For many of our readers this is the summer holiday season. We interviewed Marketa Fischerova, a focolarina and physical therapist who offered some suggestions on how we might recharge our batteries.
Summer officially began on June 11th, a time of the year that many people see as a time for regaining physical and spiritual energy. As a physical therapist what advice would you give? What would be more helpful, to sleep a lot and get lots of sunshine, or to do a lot of physical exercize to make up for what was lacking from the previous year?
«I’d begin with a clarification. I would describe my work as rehabilitation rather than physical therapy, because it’s a more accurate description of the process. Rehabilitation means regaining functionality and efficiency, regaining a function that was compromised. In this sense we can say that vacation season is a time for regaining physical, mental and spiritual energy. For what purpose? Each of us has some mission in life to which we are totally devoted. And we know when our battery has gone dead. We begin to drag our feet, we live without energy and the quality of our sleep is diminished. It becomes a vicious circle from which it is difficult to escape. Holiday vacations can be the excellent opportunity to break the cycle.
The key is COURAGE! Whether it’s sea, mountain, lake or road trip, the rule should be: ENJOY YOUR HOLIDAY TO THE FULL! UNPLUG!
It takes courage to give up the illusion of control and to let yourself go, immersing yourself in the present moment. It takes courage to disconnect from technology, using it as little as possible. You can take a real break from the social network and try to devote yourself to real life.
I would suggest, disconnecting from the outside world and reconnecting with yourself, with nature which can lead you to genuine contemplation. Contemplating nature is contemplating God. Having the courage to listen to silence, to taking care of ourselves, because we are also a neighbor to be loved».
Stress is one of our great enemies. How can we train during summer vacation to be able to beat this foe?
«Rather than beating it, we should try to manage it. Stress, in fact, is a positive and healthy reaction which moves us to act. The problem is excess stress and the fact that we are unable to dissipate it sufficiently from the body. And this has consequences both in physical and mental health and in our quality of life in general. The spiritual side also seems to cloud over. Everything is more tiring. . .
Each of us has a very personal way of relaxing. Often, however, we get to the point of not knowing how to do it anymore, as if our body and the mind were imprisoned, trapped into a cycle of tension. Sometimes we can even feel like we really have short circuited.
Perhaps a holiday vacation can be the opportunity to find out what truly relaxes us. And then do it.
So that later we can create a daily routine of healthy habits that can be practiced throughout the coming year. A few examples? Favorite physical activities, contact with nature, BodyScan exercises, reading a good book, a movie, a show or outdoor games, filling our eyes with beautiful works of art and things in nature . . . all these things contribute to the care of the mind and mood.
At the end of the holidays, with a fresher head, it could be useful to review our commitments, to cancel some and delegate others. . . In fact, one of the symptoms of excess stress is feeling indispensable and irreplaceable. With a rested mind, perhaps we will see that this isn’t quite so…».
Nutrition, rest, physical exercise, meditation… We are inundated with proposals on how to live each of these aspects of healthy living. How do you understand which methods are the most suitable for mind and body?
«The way forward could be to begin vacation with a good sleep, taking time for some good hours of sleep. Then, we could add some light physical exercise to our day (1 to 2 hours). If, on the other hand, we arrive exhausted and are unable to sleep, we can force things a bit by engaging in more prolonged physical activity (3-4 hours or more) so that we will be physically tired enough to recover that deep sleep that we all require.
Long walks, including Nordic Walking with walking poles, mountain climbing, cycling and swimming are all perfect examples of this type of low-intensity activity which can be done for long periods of time. Then it is important to compensate with stretching exercises. And no step counters or trying to quantify everything. Try to lose the sense of time and give space to intuition, to connecting with your body and listening to the messages it is sending.
Physical activity directly counteracts stress, because it reduces the level of cortisol in the blood, the hormone involved in stress and depression, insomnia, and more. With movement we recharge our bodies with good hormones. Numerous studies have shown that sport stimulates the production of molecules which promote good mood, such as endorphins and serotonin, the hormones that improve the state of serenity. The connection between physical activity and mental wellbeing is so strong that philosophers like Socrates, Plato, Rousseau and Nietzsche (who claimed that only the thoughts that arise when walking have value) spent a lot of time walking for clear thinking. Many scientists have developed theories while walking in the open air.
This is because on the one hand the aerobic activity produces a greater oxygenation of the tissues, including the brain, and a richer blood supply, while the slow fatigue of the central nervous system turns off the higher activities of the brain, reducing the mental chatter and allowing for a reduction in the flow of thoughts».
With that we wish everyone a HAPPY VACATION!