Beyond that, it’s a good idea to get in some physical activity and exercise when you get the chance.

Many people think: I am busy and tired every day, so I have no time to exercise – but it is precisely this that makes it even more important to exercise.

The reason is simple: exercising is the only known way to increase our energy limit. It can not only help us get rid of fatigue, but also improve our endurance, allowing us to last longer and feel less tired.

In other words: What’s the best way to combat fatigue and stress? Rather than letting yourself “lie down”, you should strive to make yourself more energetic and use a high-energy state to reduce the impact of stress.

If you are really busy and do not have the conditions to exercise, then the good news is: you can spread the exercise into your daily time in small amounts and multiple times (technically called “dispersed exercise”, also known as “snack exercise” ). Even if you just get up and move around every time, it can have a good effect.

How long does it take for a “dispersion campaign” to take effect? The answer may be more than you realize: just one minute.

In other words: you don’t have to do formal, large-scale exercise, but intersperse several minutes of scattered exercise in your daily life, which can also play a good role in improving your mood, relieving stress, and increasing your energy limit. .

What kind of dispersal movement? Anything that can keep your heart rate at a high level is fine. It could be running quickly in place, walking up and down stairs, sprinting, etc. – check out HIIT (high-intensity interval training), which works on the same principle.

So, don’t underestimate the large amounts of fragmented time you have every day, make use of them. Even if it’s only for a few minutes at a time, as long as you can fully stimulate your body, even just running in place can have an effect.

In addition to scattered exercise, another very effective form of exercise is walking.

This is also an activity that I really enjoy. On the one hand, walking can effectively stimulate the brain, generate more thoughts and ideas, and at the same time soothe the mood; on the other hand, walking in the sun can promote the synthesis of serotonin, making the mood more stable and healthier.

However, walking takes longer to take effect, maybe 20-30 minutes. So, you might as well get up from your seat during your lunch break, go downstairs and take a walk, go a little further and bask in the sun at the same time. This can be a very cost-effective way to rest.

In addition to these, another good way to take a break is to establish connections with others.

Humans are always social animals. Getting feedback from others can also greatly stimulate the production of dopamine, making us feel a strong sense of pleasure and accomplishment.

Specifically, you can try these methods:
Help others answer a question in forums and groups, and receive gratitude and likes from them;

Share your own insights and experiences online in the hope that it will actually help others;

Share a piece of news or interesting things with friends and see if there are any sparks;

Do something interesting with friends and exchange feelings and thoughts with each other;

Form communities, activities, podcasts, collaborations… to unite a group of people on the same channel;

Or, participate in some novel activities and find opportunities to meet new friends on the same channel;

These can fully activate your brain and make you feel positive feedback.

You can think of it as a “back garden of the soul”. When you feel tired, when you are troubled by stress, try to chat with your friends, complain, and exchange some new, fun, and interesting information, so that you can temporarily forget about fatigue and stress.

The methods I recommend include the following:
Prepare a few websites or platforms, log in to them during breaks, see what questions you can answer, and help others solve their problems;

Join several like-minded communities and post comments and chat there during breaks to adjust your mood and broaden your horizons;

Cultivate a few special friends, contact them when you are free, chat about the current situation, talk about your worries and troubles, and let yourself be “seen”.

These are all good ways for you to quickly regain your energy and get healing.

In addition, if possible, it is a very good way to go to nature and spend some time in nature.

If you have the opportunity, try to go for a walk in the countryside, by the waterside, in the forest, or in a suburban park to immerse yourself in nature. (Of course, pay attention to safety)

Try to temporarily turn off the hustle and bustle of the city, turn off your cell phone, computer and endless trivial matters, open your senses, and let them be slowly healed in nature.

Try to close your eyes and feel the sound of the wind blowing through the leaves, the sound of the flapping wings of birds, the smell of moist air, the heat of the sun on the stones, the silence of no one around…

Many studies have found that being in nature can greatly improve mood, relieve stress, improve mental health, and make people more resistant to stress and resilient.

In 2014, a British experiment found that people who moved from cities to greener areas generally had better mental health.

Even if you don’t live in a green area, just taking some time to walk in nature can be enough to relax and rest the mind.

A survey of about 20,000 people in the UK found that spending 2 hours a week close to nature can effectively improve mental health and subjective well-being, making people feel relaxed and comfortable.

Of course, this requirement is relatively high, and it may not be easy for those of us who live in cities. I’ll put it here for your reference.

Finally, I would like to share a list of rest methods that I and some of my friends around me use for your reference.
Raise a few pots of plants, water them during breaks, remove insects, and prune branches and leaves;

Maintain an “achievement record” to record the “little blessings” in your life and work;

Take the initiative to recall good experiences.

For example: open the photo album, pull out a photo, and ask yourself: In what scene was this photo taken? Can you still recall the scene and feel the sights, sounds, smells and moods at that time? Or open your diary and information to find your first experience of winning an award, your experience of being publicly praised, your first date…

Read a few articles about travel and food, preferably ones with pictures and texts, to fully immerse yourself in your imagination;

Breathe slowly. Try slowing down to about 6-8 times per minute, breathing through your nose and abdominally. When exhaling, expel all the deep air, and then inhale slowly. Feel that slow, composed rhythm.

Do some simple stretching and resistance training to let your muscles feel comfortable tension and relaxation;

Do a simple craft. For example, making models, brewing coffee, origami, etc.;

Write down what stresses you out, list your feelings and thoughts, and write down possible actions;

Rate and write short reviews of novels, movies, and TV series you have watched;

Go out for a walk and chat with strangers, such as store clerks, front desk staff, and security guards;

Try to write some short novels based on the people around you, or draw what they look like;

Listen to a song and try to write down the melody;

Organize your own notebooks, including information channels, diaries, collected fragmentary information, etc.;

I hope these detailed ways to rest can give you some inspiration and inspiration, help you better discover the beauty in life, and better engage in life.

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