Relax, it’s what the doctor orders

July 12, 2013 


Elliott Warnock


Relax, we tell ourselves, but we seldom do it.

Turns out that may be more important than most people realize.

Current research supports the notion that doing less will lead to getting more done. That sounds simple, but it can be difficult to do.

Movies are filled with cliché scenes of physicians telling a patient to “take it easy.”

Entire poster, video and CD companies are devoted to single cause of spreading the gospel of peace and quiet.

Most of us tell ourselves we know it’s important.

But do we really do it?


When I was in UNC Hospitals being treated for heart failure, the medical staff there emphasized that they wanted me to change my lifestyle. Included in that advice were means of reducing stress.

Best advice I’ve ever gotten.

I’m one of those people who has trouble shutting of the brain at night. I envy people who can put their head on the pillow and go out like a light.

My gray cells won’t have any of that. They have too much fun playing and replaying scenes from my busy day, or insist on bringing up what’s on the agenda for tomorrow.

A class at the UNC Wellness Center finally taught me how to close off those thoughts. Meditation techniques help considerably. And, no, I am not trying to be one with the universe, and I am not engaging in cult practices or leaving my soul open to demonic influences.

No chants for me, no incense or music.

I’m trying to do nothing.

Nothing but breathe.

The key to meditation for me is to breathe correctly, feeling that breath and then brushing away every thought that enters my head.

This really does help reduce my heartbeat, refreshes me and lets me get some real rest.

And that’s not being lazy.

“In most workplaces, rewards still accrue to those who push the hardest and most continuously over time. But that doesn’t mean they’re the most productive,” Tony Schwartz wrote in a New York Times opinion piece.

“A new and growing body of multidisciplinary research shows that strategic renewal – including daytime workouts, short afternoon naps, longer sleep hours, more time away from the office and longer, more frequent vacations – boosts productivity, job performance and, of course, health.”

Schwartz cited studies by Sheri D. Mah of Stanford, who found that previously sleep-deprived male basketball players who slept 10 hours a night improved free-throw and three-point shooting by an average of 9 percent.

“As athletes understand especially well, the greater the performance demand, the greater the need for renewal,” Schwartz wrote. “When we’re under pressure, however, most of us experience the opposite impulse: to push harder rather than rest. This may explain why a recent survey by Harris Interactive found that Americans left an average of 9.2 vacation days unused in 2012.”

Equally depressing: Schwartz said more than 50 percent of workers assume they’ll work during their vacations.

Not me.

I’m on vacation this week. I wrote this column before heading out the office door.

Work breaks are important.

As Schwartz noted, the accounting firm Ernst & Young found that for each additional 10 hours of vacation its employees took, year-end performance ratings improved by 8 percent.

See? I’m taking off this week to do a better job.

Warnock: 919-932-8743

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