Your health demands a day off; stop and breathe


by Holly Firfer, CNN

Posted on December 25, 2012 at 10:22 AM

Updated Tuesday, Dec 25 at 10:25 AM

(CNN) -- Remember when holidays meant a time to relax, to kick back and enjoy being off with friends and family? Now with crazy work schedules, 24-hour Christmas sales, electronic gadgets beeping all day long and the constant go, go, go,  we never stop  And some experts say, that's not good for our health.  

We need to embrace a day of peace.

The idea of having a day of rest has Biblical roots. Even God took time off on the seventh day. But today, the world is a different place. We are a 24-seven planet, with long work weeks, and to-do lists that never end. And at some point, health experts say, we need to slow down.

"Everyone needs a stop day, explained Dr. Matthew Sleeth, a former emergency-room doctor. "For some that may involved going to church or synagogue. For some that may mean doing the New York Ttimes crossword puzzle.  But when we have that rhythm of rest and work, the work takes on more meaning." 

Sleeth, author of the book "24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life," has examined the reasons we should all take a day off. He says being on the go, for most of us, just means more stress to the body.

"Virtually every study that's been done on this shows that we are pouring out catecholamines, which are those kind of flight or fright hormones that are stress hormones," Sleeth said. "We are pouring out cortisol, which is a stress steroid in our body."

Those stress hormones and steroids take a toll on our bodies.

"They give us higher blood pressure, they increase anxiety and depression ... and i think also psychologically knowing that you don't have a day coming up, that you aren't  given permission to rest is difficult for people," Sleeth explained.

So how can we stop? Sleeth says cut out some of the time-wasting habits. Get your nose out of your computer, prioritize what's important to you and take that day off. Even eating your food slowly helps you enjoy life in a more healthy way. And cut out the multi-tasking, at least at home.

"There's a saying that the point of life, isn't to see how fast you can get through it," Sleeth said. 

So stop and take a nice slow breath.