People often think of “the environment” or “organic” when they hear I work with a study abroad program that focuses on sustainability. But really, sustainability is a simple concept that can be applied to any number of scenarios: Can I sustain this level of stress my job is causing? Can I sustain this amount of caffeine I’m drinking? Can we afford to eat out this much? If not, how long can this last till something needs to change? Now that I’m starting my second year working in New Zealand, where I’ve had numerous conversations on the topic of sustainability, I increasingly find that it is something that can — and should — be applied to your personal life. Just think about it… what sustains you? Which is why my first sustainability tip is on resting.
I have a small, close-knit community to thank for making me realize that I needed to learn how to rest well in order to live well. Even a people-loving extrovert like me needs time to be alone and just not be busy. Us success-oriented Americans can find this hard to learn, let alone do, especially if you find yourself tempted to equate feelings of success and worth with being busy. But such a mindset will only lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and eventually burn-out. Busyness isn’t worth that kind of stress! So here are some tips I’ve found helpful to creating a habit of resting:
Set up boundaries: Create a time and place where you can regularly go and not have distractions or work around. Use that space only to rest, free of distractions. Set up any rules for yourself or others that will help accomplish that for you. Feel free to get creative and make it feel homey! (Or even include an inspirational poster!)
Learn to say “no”: This is necessary in order to set up those said boundaries. If you feel you are too busy to have a regular time when you can rest, you might have to say no to some of your current commitments, or to social interactions that come up. Be firm! As a parent, this may mean reaching out to others for help. Have some time where your spouse or a family member/babysitter can fill in, even if it is just once a week.
Figure out what activity relaxes you the most: It may be exercise like running or yoga, or playing an instrument or sketching for those of us who have trouble sitting completely still. Other more tranquil activities could include coloring, enjoying a home made facial, drinking tea, reading a good magazine, you name it! I’d recommend choosing a favorite tea or magazine that you save only for that time off, so it feels that much more special.
Write up your To-Do list before hand: I find that the moment I start slowing down and relaxing is when I remember everything that needs to get done. Simply write it down, either before or during in a special “work-only” notebook or on any scrap of paper available. Once you’ve written all your “To-Dos” or brilliant ideas down (like how to solve that work-related problem), close your work notebook, put the paper away, and don’t let yourself look at it for the rest of your “off” time.
Skimming Instagram doesn’t count: It can be hard to be alone and quiet without the distraction of a phone, computer or TV. And while it is enjoyable to just “veg out” after a hard day, that shouldn’t be your only means of resting. Try something with fewer distractions, like journaling and reading, or if you prefer, going on a walk, playing a musical instrument, or looking at the stars. No phones allowed.
Get enough sleep: If you don’t, rest time will quickly turn into nap time. But both are good for you! Aetna, a large insurance company, now pays its employees bonuses if they sleep at least seven hours in a night. And recently Arianna Huffington, author of The Sleep Revolution and co-founder of the Huffington Post, stepped down as editor in chief in order to pursue her new venture, Thrive Global, which focuses on combatting workplace burn out. But while sleep is important, don’t get fooled into thinking sleeping is the same as resting.
You won’t regret it! You might worry about missing something very important if you take time away or don’t always have your phone on you. I’d encourage you to try it out in increments. Start with 20 minutes a day. Let people know you aren’t available during that time. Clarify what is an emergency and what is not, if need be. It might surprise you how easily others can get on without you, or at least learn to wait or make do. Try building it up from 20 minutes to 40 minutes, an hour, two hours, or however long you feel like is enough time for you to recharge. Believe me, you won’t regret it.
Good habits require the time put in to create them. So don’t give up! Especially if you are in the midst of a particularly busy season; you probably need that rest now more than ever.