Rest and relaxation

Dr Inge Kriel emphasises why rest and relaxation is so important and shares how she makes time for her own ‘time-out’.

I’m sitting here in Cape Town with my beautiful family, reflecting on the beauty and simplicity of nature. The salty sea breeze, the gentle undulations of the never-ending waves, and the temperamental Cape Town weather…where four seasons in one day is the norm!

Life seems so much simpler when one is on leave. No traffic to brave on the way to work or on the school run. Zero deadlines to meet. No shouting and frustration at kids who seem resolute in making one late for one’s early morning meeting. 

As we were driving along the winding road from Cape of Good Hope back to Kalk Bay, I reflected with pure joy on the fact that for the first time in a very long time, I wasn’t being pulled in a million directions all at the same time. My kids wanted to stop and smell the sea air, go onto the beach and play in the sand, and run away from the water lapping at their feet. So, that is exactly what we did. We lost ourselves completely in the moment.


So, this got me thinking. So many patients come to me suffering from burnout. Burnout is not only a psychological phenomenon. It’s not only a feeling of exhaustion that no amount of sleep seems to remedy. Burnout also presents with a number of physical ailments: tummy cramps; bloating; alternating diarrhoea and constipation (irritable bowel syndrome); muscle   and joint aches and pains; rib cartilage inflammation (costochondritis); and tension headaches.

Often, when I tell patients that they are suffering from burnout, their initial reaction to my proposed treatment plan is somewhat unexpected. When I suggest that they take it a bit easier,  and rest and relax more, the almost universal answer is that they can’t cut back or slow down.

Many patients ask for medicine as a temporary fix for their burnout. Unfortunately, this is exactly that – just a temporary fix. It’s sticking a plaster on an open gaping wound, and hoping that the wound will magically heal.

I’m also guilty of this behaviour. With all the roles that we fulfil in a day: wife, mother, teacher, home executive, working mom, emotional support system to name but a few, there doesn’t seem to be any time left over for ‘me’. And, to top it all off, if we do have a few seconds to ourselves, we feel too guilty to take that time for ourselves because we could be doing something for someone else.  

Make time for your own ‘time-out’

Your family will survive if they eat leftovers/take-aways/finger foods for one night a week while you take a rest. My kids’ favourite meal is a snack platter. It’s made of cheese wedges, tomato slices, cucumber sticks, carrot sticks and cut up fruit. This is what they had to eat every time my husband was on call because I physically did not have the energy to prepare supper when I eventually got home at the end of the day. The ironic part is that now that my hubby doesn’t do 30-hour calls, my kids still ask for a snack platter (a win for me!).

Try to find 10 or 15 minutes in the day to spend in your own company. If I’m feeling particularly frazzled, I tell my hubby and kids that mom needs a ‘time-out’. Time-out could entail guzzling a whole slab of dark chocolate, a long hot bath, yoga/meditation, or even reading a book.  

Remember to always be kind to yourself. In the end, if you fall apart then everything else around you will fall apart as well. It is okay to take a break and invest in yourself. No amount of medication can take the place of adequate sleep and rest.

So, on a final note, as we move toward the festive season, remember to take this time to relax. No one will care if you haven’t managed to cook the perfect festive feast or put up the most dazzling Christmas decorations.

Dr Inge Kriel is an oncology care physician practicing at Netcare Milpark Hospital.


Dr Inge Kriel is an oncology care physician practicing at Netcare Milpark Hospital.