“Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.” – Anne Lamott
Our culture hasn’t done a great job of encouraging us to take good care of ourselves during the workday. In fact, many of us are working longer hours and carrying more stress than ever in the new hybrid work world.
Living in stress means living in survival. Dr. Joe Dispenza describes the devastating impact chronic stress has on the human brain and body:
“The pupils dilate so you can see better; the heart rate and respiratory rate increase so you can run, fight, or hide; more glucose is released into the bloodstream to make more energy available to your cells, and your blood flow is shunted to the extremities and away from your internal organs so you can move quickly if you need to. The immune system initially dials up and then dials down as adrenaline and cortisol floods the muscles, providing a rush of energy to either escape or fend off the stressor.“
All of this is like revving a car’s engine while it is sitting in the driveway in neutral. It’s deeply taxing on the engine and it gets you nowhere.
The big question for us to answer is how to break out of this trance of more, faster, bigger, get it done now. It’s time to step away and stop for a few minutes.
Rest to reset
A few years ago, I learned the incredible power of resting time. My husband and I were visiting our son and daughter-in-law and their two small children in Indiana. Every day, they took an hour just after lunch to rest and regroup. The children didn’t have to nap, but they did have to stay in their room and be quiet. Our daughter-in-law sometimes rested or sat at her sewing machine working on a creative project or flipped through a magazine.
And so, we stopped what we were doing, too, and went to the guest room. It was the first time I had coerced myself to slow my roll between sunup and sundown.
In the past, I have been a driver (or is it a deep creative?). I have a thousand ideas about what could or should be accomplished or kept in motion every day. I barely notice or register fatigue. In fact, I rarely stop for food or rest. I just keep going, checking things off my never-ending list. And then, predictably, I get crabby around 4:00 pm. I’m out of gas. My dear, sweet husband tiptoes delicately around me, trying not to upset the apple cart.
But resting time has been a game-changer. It’s a reset. Sometimes I rest for 20 minutes, other times for over an hour. When I wake up, I feel restored in a way I haven’t experienced before. I get to start newly. I often brush my teeth and begin the next creative project as though it was the start of a new day.
The data about the power of a nap backs up my personal experience. Research shows that you can make yourself more alert, reduce stress and improve cognitive functioning with a nap. Mid-day sleep means more patience, less stress, better reaction time, increased learning, more efficiency and better health. As Janna Mantua writes, “It is well established that in addition to reducing sleepiness, mid-day naps offer a variety of benefits: memory consolidation, preparation for subsequent learning, executive functioning enhancement, and a boost in emotional stability.”
If you don’t have time for a rest, try sitting down and taking some deep breaths, in through your nose and out through your mouth. This slows your brain and heart wave frequency in a way that’s similar to resting. Even just four rounds of deep breathing can provide the reset you need to break out of the trance of busyness.
Tips For Good Resting Time
- Avoid caffeine after 3:00 p.m. It’s a stimulant that stays in your system longer than you think — four to six hours!
- If you don’t want to rest a long time, set an alarm.
- If you don’t have time for a rest, try meditation; it gives your body a rest and produces slower brain waves akin to sleep.