Take thirty seconds to assess how you feel right now. Are you feeling stressed, tired, frustrated, or run down? Do you feel peaceful, well rested, balanced, or energized? If you happen to be feeling more run down than energized, ask yourself if you’re getting enough rest.
Many people in our western culture wear their ability to function on little sleep as a badge of honor. During my tenure in the corporate world, I reported to management who bragged about how little sleep they got. Even the CEO bemoaned about how he was the first one to arrive at the office before the rest of us got out of bed.
I learned the hard way that this is not a healthy way to live.
Coming out of college, I had no idea what it took to be successful. And the idea that I got to decide what success meant to me was a foreign concept. So like many young people, I modeled the behavior of those I considered “successful” at the time. Needless to say, I developed some pretty unhealthy habits.
I smoked, drank, ate too much junk, and pulled my fair share of all-nighters. It was all I could do to try to get through the day and get ahead. Then in 2011, I had a wakeup call. I realized that if I kept living this way, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy the life I was working so hard for.Live your life in a way that it will allow you to enjoy the life you are working so hard for. Click To Tweet
In a moment, my priorities shifted from being perceived as successful, to nurturing my health and my marriage. Moving my body, eating healthy meals, and getting enough rest, became nonnegotiable daily habits.
These new habits didn’t go without notice. I recall being questioned by my boss about my work schedule. The 10+ hour days, weekend events, and constant travel weren’t enough. They wanted more. I tried to articulate that I do better work when I take care of my physical needs first. You probably don’t need me to tell you that job didn’t last much longer.
Those last few years in the corporate world were some of the most difficult years of my life. I don’t know that I would change it though. That experience helped me create everything I write and coach about today.
During those last few years, my husband and I built a foundation to have the freedom to start living a life we love. The first part of that foundation is good health. It’s difficult to dedicate time to our goals when we don’t have enough energy to get through the day. This is why I always ask clients to first consider how they feel.
One of the quickest ways to change our health is by getting better rest. Rest doesn’t just mean getting more sleep. Being well rested means taking time throughout the day for meditation and breathing. Rest is powering down one day each week to reconnect with the people who are most important to you. Planning that dream vacation is another important form of rest.
Let’s begin by learning more about these four types of rest.
Types of Rest
There is nothing like a good night of sleep. Think of the last time you couldn’t fall asleep or didn’t sleep well. How did you feel the next day?
Lack of sleep has been linked to chronic health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. There’s evidence that the cleansing of our brains that occurs during sleep could help prevent Alzheimer’s. Unfortunately, it can take years before we notice the effects of sleep deprivation. So make sure you’re getting enough sleep before problems occur.
For some people, it’s not as simple as going to bed on time. There are many things that can affect our quantity and quality of sleep. For example, alcohol, caffeine, stress, screens, and temperature can all interrupt a good night’s sleep.
According to the CDC, one in three American adults isn’t getting enough sleep. Many of these insomniacs suffer from a sleep disorder. If you think this might be you, please schedule an appointment with a sleep specialist as soon as you can.“The best bridge between despair and hope is a good night's sleep.” – E. Joseph Cossman Click To Tweet
How many times per day do you stop to hit pause? This can be anything from meditation, mindful movement, breathing, or playing in the sand.
If you’re like me, you might see this as an interruption to your productivity. But I’ve learned that taking ten minutes to walk away from an obstacle ALWAYS leads to better results than powering through. If you’re feeling distracted, frustrated, or unmotivated, hit pause and take a ten-minute rest.
I’ll be the first to admit that this can be really hard in our hyper-connected world. However, I’ve found that taking one day a week to power down helps my productivity soar.
What does it mean to power down?
Powering down means taking a day off from your usual routine. No work, no computers, no errands. A full day to reconnect with the people who are most important to you. A wonderful way to do this is by implementing Screen Free Sundays.
For one full day, put your laptop in the safe and your phone in airplane mode. No checking email, Facebook, or get sucked into YouTube. Instead, disconnect and spend some quality time with your family.
You could go for a hike, make a fancy brunch, or go to the beach and enjoy a good book. It can be a hard habit to stick to sometimes. But come Monday, I’m always grateful for the reset.“Meditation is the ultimate mobile device; you can use it anywhere, anytime, unobtrusively.” ― Sharon Salzberg Click To Tweet
These are the opportunities we give ourselves to walk away from the day-to-day and pull ourselves out of autopilot. This can be anything from a weekend getaway to a gap year. It doesn’t matter if you can afford a camping trip or a dream vacation. What matters is that you do it and completely immerse yourself in the experience.
Travel has been one of the best investments my husband and I have made in ourselves and our marriage. We’ve learned what matters most in life, how to linger, became more confident, and witnessed the love of humanity. I can honestly say that we are who we are today because of the places we’ve been. I hope the links above inspire you to do the same.
The Power of Rest
I’ve mentioned a number of benefits of rest already: better health, increased productivity and reconnecting with our loved ones. Here are other ways rest can help you create a life you love.
Let’s start this section with a truth bomb–focus is hard!
As someone who’s relatively driven and intrinsically motivated, I feel like I should tell you that I go through periods when I struggle to stay on task. Add to that the constant distraction of technology, such as smartphones, and our productivity can plummet.
Even when I’m disciplined enough to put all of my devices in airplane mode, I still encounter moments when I lose focus. Sometimes it’s triggered by stress, fear, hunger, or I’m simply just tired. If I allow myself to take a break, instead of trying to power through, I always come back to the task with more focus.
When you hit a wall, give yourself permission to step back and take a break. The results will amaze you.
