I recently met up with a friend who is burned out from a demanding job, and worried that she’s bringing the stress home to her family.
“How long have you been feeling this way?,” I asked.
“Probably since January,” she said.
Oh, the month the asshat was inaugurated president?
“I’m not sure that timing is a coincidence,” I said.
Work stress feeling unbearable and The State of Our Country may not seem interrelated but I think they are. Our baselines are higher now. Our sympathetic nervous systems are triggered, we’re fighting or fleeing, and in that heightened state, cortisol pumping, something that a year ago might have been slightly annoying, is now full-scale intolerable.
Which is why we need to rest.
Ariana Huffington wrote a book and launched a whole campaign around the importance of sleep (“The Sleep Revolution”). I’ve written about the importance of sleep myself. I’ve also pointed out that more important than sleep, really, is relaxation, since sleep itself isn’t necessarily restful (grind your teeth much, America?). This is something I learned from marketing-exec-turned-restorative-yoga-expert Jillian Pransky (if you ever have a chance to take a class with her, by all means, TAKE IT).
My conversation with my friend reminded me that now, more than ever, we need to find ways to rest. Stress weakens us, you guys. We can’t fight if we’re sick. And we certainly can’t enjoy our lives.
In an interview, former hedge fund-er Khe Hy — who is now a writer, entrepreneur and champion of mindful living — talks about the importance of rest to his creativity and productivity. He says that in addition to getting 7.5 hours of sleep a night, he meditates twice throughout the day for 20 minutes and does 15 minutes of yoga, usually before bed. (In the interview he shares other “hacks” for reducing stress throughout the day — it’s a good, quick read.)
How do you rest?
Here’s what not to do — you know this, but here’s a reminder:
- Check social media right before bed (in fact, a moratorium on screens for at least an hour before bedtime will help you fall asleep and sleep more restfully)
- Hit reload on your inbox or social media over and over and over and…
- Drink caffeine late in the day
Quick boosts of relaxation come from:
- Nature. If you can’t get to a park, stare at a tree or a plant. Just sit there and stare at it and remember all the life force that goes into its existence and growth, all the amazing things nature does when no one is looking and how beautiful they are.
- Being with people who make you feel safe. If you can’t be with them in person right now, look at photos and spend some time conjuring some favorite memories.
- Petting animals. If you don’t have one of your own, go by an animal shelter. You’ll help a puppy or kitten feel comfortable with people and leave feeling happier.
P.S. When I searched Flickr for a photo of a sleep mask to go with this post, the following horrifying image popped up — and made me laugh. I’m sharing it here in case it makes you laugh, too (laughter: also a big stress reliever).