Stop Fighting Natural Cycles (or how to stop feeling guilty about needing to rest)

My to do list on my new favorite app (workflowy.com) gets longer every day. I’m in the middle of re-organizing my office and the piles are crazy. Not to mention the fact that it’s nearly six in the evening and I’m just getting this post written.

In other words, like most people, I have no shortage of things to do.

Today though, I haven’t managed to do much in the way of work except write this post, do a little admin and some organizing in my office.

Not a particularly productive day.

The worst part is I’m feeling really guilty about it.

I’m feeling like I should have gotten lots more done today. I wished I had. I wanted to.

The real problem is I do this every month.

Yesterday was my monthly Explore & Play Class and Coaching Hour. Every month I feel like I should just be able to work like normal the day after the class, and every month I find that I’m struggle to get much of anything done.

This time, I tried to preempt the guilt by scheduling a hair cut today. I thought a couple hours chatting with my stylist and friend, getting a hand massage and having someone else wash my hair (why does that feel so great?!) would indulge my need for a little pampering and rejuvenation.

But it turns out, it’s not enough.

Even though all signs point to it not being enough, I don’t want that to be true. I want to be able to just work like normal the afternoon after the class, the day after.

That wanting things to be different is a defining quality of stress.

Which reminds me of some important things.

There are natural cycles.

Some on a larger scale like seasons, and some on a much smaller scale. Except it’s so easy to forget the cycles of the smaller things.

When you apply the idea of seasons to a smaller project, like my Explore & Play calls, there’s spring where the idea for a class comes to me. Then there is summer, where I tend and fertilize the idea, coming up with the things I want to cover, the points I want to make. Next is autumn, when I harvest that work and actually hold the class and coaching hour. After that is winter, time for the field to lay fallow and the farmer to rest until next spring.

Except that I always want to skip winter and jump right into the next spring. Well, it might not be so much that I want to, as I think I should. I think I shouldn’t have to rest. It was just an hour call after all.

And yet, after every one I have days like today. Days when I don’t get much done, and I feel bad about it.

Endings and completion are critical.

One of my favorite parts of yoga classes is ending the session in savasana. One the teacher runs the rest of the practice long, and gives us only a couple of minutes in savasana, I always feel cheated.

How about a little experiment.

What would it be like if I blocked out the afternoon and the entire next day for no thinking work.

I could go enjoy my metaphorical winter with a run a ride or hike. I could just hang out at the park, meet a friend for lunch. I could head to the movies or simply lay on the couch and read as much as I wanted. I could do some magical combination of those things, as long as I’m not trying to start a new seed, or fertilize a newly planted one. (No work on projects!)

It feels so indulgent, so over the top and ridiculous to me. I should just be able to work. I have loads of work to do. I can’t just take a day and a half off like that!

Funny thing is, that’s exactly what I do, except I feel bad about it.

You can only go sledding in the winter.

By planning it, I’m hoping to relieve my guilt about needing and taking the time. I’m also willing to be surprised. Perhaps planning it will yield some sweetness, some insights, that only come when you’re quiet and not trying so hard to be productive.

How about you?

Do you allow yourself time to rejuvenate after you complete something?

If you don’t, try starting with just a small planned rest, and notice what it’s like for you.

If you do, I’d love to hear how you rest, and if you have any tips to make it easier.

 

6 comments to Stop Fighting Natural Cycles (or how to stop feeling guilty about needing to rest)

  • This post is absolute fabulousness. I currently am feeling the need for lots of little rests (and maybe even big rests). Like you, more rests than I feel comfortable taking. Currently, I give myself days of doing nothing at all (or only things like reading and walking) when I’m desperately in need of rejuvenation. But I’m working on increasing the do-nothing time. It’s so very sacred to me.
    Kylie recently posted..baseline self-careMy Profile

    • So glad you like it Kylie! Good for you for strengthening your rest muscle. It’s funny because it’s one of those things that feels like it should be easy, but as we both know, it isn’t always.

      My theory (and experience from when I’ve actually done it) is that the more we take those frequent little truly rejuvenating rests, the less big the big ones will need to be. I think it’s a little like maintaining a kind of rest/action homeostasis.

      I hope you’re able to increase your do-nothing time with ease, to the amount that’s just right for you.
      Shannon recently posted..Why is it so hard to let it be easy?My Profile

  • Thank you, Shannon, for this great post and the reminder that it is essential to include the rest part, especially for those really important projects. I teach so much about balance in my work and recognize that I teach best what I most need to learn. The more I can stay present and pay attention to what’s important right now, the more I can remember the need for rest (as opposed to the exhausted inability to move or think which doesn’t count). I also remind myself that this is a personal thing and what others do in a day has nothing to do with me. I wonder if guys have this same challenge? I wonder if women are more hard wired to ignore these natural cycles?

    • Thanks Debby, I’m glad it’s helpful for you. You make a really great point about this being a personal thing, and how the experiences of others is irrelevant.

      You have me curious about gender differences too. It does seem that if you’re geared more towards taking care of others, you’re going to be less likely to rest when you need it. Interesting thought!
      Shannon recently posted..De-stress Without Meaning My Profile

  • We would not even expect a water buffalo or a plow horse to work without stopping. Why do we expect it of ourselves?? Thanks for sharing your experience, Shannon. You’re such a good role model!

    I recently got an office outside my home and it’s really helping me take time on evenings and weekends to rejuvenate, rest, and enjoy my results.
    Margaret Lukens recently posted..Lies I Tell MyselfMy Profile

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