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What Ultradian Rhythms Are And Why They Matter

Updated: Apr 22, 2020

Hi Wellness Enthusiast-

As coronavirus unfolds and we continue to settle into our new routine, many of us are working from home. Whether we are sitting at a desk, managing our child(ren)’s education, or tackling projects around the house, I have insight that can improve our effectiveness. Understanding ultradian rhythms will help us (and our children) stay focused and energized to accomplish the task at hand.

Ultradian rhythms refer to the flow of our energy throughout the day. They are biological patterns hardwired into our DNA. Alertness, muscle tension, heart rate, hormonal levels, and brain-wave activity increase during the first part of the cycle. "The byproducts of all our mental and physical activity - metabolic waste, snippets of data, cellular debris-are building up in our system. Then, after about an hour and a half to two hours, we begin experiencing accumulation of all this detritus as stress." (1) We may feel groggy, irritable, hungry or unfocused, and we often ignore the signs or push through them. Our body is trying to communicate that it needs downtime to repair damaged tissue, detoxify, regenerate cellular fuel, and rebalance blood sugar. We often believe we need a pick-me-up (artificial) such as coffee, sugar-laden snacks, or social media. These choices complicate the natural rhythms of our body. Actually, it is essential to understand what is happening in our body so we can take a much needed break. Resting completely for twenty to twenty five minutes with no screens is critical. Following are many effective options to practice during this break:

-Get fresh air or go for a walk

-Grab a cup of water or tea and enjoy it mindfully

-Enjoy a small nourishing snack (i.e. nuts or veggies/hummus)

-Stretch or do some type of gentle movement

-Initiate deep breathing

-Listen to calming music

-Stare out the window and let your mind wander

-Make a call or reach out to a friend

-Write in your journal

-Do a menial task (i.e. laundry)

Following these breaks, our depleted mind can perform more efficiently. When ultradian rhythms are ignored or disrupted, they can impact happiness, health and well-being. It takes a toll on our body and mind which can contribute to illness and stress. Conditions include lowered immunity, toxic build-up, increased inflammation markers, increased blood pressure, and imbalanced neurotransmitters.

Part of the challenge with integrating these breaks into our daily routine is this country's unrealistic work ethic to which we are accustomed. Breaking these norms is critical! Our bodies and minds collapse when over-worked for extended periods of time because we are not designed to function this way. We need rest to allow our systems to perform at their highest level.

Researcher Anders Ericsson has studied top performing athletes, musicians, chess players, and writers, and has found a commonality: they practice in intense bursts. They tended to work in 60-90 minute sessions and violinists often used naps to recover from the extreme practice. (2)

Many of you who are clients, colleagues, family, and dear friends know I often say that our body whispers, then it screams. So much pain, suffering, and burnout can be eliminated when we choose to listen. We don't need to wait until an illness occurs or the doctor tells us it's time to STOP or SLOW DOWN.

Let's practice avoiding burnout, harnessing our energy and focus by following the flow of our ultradian rhythms. Then, when we get back to our usual mode, we'll have new empowering habits in place. Our bodies and minds deserve to be treated with more kindness and nourishment so we can thrive!

Feel free to reach out for support on where to begin. Taking baby steps is the best place to start!



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