How do you know you do need a break? Do you take enough breaks? And how do you come back after a break?
One of the most important things with taking breaks, is the timing.
Ever heard “You’ll sleep when you’re dead?”
Well… That’s exactly the problem: You don’t need sleep when you’re dead, you need it now, to stay alive.
And you might be thinking: “But Claire, we can’t always choose!”
On how to balance action and rest, how to relax efficiently to be ready for action
AND how to apply this to set realistic intention for your year, so that you actually do what you planned, while staying mentally & physically healthy.
I know that you don’t always choose. I personally had a reminder of that just before Christmas:
I traveled from Melbourne to Vietnam. Now I was tired, I just finished a three months NLP training the day before. I obviously didn’t choose the dates, and due to my visa expiring, I needed to exit the country right away.
Well, arriving in Vietnam, with the change in weather conditions, and timezone, my body said: “Stop!”
And I just had to rest and relax. Which I thought I would do, just not to that extent. And the thing is, because I needed that break earlier but couldn’t stop, now my bodymind needed A LOT of rest.
Logical, right? A big step in one direction will need a big step in the opposite direction to balance.
What are those directions?
The two faces of you autonomic nervous system
Autonomic means that it functions without you consciously controlling it.
- sympathetic nervous system: fight, flight, freeze — stress response & action
- parasympathetic nervous system: rest, digest — nourish & restore
They control your bodily functions, but send opposite messages:
- sympathetic nervous system:
- accelerates your breath & heart rate
- sends blood to muscles
- shuts down your immune system: no time for illness when you need to run for your life
- parasympathetic nervous system:
- decreases your breath & heart rate
- sends blood to organs: digests, eliminates toxins, restorative functions
- supports your immune system
So ideally you want to balance your parasympathetic nervous system and your sympathetic nervous system
Activate your parasympathetic nervous system to rest & relax, so that you’re ready for action and can then activate your sympathetic nervous system when you need to.
The king activity for the parasympathetic system is of course sleep. Look at the resources for a very interesting TED talk about why you should take time to sleep, with examples of consequences of a sympathetic / parasympathetic imbalance.
If you activate one or the other for too long, then it can get difficult to switch to the other one. And when you do, it can turn into an opposite imbalance.
Have you ever procrastinated, then suddenly woke up and decided to take action? And because you waited for so long, went into action like a warrior, only to end up exhausted?
The classic totally unbalanced swing.
Yeah, I know, who does that, right? 😜
How to apply this knowledge of your nervous system to open the year on a good note?
… and put all the chances on your side to have a great year.
A Vietnamese story of balance
So I’m in Ho Chi Minh City right now. And how do you know you’re in Asia?
Well you’ve got a Cinderella plate (the first plate I randomly got out of the cupboard in my Airbnb flat). And it’s not for kids.
And you see an elderly woman on a Hello Kitty bike (just last week in the streets of Ho Chi Minh). And not only is she riding this cute Kaway bike, but also, she is a poster for the typical image we get from Vietnam: you know, ridiculously surcharged bikes, that goes kind of by miracle.
How do you they get there? There is an art to it.
First, charge your bike until it’s reasonably full.
Then, spot every empty space and tuck small objects in.
Then figure a way to add a bit more, turning the whole thing into a kind of miracle on wheels.
Then you’re ready to go, and after the first sense of “Wow, I’m doing it”, you feel quickly and increasingly sorry that you weren’t more realistic in regards to what you can comfortably carry.
But you push through the discomfort, because now you don’t have much choice unless you want to spill everything on the floor.
I know… Because this is how I used to fill a lot of things in my life, including my planning.
No wonder that, back then, I often moved a whole section of my to-do list from one day to the next.
(And what is amazing BTW is that I didn’t pay so much attention to what I actually did on that day, and instead felt unproductive and a master procrastinator.)
And that is exactly how a lot of us still set intentions at the beginning of the year. And end up at the best overwhelmed, not achieving these intentions, and at the worst exhausted or even burning out, completely stressed out.
And that’s a shame, because: as the way you begin the day dictates everything that is going to happen that day, the way you begin the year is critical.
Now is a great time to be kind to yourself
Maybe, under the illusion that this time, it would work, you made your New year resolutions. And maybe, you might already see that they are unrealistic and more of a wish-list.
What about shifting that and begin the year intentionally NOW?
1 Check your intentions
If you didn’t set some, congratulations, instead check what you want to create this year.
Imagine yourself being there: what did it take? (Especially regarding your energy: sleep, emotional state) Did you feel under pressure?
Did it happen in the timing you planned?
Whether the answer is a yes or a no: Why? What worked? What didn’t work?
Learn from these answers, and change your planning accordingly, so that you can create it from a relaxed and healthy state.
2 Do regular checks with your energy level
Ask yourself, on a regular basis: “how do I feel?”
- In general, how energetic do you feel?
Don’t ask your intellect, this one always wants to continue ! Listen when he tells though, as you will discover your resistance to rest.
Like maybe: “I need to finish it by today absolutely.” That might be true… Or is it? What will happen if it is tomorrow after a good night sleep?
Or: “I’m OK. I’m just very busy.” Yep, sometimes we have busier periods. But if it is ongoing, there might be a better organization. Are you doing the job of two persons?
So check your energy level to know when you need breaks… Not your rational thinking. This one will always find a reason why you should push through.
3 When you take a break, let it be intentional
Ideally if you apply what I just mentioned, most of the time you will take breaks before you really need them. So they will be really supportive of your energy, and not some kind of desperate emergency measure in order not to crash.
To be sure you don’t go into the opposite direction of staying in the cosy Parasympathetic system activation, go into your breaks intentionally.
Give them a structure: a time or a specific thing you do to relax.
For example, I stop..
- for 5 mn.
- the time to dance on that song.
- the time to listen to sketch from this comedian (a short break I love when I’m working).
And after that you go back into action, relaxed and revitalized.
What will you do differently this year to make sure you get enough rest?
Decide that this year is the year you let kindness for yourself guide your intentions and planning!
Go on my FB or IG page and drop me a 1 in the comments of this week’s posts if it is the case.
And lets have fun: drop me an emoji of what is going to structure your breaks.
See you on Thursday for the usual FB live where I will answer your questions and comments.
Resources cited in the conversation
Sleep is your superpower – Matt Walker (TED talk)
This very interesting TED talk about why you should take time to sleep, with examples of consequences of a sympathetic / parasympathetic imbalance.
All the episodes of the “Start a sustainable intentional year (and decade)” series:
- Start 2020 strong: give yourself a break! Why the first thing you should do is resting, and how to do it effectively to be in a good state when you come back to action.
- Automatically create your dreams with your optimized personal ecosystem: How to set sustainable goals using principles from permaculture.
- Define your happiness with flexibility for success: How to refine those goals to make sure we are progressing towards them.
- Beat procrastination with this simple tool to align intention and attention: Your intention is in the future, your attention in the present… How to make them work together?
- Affirmation vs reminders… Which work best? Affirmation don’t work… Unless you apply this simple tip.
- From struggling with motivation and willpower to using joy as fuel for your dreams.
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Stay tuned for the next episode, à bientôt. 😉