“Nurturing Spirit”: Rest and relaxation are good for our health and wellness

Oct 31, 2019

OCMO Message Series: Each month, physicians from the Office of the Chief Medical Officer (OCMO) share blogs aligned with one or more of the FNHA's four wellness streams: Being Active, Eating Healthy, Nurturing Spirit, and Respecting Tobacco. In other words, we let you know how we are trying to walk the FNHA's talk and "live it."

This month's messages, from Dr. Shannon McDonald, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, are related to our Nurturing Spirit wellness stream: the first is on why making time to rest from our busy lives is so essential for our health, and the second is on how we can help ourselves to regularly get a good night's sleep.

“Nurturing Spirit": Rest and relaxation are good for our health and wellness


A message from Dr. Shannon McDonald, FNHA Deputy Chief Medical Officer

When people ask me how I am, I often reply with one of two answers: “Tired!" or “Too busy!" As a physician, however, I should know that neither is a good or healthy answer! We live in a culture where “busy-ness" is a virtue, and the crazier our lives are, the more positive feedback we get. Work, commitments, to-do lists and chores – it's never-ending. I even hear people “competing" about who got the least sleep the previous night! Not coincidentally, I see burn-out all around me,  with people getting sick more, missing work more often, enjoying life less, or being less than their best selves.

Rest is good for both body and spirit

Making time to rest and relax is often overlooked as part of a healthy lifestyle, but it is actually essential to our health and wellness. That's because rest is not only physical but mental, emotional, and spiritual – it's nourishment for both body and soul. Taking regular time to rest and be mindful allows us to renew our inner strength and balance so we can better focus on our lives, the people in our lives, and our work. (And these rest times are in addition to getting enough quality sleep every night, a subject I will cover in a second message to follow this one.) The benefits of rest have been extensively studied and proven. They include:

 a healthier, more energetic body,

 improved immune system and memory,

 more balance, less stress,

 an increased ability to think clearly and evaluate one's life path/priorities,

 a rosier outlook on life, and

 increased productivity.

Knowing this, I make at least one day of rest an important part of my life and weekly routine, and I encourage each of you to do the same. I believe this healthy habit will help you to get more done because you won't feel so tired, stressed and burnt out! If you can't take a whole day, take an hour, or a few minutes several times a day.

Ways to help yourself relax

Here are some ways to help yourself unwind and get the rest you need on a scheduled weekly “day off":


 Focus on the present moment: think about what you're seeing, hearing and smelling.

 Make a “gratitude list," and take time to focus on the things that are going well in your life. 

 Make your environment peaceful and pleasant, e.g., light a scented candle, read a book, listen to calm music, etc.

 Spend time with your pets or on your hobby.

 Go for a walk in nature, and really pay attention to your surroundings.

 Turn off your devices and enjoy the peace and quiet.

 Take five deep breaths, then open your mouth wide for 30 seconds, (breathing through your nose) to release any tension in your jaw.

 Have a hot Epsom salt bath (some people say that the magnesium in it will help to relax your muscles).

 While standing, inhale and lift your arms high. Exhale, bend your knees and move forward, with your arms loose. Inhale while coming up again ​with your arms high. Exhale and rest your arms by your sides.


These are just some of the things that can help us relax. We are all very different, so only you know what will help you feel peaceful and rested. And please don't feel guilty about resting! We all need it. Remember that by taking care of yourself, you'll be stronger not only for yourself but for your loved ones.

Be kind to yourself and make rest part of your weekly routine. Also, read next week's message about “Nurturing Spirit" by doing what you can to get a good night's sleep every night – on top of one day of rest each week! They're separate but complementary ways to take good care of yourself. You deserve it!

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