When was the last time you had a rest? It seems like many of us speed through the day working on to-do lists for our to-do lists.
“How often have you been in some conversation where the basic inquiry is not the deep ‘Who are you?’ but, ‘What do you do?'” asks clinical psychologist Tara Brach in her talk "Keeping Busy." “What we present to others is usually the ‘doing self,’ the self that’s out there doing things....Instead of being a human being, we’re a human doing.”
Today busy is the new normal, but allowing time for rest can help you renew on many levels.
“When we're constantly going, we pour out chemicals to try to meet those stresses,” said Matthew Sleeth, a former emergency room physician, in an interview with CNN. “We have short-term stress hormones like adrenaline, and longer-term hormones like the steroids that we pour out. Those chemicals constantly being ‘on’ are bad for us, and they lead to anxiety and depression and to, I think, diabetes and being obese.”
So how can you get more rest into your hectic schedule? Here are six easy things you can do today. You may be surprised by just how productive you become.
1) Start the day with a clean slate. Silencing mental chatter is a good way to let your brain rest and gives you the mental capacity to deal with the day ahead. One way to clear your mind is to write down all your thoughts in a practice called Morning Pages. It doesn’t have to be pretty—just write whatever pops into your head and try to fill two or three pages. You can throw it away when you’re done, or, if you think it’s the start of the next great American novel, keep it.
2) Set a goal to accomplish one thing. It may sound too simple, but this decision will force you to figure out the most important task of your day. When you accomplish that one thing, recognize your success. It might help relieve any guilt that you may feel when you rest.
3) Schedule a "stop day." If resting is important, why not treat it like any other important event in your life? Choose one day and add it to your calendar just like other appointments. If you can’t dedicate an entire day to resting, start with an hour or a half day and work your way up. But honor your agreement no matter what. When you feel yourself getting agitated or overwhelmed during your week it can help to know your rest day is coming soon.
4) Take a midday break. What is the one practice that works for you when you want to clear your head? In the middle of the day, do that one thing, even if just for a few minutes. Take a walk, read a book, or listen to your favorite music. Set a timer and just focus on your breathing for a few minutes. Take a power nap. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a short nap can increase your performance without making you groggy.
5) Dim the lights before bed. Get ready for a good night’s sleep by dimming the lights about an hour before bed. Research indicates too much light before or during sleep negatively affects melatonin levels. Make sure your bedroom is pitch black while you sleep: use heavy curtains to keep light out, cover up any LED lights in your bedroom, or use a sleep mask. Small adjustments to your nighttime routine can help you feel more rested the next day.
6) Re-evaluate your to-do list. While each item on the list might feel important, take a look at each one and ask, "Why?" Why are you doing each of these things? Eliminate things that no longer serve you or don't need to be done, and associate what’s left with a sense of purpose. Learn to delegate what you can and ask for help when you need it.
© 2015 Omega Institute for Holistic Studies