I don’t know about you, but I seem to have some of my best ideas when I’m not in front of my computer. For example, I often find myself running to grab a notebook to jot down ideas after taking a shower. Many of my blog posts were born on a bike ride or during my morning meditation. And lots of the ideas we have for businesses and life were born on vacation.
Our brains and bodies tend to tune out when we spend our days and lives on autopilot. Give yourself permission to step away and watch your whole life change.Our brains and bodies tend to tune out when we spend our days and lives on autopilot. Give yourself permission to step away and watch your whole life change. Click To Tweet
Gain a New Perspective
So many problems to solve, so little time. We all have things we’re trying to figure out in our personal and work lives. When we get stuck in one place, staring at the same problem, we get stuck in one perspective.
Take a break and walk away. You’ll come back with a new perspective and better solutions.
Improve Mood and Outlook
It doesn’t matter if you’re pursuing your passion or in a job that helps you make ends meet. There will always be something you don’t enjoy doing. If we don’t take breaks, these things can wear us down.
This also applies to our personal lives. Getting up, watching the news, sitting in traffic, and running errands, day after day can feel uninspiring.
That’s why it’s important to slow down and enjoy the little things. Go for a walk or watch the sunset. Taking time to slow down will remind you how beautiful and amazing life is.
When stress runs high, our relationships can suffer. My husband, Jer, and I tend to have a lot on our plates and we can fall into patterns where we either snap at or ignore each other. That’s why I’ve made it a point to pause what I’m doing so we can stop and connect each day when he comes home.
When life gets hectic, give yourself permission to take a break and reconnect with the ones you love. In the end, this is what really matters.
Fitting Rest into Your Life
Even though I know how important rest is, it can be hard to prioritize. Growing up hearing phrases like, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead,” make rest feel like a guilty pleasure.
I like to work and stay busy. This makes it hard to step away for a quality break sometimes. And when it comes to vacations, I’m a saver so it’s hard to want to spend the money.
I imagine you fall somewhere in here too. That’s why I put together a list of ideas to help you fit rest into your life. Pick a combination of things that work well for you.
Travel – A nice long vacation allows us to decompress and reset so that we can come back as our best selves. It’s a great way to learn, connect, and grow. Travel is always a good investment of your time and money.
Opt Outside – The simple act of stepping outside to walk around the block or pull a few weeks in the garden can refresh even the crappiest day. Fresh air, sunshine, and green spaces heal the body and soul.
Meditate – It can be hard to take breaks throughout the day. So I include meditation in my morning routine. If I notice I’m feeling stressed or anxious during the day, I love to lay down for five or ten minutes and just breathe.
Tea Time – A fresh cup of coffee or tea are wonderful ways to slow down and be present. Enjoy the full sensory experience of the warmth of the cup on your hands to the fresh scent steaming out of the cup.
Read – Getting sucked into a good book is one of my favorite ways to take a break. I always feel invigorated and inspired. Here are some of my favorites.
Crank Up Jams – Music is a great way to let your worries melt away. Add a little singing or dancing for a quick mood booster.
Journal – I wrote about the benefits of writing in this post. Since then I’ve started a formal journaling practice as a part of my morning routine. It’s a great way to clear some space before starting my workday.
Call a Friend – There’s nothing like a little talk therapy. As an introvert, it can be hard to make myself get out and connect with people. But I’m always happy once I do. I feel refreshed with new ideas and the energy I need to keep moving forward.
Take a Nap – Personally, I’m not a fan of napping. It makes me feel more tired and interrupts my sleep schedule. Still, many people benefit from and enjoy a daily nap. Just twenty minutes can improve alertness and performance.
Make it Happen
We’ve discussed the different types of rest, why we need it, and how to get it. Here are a few more tips to help you make it happen.
Schedule It – Whether it’s a dream vacation or daily meditation, if you want it to happen, you need to schedule it.
One of the reasons our last dream vacation was so overdue was because we never took the time to schedule it. I also do this with journaling, meditation, exercise, and other daily routines. If it’s important to you, schedule it and make it happen.
Budgeting isn’t just the financial aspects of rest. We must also be mindful of how we budget our time.
Think about things that come up throughout your day that aren’t helping you be your best. Maybe it’s reactively responding to emails or checking your social media feeds too often. Consider filling some of that time with a more positive form of rest and feel a little bit better each day.
Define Your Why – Why is it important for you to get enough rest?
For me, I need to have the energy and focus to work on my big bold goals. I also recognize the importance of rest to my overall health. It’s important to me that I’m able to do the things I enjoy when I’m 80, 90, and 120 years old.
What’s important to you?
Feeling great and achieving your goals isn’t just about getting more done. You need to make room for regular rest. A good night’s sleep, breaks throughout your day, and vacations are important. Not only will breaks improve your productivity, but your physical and emotional health too.Feeling great and achieving your goals isn’t about figuring out how to get more done. You need to make time for a good night’s sleep, breaks throughout your day, and regular vacations. Click To Tweet
Before you move on to your next task for the day, I encourage you to do these three things.
1 – Set a date for your next vacation. Add a location if you have something in mind.
2 – Decide how much sleep you need tonight. Then determine what time you need to be in bed to get it. Set a timer 30 minutes before bedtime.
3 – Schedule one break for tomorrow. You can choose to meditate in the morning, journal in the evening, or walk around the block at lunch. Decide on one thing and schedule it.
If you find these exercises helpful, schedule them daily and make new habits.
What are your favorite ways to wind down?
Share in the comments below.