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How To Harness Your Ultradian Rhythm To Avoid Burnout
When it comes to dancing, you may feel blessed with natural rhythm or not. However, we all have a natural rhythm – although this refers to our biology rather than our dance moves!
The most common biological rhythm that you may be aware of is the circadian rhythm, our 24-hour body clock that determines our sleep/wake time. However, there’s another rhythm in your body that can help you maximise your potential while reducing the risk of burnout.
Introducing Your Ultradian Rhythm
Your ultradian rhythm is something that occurs throughout the day and night in cycles of around 110-120 minutes.
You may be aware of this as a sleep cycle or sleep phase. One sleep phase typically includes 90 minutes of restful non-REM sleep and then moves into 20 minutes of REM sleep which is lighter sleep and more active. This cycle continues throughout the night until you wake.
However, when you wake up, the body maintains the same cycle but switches the rest and activity sessions around. This means in the daytime, your body follows a rhythm of 90 minutes of activity and then 20 minutes of rest.
Getting To Know Your Daytime Ultradian Rhythm
Your daytime ultradian rhythm, also known as Basic Rest Activity Cycle (BRAC), will usually follow a rhythm that creates a cycle lasting between 80-120 minutes. The exact length of your cycle will be personal to you.
To help give your brain and body a chance to recover and replenish its energy, your body will naturally want to follow a cycle of around 90 minutes of work or activity followed by a relaxing break where your mind is allowed to wander.
Have You Lost Your Rhythm?
The standard working day, how busy we are, and our perseverance of wanting to be ‘always-on’ means that we often neglect breaks. In fact, 56% of people don’t even take a full lunch break, let alone regular rest breaks throughout the day.
This desire to maintain constant activity means that we are not listening to the body’s cues for breaks and neglecting these breaks can lead to burnout.
Why Ultradian Rhythm Is Important
The rest breaks within an ultradian cycle are the cue the body needs to begin its healing response. This rest break doesn’t mean sleeping (although if your body needs a nap, then that’s okay). Instead, these rest breaks allow your body to do its work to maintain your health while also giving your mind a chance to pause, take stock and heal.
During a rest break, you allow your body to remove the free radicals and waste products that have built up in the body during the stress of activity. This break serves to clear stress out of the body cells and helps to replenish your energy stores.
Powering through your rest periods can lead to a build-up of stress in the body that is not removed, which may cause burnout, stress and exhaustion further down the line.
The rest break is a chance to check-in with your mind and body and restore the vital mind-body connection.
How To Find Your Rhythm
The idea of working for a solid 90 minutes may feel daunting; likewise, you may feel uncomfortable taking a 20-minute break. However, there are small steps you can take to start tuning into your natural ultradian rhythm.
Pay Attention To Rest Cues
From your mind wandering to sneaky social media breaks or constant checking of your phone can all be subtle cues that you need a break from the work you are doing. Start to listen to your body’s signals – are you zoning out, yawning frequently, or eyes feeling dry or tired?
Build Up Your Work Sessions
A 90-minute work session may seem intensive, especially if you are used to being distracted (or distractible) during your work. It can help to follow the Pomodoro technique. This is where you work undistracted for 25 minutes and then take a five-minute break.
The Pomodoro technique follows four of these 25-minute work sessions before recommending a 15-30 minute break. However, for the ultradian rhythm, you can take a longer break after the third session.
Learning how to work distraction-free for 25-minutes is a great way to build your concentration and focus levels. Then, after three 25-minute work sessions, take a 20-minute rest break.
Eventually, you may find you can work for 90 minutes without a break and feel ready to take your 20-minute rest period.
Make Your Healing Break Count
The whole point of a break is to rest. This means avoiding mentally and physically demanding tasks. A gentle walk can constitute a break, but not a brisk walk that increases your heart rate and causes stress on the body.
This break should be a chance for your mind to roam, so don’t feel that you have to be mindful or meditative. A quiet, relaxing space is best; however, anything that is restful and not stress-inducing can work.
Tune Into You
As mentioned earlier, each person will have a slightly different rhythm; it maybe you feel focused for 100 minutes and only need a 15-minute break. Alternatively, you may become tired after 80 minutes of work and need 30-minutes of rest.
Start to work out what feels right by making notes about how you feel after a work session and after a healing session. Are there any cues that want you to stop earlier? Does your mind feel fired up and ready to work after a rest?
It can also help to experiment with different times to start your activity cycles, so you can really tune into your body’s natural rhythm.
Prevent Burnout And Find Your Flow
If you’re struggling with burnout or feel too overwhelmed to ever take breaks, then I can help. Together, we can look at your burnout causes and symptoms and use a bespoke therapy blend that is right for you. To find out more about how I can help you tap into your true ultradian rhythm, email firstname.lastname@example.org to book your free consultation.