The heart is an amazing organ. Across a human lifetime, it can beat three billion times, pumping the equivalent of 2000 gallons of blood every day across the approximately 100,000 miles of blood vessels the average adult possesses. That is a lot of work for a muscle that is the size of a fist. How does the heart accomplish this?
You probably know that your blood pressure consists of two numbers. The first one, the systolic, is a measure of blood pressure when your heart is beating. The second number is the diastolic pressure: the measure of blood pressure when your heart is taking its short rest between beats. A high systolic pressure is a problem, but a high diastolic pressure is of greater concern because it means that the heart is not getting its rest.
The lesson is this: your heart accomplishes a huge amount of work across seventy-some years, but it does so through getting regular rest and relaxation. The implication of this is that we might be able to accomplish more in our lives if we figure out how to lower our psychological diastolic pressure. In other words, we need to learn how to relax. Type A perfectionist thinking is like raising the bottom number on your blood pressure (in fact it may even have that physical effect): it is not only dangerous, but it makes the actual work that gets done less efficient and effective.
There are two aspects to relaxation. One is getting a sufficient amount of sleep. It is easy to think of sleep hours as a bank account from which you can make a withdrawal when you have too many things to do. Unfortunately, you can get overdrawn. Even though it might seem like a waste of time, try to get in enough sleep on a regular basis that you wake up feeling rested. This might mean making some tough decisions, such as deciding to do fewer things in the interest of doing fewer things well rather than many things poorly.
The other part of relaxation entails finding activities you can do to give yourself a mental break. You may find that if you work like a heart, work and then relax, work and then relax, that you will be able to do a better job. Listening to music, reading, watching television, taking a walk; there are many activities that can be relaxing and a nice contrast to work-related activities.
Your heart knows: a little work, a little rest, and lots of things get done. Get the brain on board with this knowledge and you’ll be on your way!
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