I was talking with some friends about work/life balance, productivity, and rest. One of my friends dropped this bomb on me:
“I don’t feel that I need to earn my rest.”
It seems so simple, but it Blew. My. Mind.
I like to be playful, but I am a chronic “do-er” and place a high value on performance and productivity. To a fault at times. In the past, I didn’t give myself enough time to sleep or eat or rest but just kept working. I distanced myself from people using workaholism as an excuse.
Changing workplaces a few years ago showed me just how out-of-whack I was. It was in the little things– taking the time to re-do your hair before starting on your next task. Taking a break from work to slowly walk around the shop with a co-worker to catch up and get water. A group of people standing around just talking instead of jumping straight into labor. Taking extra-long bathroom breaks just to have some alone time. I even found more than one roadie napping in a rolling chair behind a power rack.
Some friends share this workaholic personality. We’re both appalled when 9-5-ers claim that no one really works more than 4 hours in an 8-hour day. Even wracking my brain I could not figure out what you do in those other 4 hours a day. How do you not fall behind on your workload? Are the expectations of employee performance so low? One friend of mine countered that she gets 10 hours of work done in 8 hours.
Sure, there are positives of having too flexible of boundaries at work – employers love you. But the detriments are far greater, they are your own mental and physical health and personal life.
When I was younger, I didn’t see the value in rest that I do now. I used to set up my work and my personal boundaries so that I took care of anything and everything personal outside of work, left all my baggage at the door, and at work, I just performed. My order of priorities was: what others thought of me, work, money, food, family, friends, my own time, and health. Taking care of my body was simply another chore, but because I was the only one that suffered, I would take care of myself last with whatever time and energy was leftover if there was any.
I did this in my mental health as well. I was not my own advocate; I actually threw myself under the bus more often than not. Saying yes to things that were beyond my energetic means because of how my work would make me appear to others. I would become overwhelmed and overworked and turn to those closest to me to help close the gap. My advisor in college. My closest friends. My husband. I gave away the parts of myself that I needed to keep for myself, and I gave away those parts of me that I gave to those closest to me. To whom? For what? To work and relationships that gave me little back and aren’t around me anymore.
So why is it that running around pleasing others does not bring us into our authentic power? It comes back to this idea that you must fill your own cup before you can serve others. That if you are not in your own authentic power, then you cannot bring others into their authentic power.
Another part of this lesson in rest and personal boundaries is between myself and my loved ones. It is difficult to tell those I love “no,” and set boundaries around my time. However uncomfortable and sad it feels to “let them down,” that alone time fills and balances me.
It is scary to choose sitting in the discomfort of something unfamiliar (rest) instead of going along the well-trod path (restless productivity). On my days off my husband chuckles as he points out that I am assigning myself busy work on my day off, that I should practice relaxing. And he’s right. When I am relaxing my brain and my body, I get super uncomfortable and guilty, still to this day. I fold laundry, and work in my planner, just to satisfy that busy-busy brain track. I do consciously relax and give that brain pathway a chance to build up and become more comfortable, but it’s a process.
Lately, I’ve found that my only “relaxing” activities besides sleep are watching TV and scrolling on my phone. Scrolling my phone, though relaxing to my body, is not relaxing to my mind. I’ve started to categorize any time I’m on my phone as a distraction, not as rest.
So how do you relax? How do I relax? HOW do I RELAX???
What has been working lately:
- Slowing down. When I’m mowing I downshift from M2 to M1 and just practice being unhurried.
- Drawing or painting. Bullet Journal included.
- Cooking. Another “flow state” activity.
- Going outside. I enjoy doing chores outside or going for a walk to shake up my mental space and get fresh air.
- Snuggling. With family or furballs. Or with a nice blankie.
I have been working on my thinking around rest as a basic right and basic need, just as water and food are needs. And rest is not exclusively sleeping, but unscheduled and un-busy waking times that are necessary for my mental and physical health. A benefit I use to calm my inner critic is that studies show how much rest, enough sleep, a creative mind, and a healthy lifestyle contribute to productivity. If I can maintain my personal boundaries around my health and wellness with myself, my loved ones, my employer, and greater society I will not only produce higher quality work and products, but I will be healthier, happier, and more balanced in my personal time and with my family.