Faced with chronic fatigue, shingles and a bucket load of stress, It was time for me sit down and critically reflect on where I went wrong, and how I could make things right.
Over the past few years of shift work, studying at a postgraduate level, too much caffeine, family issues, and throw in a dash of anxiety, and it was safe to say, things got a little hectic. For those of you who follow the website, you’ll know I ended up with chronic fatigue from pushing myself a little too much. I came out the other side more aware of what my body is capable of, mentally and physically, where my ceiling was, how my body communicates with me, and a greater respect for REST and RELAXATION.
See, the thing is, our coaches have always told us (and I am one to preach this to others) that we should treat rest as training, and rest as much as we train. This means both active and passive recovery, so going for a brief walk to increase blood flow to our muscles, as well as just chilling on the couch. Where I went wrong was probably both the active and passive stages. I thought that if I was to do a “recovery” session then I would ultimately end up training, if it was meant to be a passive session, then I just drank more coffee and did some more study. No Netflix. Dumb idea.
So what happened?
Well, my body shut down. I was going for a ride amongst the trees and I had an overwhelming feeling come over me that felt like I needed to curl up into a ball and go to sleep in the forest. Weird right? That’s what I thought.Additionally, having a heightened level of anxiety due to caffeine as well as the lack of rest didn’t help either. I took this as a sure sign that something was seriously wrong, and decided to book into my docs for a check up. Sure enough, a few days later my blood profile came back and everything was rock bottom. (I now get my bloods done just out of interest every six months as a safety check with my doc – which is a great thing to do, especially if you’re feeling a little off).
If there has been anything that I have been thankful for, it is for sure the care and understanding I received from loved ones throughout the ordeal. Chronic fatigue to me was something of a myth, as was anxiety, both something that were more of an ordeal rather than an actual diagnosis or “real” experience. This is so far from the truth. Sometimes it takes an individual months, if not years to get over something such as chronic fatigue and anxiety.
As a social worker I’m a very big mental health advocate. Mental health is just as important as our physical health. Just because traditionally it was something that was considered intangible, does not mean it is not a real experience. Thankfully, we’re learning more and more about how mental health plays a role in our everyday lives.
After breaking through to the other side and having my health check out, I decided to get serious about integrating some mental health exercises into my daily and weekly routines to assist with recognising stress as well as minimising it to allow myself to live a more relaxed and balanced life.
Enter Binaural Audio, The Power Nap, Meditation & Mindfulness.
Let me explain.
Binaural Audio and The Power Nap
Binaural recordings are reproductions of sound the way human ears hear it. In fact, the word “binaural” literally just means “using both ears.” When you listen to a binaural recording through headphones, you perceive distinct and genuine 360° sound. This may not come as anything new to those who use in ear or noise cancelling headphones for a distinct and full audio experience. It’s the actually frequency associated with these “Binaural beats” that makes them unique.
Brainwaves are a measurement of the frequency that large groups of neurons are firing in your brain in order to communicate. They form pulses measured by a device such as an EEG in Hz. Here are the common brainwave states below:
How do Binaural Beats work?
Just as neurons firing are measured with frequency, so too is sound. The technique to create binaural beats is to put one sound in stereo left at one frequency, and then the same sound at stereo right at another frequency. This means that there is an almost imperceptible difference in sound coming into your left and right ear. Hence the term bi (meaning two) and aural (of the ear). This technique creates an auditory phenomenon called beating. The size of the gap in frequency between the left and right ear will be the frequency of the beating. This is the target frequency for your brainwave entrainment.
Often times white noise (rain) is used in conjunction with these tones to help relax the mind and put it in a more malleable state. The result is that you can target a variety of different brainwave states that can yield varied benefits.
How do I go about listening to Binaural beats? You can download them from Itunes as well as creating a playlsit on YouTube. Most often though, I listen to my app Pzizz. This is a super cool app and is used predominantly for sleep. Pzizz utilises effective psychoacoustic principles through binaural audio to create beautiful dreamscapes that will help you fall asleep fast, stay asleep, and wake up feeling refreshed. They have two options, SLEEP or POWER NAP. I almost always use POWER NAP. I utilise this during the afternoon, between shifts or on my days off where I can hideaway for 20 minutes. Cool thing is, you can set the timer for how long you wish to hear the customised audio for. 20 minutes is an ideal time to take a refreshing power nap before going into that deep restorative sleep (you know the one that if you’re alarm goes off in the middle off you wake up feeling like you’ve been hit by a bus, and has you reaching for the snooze button).
Meditation and Mindfulness
163 DIFFERENT STUDIES suggest that mindfulness meditation practice has an overall POSITIVE EFFECT on anxiety and stress. Booyah!
So I use the headspace app.
Now this is something for many people, and like myself may take a little bit of getting used to. I originally thought that meditation and mindfulness was a load of hogs wash. Until now.
After suffering from anxiety (it’s ok, we all do to some degree, and a little is ok) and having a panic attack when I thought my world was crumbling in, I decided to put myself through a series of tests, and sure enough, my anxiety levels were quite high at the time. After this, research ensued and I found the Headspace app. The app itself is brilliantly designed and has plenty of little videos on explaining anxiety, depression, motivation etc that get you understanding how meditation and mindfulness can help you out no matter what the need.
I usually do 10 minutes at least once a day when I wake up and sometimes in the afternoon depending on how I’m feeling. Often it’s a good practice to engage with more often than you would expect to as it can bring about a recognition of stress and discomfort, because too often we find ourselves sweeping those feeling under the rug and adopting a “rolling stone gather no moss” attitude until all our daily/weekly chores are done.
Get on it.
Free trial period.
Highly recommended, even if you don’t have anxiety or depression. Plenty of mindfulness packs on commuting, motivation, eating etc.
Enlighten. Empower. Evolve.
PMM Lifestyle & Performance
AA, BA (Behavioural Sciences) University of Tasmania
MSW & Clinical Counselling Griffith University
Certified Level III/IV Trainer
ASCA Qualified Strength & Conditioning Coach
ASCA Sports Nutrition
ASCA Mentor Coach
What I’m currently listening to:
SLR – Graphite [Full BeatTape]
It’s currently raining here in Canberra and this playing in the background with the windows open is meditation within itself.