Before you roll your eyes at another person telling you to “rest” and “take time for yourself” when your schedule is already packed morning to night and everything in between, let me explain.
I am not a stressed person in general (yes I have my moments). I don’t suffer from anxiety. I am slowly learning the valuable skill of turning my computer off at night to take a break from work until the morning. What I am, though, is a constant thinker. A multi-tasker. A “I have 15 minutes in this waiting room so I’ll answer emails, plan dinner tonight and meditate while I have the chance”-er.
My brain rarely turns off. When I’m driving I’m either making phone calls (on my Bluetooth of course!) or mentally preparing for the meeting I’m headed to. When I’m walking my daughter, I am thinking about the exact route to take that burns the most calories and gets us back in time to avoid stroller meltdown. When I’m teaching class, I’m planning two moves ahead so that class doesn’t stop and lose it’s flow. When our daughter has gone to bed at night, I lay on the couch and think about what time I need to set my alarm the next morning to get as much done as possible before the little nugget wakes up. Yes this skill can help me be organized and most efficient with my time, but it can also lead to brain overload. If you’ve ever had ten thoughts fighting for the last ounce of space in your brain, or if you’ve ever thought “I just can’t make one more decision today”, you know brain overload.
A light went off for me two weeks after giving birth last year. I was in a haze of feedings, diaper changes and lack of sleep. Harmony was in a transition phase with personnel so during every baby nap I was on the phone and answering emails making sure I was supporting my girls as much as possible. It was also our first baby, so with the extra time after nursing, changing, working and cleaning, we were researching everything under the sun to make sure we were doing things right.
One afternoon our baby was up and had just been nursed and was chilling on the floor with her dad. I had finished a work dilemma. Clothes were folded. The sun was out and it was a beautiful Hawaii day. I said “I’m going for a walk”. I just needed five minutes in the sun. Five minutes to stretch my body and not answer any questions. I accidentally left my phone behind, so consequently I had no distraction. I just walked. Did you hear that? I. Just. Walked. I looked at the trees in the breeze. I picked a flower off the ground. I didn’t ask myself any questions or think about anything. I didn’t want to think or problem solve for just five minutes. I just wanted to feel the sun on my face. I walked back into the house renewed, regenerated and with a lesson that would change my days to come.
We need rest, people. I’m not talking “go get a massage, take a hot bath, watch a movie” rest. That would be great, but isn’t always realistic. I mean we need to turn our brains off for just five minutes a day. Five minutes of unplugging from our phones and computers. Five minutes of not being in charge. Five minutes of not having a plan. Five minutes of not answering questions. Five minutes of being ok with the quiet. Five minutes of giving yourself permission to not think.
This is a hard thing to plan and schedule into your day, so I suggest just taking the opportunities when they present themselves. If you get to work early, turn off the radio and put your phone away and just sit in your car for five minutes. Let yourself watch the world go by without judging or thinking. Sit outside with your coffee for five minutes and watch the birds in a tree (I’m not kidding, if you haven’t done this before, it’s actually really interesting!). If you are waiting for dinner to be done and your child is finishing homework at the table, just sit next to her. Watch her work, concentrate, put her hair behind her ear. You might see something you haven’t before.
We are taught and trained to squeeze everything out of every minute in the day. We are busy people in a busy world, and we do our best to take care of ourselves and those around us. You need to know there is nothing lazy or wrong with resting your brain during the day! We all need it. Sometimes it’s in the quiet spaces that our best ideas sneak in. Let yourself see the trees. Let yourself hear your child’s laughter. Let yourself smell the flowers. Let yourself taste your food. Five minutes. You can do it.