Ah, rest. That elusive daydream that no one has time for. The first thing to go when we need to get things done, and the thing we feel most proud for neglecting because busy means successful.
I’m sorry I skipped Mental Health Monday, but the truth is I skipped it because that was the right decision for my personal mental health.
Can I be honest for a second?
I’m not good at resting. At all.
Maybe it’s my perfectionistic tendencies, or my ambitions, but I always want to go go go. Doing something, being somewhere, getting stuff done, that’s what really makes me feel alive.
But you know what I realized? When I neglect rest for too long and keep focusing on working or being productive, I end up being super unproductive and just…not me.
When I’ve had a great night’s sleep, and I’ve prioritized self-care, I feel so happy. I feel like me. I’m slightly hyper, want to be around people all the time, and just feel super energetic and peppy.
But when I’ve had a few nights of subpar sleep, oooooof. I’m much more crabby, quieter, and don’t smile or laugh as much. And I really don’t like that.
Because laughing is awesome.
In full transparency, I’ve been feeling a bit rundown the past few weeks. I’ve been working a lot on this blog, and I also have a full-time internship. Plus I love hanging out with my friends, so my weeknights are usually filled with lots of social outings that I never want to skip because it’s summer, and this is what summer is all about.
And of course, my roommate was visiting over the weekend, which meant super late-night talks and early wakeups to see as much as possible.
So by the time Monday rolled around, I was feeling pretty dead.
I sat through work with my eyes barely open, not even finding the willpower to go buy my favorite iced coffee from a nearby coffeeshop (that’s when you know it’s bad). I actually had full intention to work out when I got home, especially since I’d taken a week off last week due to a minor back muscle strain.
And then I got home, collapsed on the couch with Taylor Swift in my ears, and just lay there until I decided enough was enough and dragged myself to bed.
I was so tired I didn’t even care how many things on my to-do list I was neglecting or that I hadn’t worked out in much longer than usual.
I just needed sleep.
And guess what?
Today I woke up an hour earlier than usual, feeling much more perky and ready to take on the day, and I even got an awesome morning workout in.
I’m often super hard on myself because I have a lot of goals that I tell myself I should be working on accomplishing all day, every day, or else I’ll never reach them.
But the truth is that kind of mentality is only stalling my progress, and also making me a lesser version of myself in the process.
If being happy and healthy and well-rested means it will take me longer to reach my goals, I am A-OK with that.
I’d much rather enjoy the journey and not try to speed through it just to get to the destination.
I noticed, too, that I was feeling less inclined to write or to do work when I was feeling that tired, and though the goals were still in the forefront of my mind, I almost felt incapable of reaching them.
It began to feel like my life was this endless to do list.
Work, prep dinner, work out, eat dinner, write blog post, work on updating the blog, drag myself to bed.
I didn’t even give myself time to practice guitar or read my book or watch some mindless TV. Every free moment I had I was doing something with a purpose.
Hour commuting on the train twice a day? Read your books on blogging and SEO and social media and try to make sense of everything.
Walking around the city? Listen to an inspirational podcast so you can constantly be learning.
My biggest fear was boredom. It was like, if I was idle, I was falling behind and keeping myself from my goals.
And I began to feel burnt out. When everything that was normally exciting me on my to-do list began to feel like a chore, I knew something had to give.
It makes total sense. You cannot perform optimally when your body is not functioning at its best.
From an exercise standpoint, this is even more obviously true. If you consistently keep running yourself into the ground, doing heart pumping intense workouts that leave you dry heaving on the floor afterwards day after day, and you refuse to give yourself any rest days because you “need to get results,” you’re only setting yourself up for failure.
Our bodies need rest to reformulate torn muscle tissue, to recuperate from DOMS, to get your cortisol (stress hormone) levels back to normal so that they are not spiking out of control.
We often think that more is better, that rest is for the weak, that to move forward, you need to be in constant motion.
But this is nothing more than a fabrication, one that will push you farther from your goals rather than propelling you towards them.
Rest is just as much a part of the equation of success, in workouts and just in life, as the actual work you put into it.
So I decided that from now on, sleep is a priority.
If that means a blog post won’t get written or a photo won’t get edited until the next day, so be it.
No one cares if I skip a workout two or three days in a row. No one cares if I choose to read my book in bed with a mug of tea in my spare time when I
should could be working on something from my to-do list.
I want to tune in to my body and mind. I want to give myself grace to sometimes say no to hanging out or to skip my workout or close my computer in favor of something that will reset me and bring me back my sense of self.
A lot of the things on my to-do list are things I genuinely love doing, like working on this blog. It’s a baby for now, but it’s my baby, and I truly do want to put my all into it.
But I also realize that in order for this blog to be something I’m proud of, I need to be fully present in it. And that can only happen if I take care of myself.
I guess the main point I’m trying to make is sometimes it’s better to slow down, tune in, and really listen instead of constantly trying to keep up with some imaginary race that really only exists in your mind.
So this week, let’s all allow ourselves to rest, to take a moment to breathe, to do something you normally skip because you say you “don’t have time.”
My goal for this week is to get 8 hours of sleep every night, to set aside time to practice my guitar, and to read my book before bed.
Yes, I’ll have to sacrifice writing a few posts or editing my home page or cranking out a long sweaty workout, but you know what, it will all be there next week. I’d rather be focused and excited to work next week than trudge tiredly through it this week.
If I’m already spending time on something, I want it to be time well spent and not just doing for the sake of doing.
So I challenge you today to let yourself take a break, take a bubble bath, watch that Netflix episode and the next two, bake five different kinds of cookies just because, go to sleep at 9:30pm instead of 1am and revel in the grandma-ness of it.
As the Irish say, “A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.” I don’t think truer works have ever been spoken.
A few questions
How do you know when you’re burned out and need a break? Do you take it?
Are you also scared of boredom and want to constantly be working, moving, and doing?