Stop whatever you are doing and ask yourself, “How do I feel right now?”
By Janine Taylor-Cutting
Close your eyes and notice whether you feel tired or energetic. Notice what emotions are lurking under the surface.
Take a little break in your day to check in and see what your body needs. If you are tired, take four or five slow, deep belly breaths. Get up and stretch up tall with your arms overhead. Do some side bends. Reach down to touch your toes. Move mindfully for a minute or two.
Good job—you just took a rest and gave your nervous system some tender loving care!
If you are a business owner and you prioritize your employees’ needs for breaks, you will have healthier, happier, more productive employees. We can model taking rests so that the culture of our workplace reflects our understanding of this basic human need.
A myth has been perpetuated in our society about productivity and success. Catchphrases such as “time on task” have been used to promote the expectation that even our youngest citizens—schoolchildren—should give up recess and fun school events in order to spend more time on math or the mechanics of reading. As children in the 1980s, we went outside for recess, and our teachers brought us to the playground on nice days, even in junior high. Free play was the norm at scheduled intervals during the day, and whole days and even weeks of the year were devoted to fun activities that were not directly linked to the curriculum. That all changed by the early 2000s; when I was working as a teacher, we were being told to keep kids at their desks, “learning” as much as possible.
We now know that learning, focus, and attention are negatively impacted by the lack of play, creativity, and social connection that a time-on-task approach cultivates, both in school and in the workplace. We also know that this approach has highlighted the idea that we should not prioritize rest. As a result, many of us are chronically tired and suffering from symptoms of burnout. This has negative effects on our health, work/life balance, and relationships.
So how do we go about incorporating some much-needed rest into our lives? There are three types of rest that we should all consider.
Are we building breaks into our daily lives?
A rest during the day is quite simply a change in activity. Sustained focus for long periods of time is wearying, so it helps to build in time away from the computer screen, or talking to people, or whatever it is that you are often doing. Make sure you take a meal break that is not at your desk. Fit in a stretch or short walk (inside or outside) at various points during the day. Avoid multi-tasking, when possible, as fractured attention is exhausting. Research shows that humans are not good at multi-tasking at all! It is one of the things that increase our anxiety.
Are we getting enough sleep at night?
So many women struggle with sleep, especially as we enter perimenopause and hormonal changes disrupt sleep. Add in various stressors such as raising children, running a business, working, managing a household, or taking care of aging parents, and sleep can become elusive. Sleep is the foundation of health, and we often let it fall to the wayside. There are things we can do to help us unwind at the end of the day. Establishing a bedtime routine and finding strategies that help us deal with worries are very important. Engaging in soothing activities, turning off screens, and listening to guided sleep meditations help many people drift off. Experiment with different practices and see what works for you. Prioritize sleep and aim for seven to nine hours a night.
Are you booking real time off?
Entrepreneurs almost never truly get time off. Even though we may say that we don’t even feel like we are working because we are passionate about our business, we still need time off. Everyone needs holidays—periods of time that span several days and where attention and care can be focused on things unrelated to work, or on nothing at all! You don’t need to travel or do something exotic, but you do need to unplug from your work—even if it is your life’s passion—so that you can rejuvenate and refresh yourself. You deserve to do this, and your mind, body, and spirit will reap the benefits.
A lack of breaks during the day, fractured nighttime sleep, and neglecting to take whole days off from work can cause fatigue and stress over time that impact mental, physical, and emotional health. Try to be kind to yourself and honour your need for rest. Be passionate about it and encourage your employees, co-workers, friends, and family members to do the same. Our culture needs a rest overhaul, and it starts with us!!
Janine is a counselling therapist and owner of Valley Counselling & Therapy in Grand Falls-Windsor, Newfoundland and Labrador, she is also a blogger, a cancer survivor, and a patient advocate. Janine loves spending time with her husband and three teenage children, walking her dogs, and reading. You can view her blog by visiting her website at https://JanineCutting.com.