We talked about how our bodies prepare when we run from tigers (which are really imaginary hamsters chasing us). As you might imagine, this process is quite taxing on our bodies – it’s the reason that tigers sleep for a day or two after a big hunt, their bodies are refueling and repairing. The very process that maximizes our chance of survival, over time, becomes destructive and damaging when we don’t take time to repair. We are made to sprint from danger and then rest and recover. Continued release of stress hormones over time begin to destroy our bodies. The on-going stress leads to a lack of focus, variety of illnesses, chronic fatigue, changes in personality, and depression among other things. I believe Americans have come to chase the adrenaline high that comes from the release of the stress hormones. We wear stress as a badge of honor. Rarely do you hear someone bragging about what restful vacation they just got back from, or how nice it was hit REM sleep in their nap. No, we tend to feel guilty about taking time to recover and truly relax, and tell ourselves we should be able to sprint from one finish line to the next.
I’m a realist. I know It’s clearly not possible for us to nap in every season of a project. I’m not proposing that you close up shop and take a week at the spa every quarter (although I do think it’s a lovely goal). What I am proposing is a shift in approach. Rather than sprinting from goal to goal, shoot for establishing a new pace. Sprint, rest, sprint, rest. Or start even easier – sprint, sprint, rest. After all, resting can be hard work. The shift in approach is that you bring some intentionality to resting. Rather than feeling like it’s gratuitous, or that you only do it when you have to. Reframing rest as that time that prepares you to sprint when you need to.
I wouldn’t be surprised if some of you were completely bewildered at this point. I know I was when I finished 8 years of graduate school while working full time. I went from full on sprint-sprint-sprint, to nothing. I didn’t have a job or a mission or a purpose. It was a perfect time for resting and repairing. However I almost overlooked it because I didn’t know what to do with it. You see, graduate school prepared me for a lot, but resting wasn’t one of those things. My tendency was to find something to do or to get involved in. Thankfully a mentor helped with some perspective and suggested I figure out how to rest. Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years about what I need when I’m intentionally resting:
– turn off the phone
– ignore texts
– check in with electronic communication (email/text/voice messages) only twice a day and only if necessary
– if possible, get out of the country
– leave home when possible
– read fiction
– go outside
– laugh a lot
– eat good food
– breathe deeply
– have an adventure
– tell people I’m not going to be available
– resist the urge to work on a project
– don’t use the time to catch up on other projects
– make a to do list titled “after I return” and put all my thoughts on that so I can release them
– do something creative without an agenda
– have a glass of wine (or two)
– sleep in
Self-care is important for you, the world changer, so that you can continue on your mission. Prioritize your rest so you can be ready to sprint next time you need to. Maybe eventually we will change our culture – let’s start bragging about how we rest. I’m pretty sure I can do it better than you.
Check out the first 3 posts in this series:
This series was originally posted on Plywood People.
Wendy Dickinson, Ph.D.