If you are like many folks in the U.S., the 4th of July means a long weekend. I often ask clients what they most look forward to for a long weekend, usually the subject of rest or escaping from burnout surfaces.
Many of you will say you are looking forward to a BBQ with friends and family. Others are looking forward to an opportunity to tackle a household project. My creative friends are likely planning lots of writing time with the luxury of extra time.
On the other hand, there are a number of people who would admit that what they’re looking forward to catching up on sleep. If a three-day weekend only brings to mind thoughts of sleeping late, taking naps, and laying by the pool to get some rest, in the guise of sun worship, then you, my friend, may be living a life in reaction mode.
What if I told you that in order to live a life that is happier and full of action (instead of reaction), creativity and joy, you need to get plenty of rest on a regular basis. What if I reminded you that rest isn’t just for weekends and holidays?
When a client tells me how exhausted and depleted he is feeling, I ask about his daily routine. Often, I hear stories of high-stress clients, late night reviews of contracts, and a constant flow of information via phone and email. There are mornings of skipping exercise, coffee for breakfast, no lunch, and a heavy dinner accompanied by a cocktail (or three) and several glasses of wine. Then, after dinner, there are dozes of emails to return and meeting minutes to type. Finally, around midnight, he falls into bed, only to fight regular bouts of insomnia due to the volume of information flowing in his head.
Who wouldn’t long for a long weekend with that kind of pace? Not only is your body tired, but your soul is exhausted, too.
Since the beginning of constant communication, we’ve been expected to always be available. We’re taught to give up our personal time and that the only way we can be successful is to do more. And we cut back on sleep in order to have enough hours to get everything done.
The problem is that the human body doesn’t really work that way. When you deprive your body of proper rest, you are actually less productive. You live on auto-pilot. You lose touch with your creative spirit. Life becomes one long to-do list with things like rest and joy under the column labeled “don’t.”
The fact is this: you need to get more sleep.
I know it will be challenging at first. Your mind will begin to list the bazillion things that need to be done before bed. But instead of listening to your mind, you need to listen to your body.
This is my challenge to you: use this weekend to kick-off a new habit: adequate rest.
Really tune into your body this weekend so you begin to relearn its signals. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast, and then climb back into bed with your sweetie for a nap. Allow yourself an hour to stay caught up on your email, and then turn off your computer (and Blackberry) and walk away. Take a stroll around your neighborhood. Sit out on the porch and watch the fireflies. Go to bed early.
When Tuesday rolls around, remember how great rest felt. Set a boundary with your Smart Phone by turning it off every night at a particular time (mine goes off by 8 PM). Honor yourself by going to bed instead of “catching up” on email.
One of the “inalienable rights” our forefathers listed in the Declaration of Independence was the “Pursuit of Happiness.” I promise you that if adequate rest on a regular basis becomes part of your daily life, and not something reserved for weekends and holidays, you will actually begin to pursue your own special happiness instead of just dream about it.
(Vintage NAPA Auto Parts Ad from July 1976)