Why Rest Fuels Your Productivity
We’ve all been trapped. Trapped in the vicious cycle of speeding up when we need to slow down, pushing forward when we need to hit pause. But the fact is, if we can’t find a way out – the stress, the exhaustion, the fatigue – will only keep us from moving forward.
But what if the solution requires less effort and more ease?
Perpetuating the Cycle of Burnout
It happens all the time. We fight the signs that tell us we need to change our pace, in the name of productivity and checking another item off the to-do list. Instead of listening to our bodies – and our minds – we sacrifice our sleep, our leisure, and our relationships, only to find ourselves working harder and sinking deeper into the abyss of endless tasks and priorities.
As the list grows longer and the clock continues to turn, we’re discouraged by our inability to keep up with expectations – especially our own – despite our increased efforts, finding it harder to sleep as thoughts run continuously through our overstimulated minds, our fatigued bodies desperate for the rest that seemed so effortless once upon a time.
And as the sleep deficit continues to build, we find ourselves moving more slowly – not by choice – debilitated by lethargy and depleted of the energy we need to not only progress, but truly thrive. Because our ability to concentrate, create, and effectively communicate only dwindles as we anxiously try to burn the candle from both ends, failing to recognize that we’re unconsciously creating the chasm that confines us.
And the deeper we sink, the harder it is to find that light at the end of the tunnel.
Recognizing the Need to Slow Down
The signs might be easy to miss – perhaps at first. Especially because they might look different for each of us. For some, burnout might manifest in a sequence of sleepless nights, haunting you with souvenirs of the sleep that seems to evade you. For others, it might be a series of miscalculations that won’t add up amid the dense fog that clouds your concentration.
Or it might be a heightened state of reactivity, explosive emotions dictating your actions before wisdom can guide you, leaving you staring in the mirror at a reflection of someone you no longer recognize.
Perhaps the most precarious sign you’re on the slippery slope of burnout is the paralyzing indecision – creeping up in a series of small, yet seemingly impossible choices – that threatens to propel you over the edge of reason.
In its most severe form, burnout can physically rob us of our ability to make decisions, impairing neural pathways to the frontal lobe responsible for executive functions such as the power of choice. When we’re overstimulated and fall prey to the dangers of chronic stress, our sympathetic nervous system runs on overdrive, contributing to a whole host of physical ailments that only perpetuate the cycle.
But we can break free of these patterns by intentionally tuning in and slowing down – starting with the simple practice of rest.
Finding New Ways to Rest
It may be harder than it sounds, especially in today’s fast-paced environment and constant connectivity thanks to modern technology. But carving out time and space to rest is critical for our physical and mental well-being – not to mention our creativity and productivity.
While getting sufficient quality sleep provides a myriad of health benefits, nourishing the mind-body connection through conscious wellness practices also supports our holistic health. Practices that help us slow down and tune in with ourselves and our surroundings in the present moment make us more productive, more connected, and more inspired to approach each day with intention. And all of these practices are rooted in the idea of rest.
1. Give yourself permission to pause.
So often we choose to push through the symptoms of stress rather than listening to our bodies. Recognize that “busy” is a bad excuse for sacrificing your physical and mental health, and give yourself the opportunity to choose again. You must be the biggest advocate for your well-being, and hitting pause can be a simple way to start to shift your perspective and realign your priorities.
2. Create space to slow down and breathe.
Connecting with your breath can be a powerful tool for strengthening your mind-body connection and alleviating stress and anxiety. Engaging in slow, deep breathing for as little as 15 minutes each day can stimulate the vagus nerve and train your parasympathetic nervous system, enabling you to physically relax and show up as your most empowered self.
3. Practice meditation to deepen your self-awareness.
Meditation might seem intimidating, but all it requires is an intentional effort to train your attention and awareness. Using breathwork to prepare the mind and body can be a great way to start before spending 5 to 20 minutes in stillness and silence, without distractions. Allow the mind to wander and simply notice your thoughts without judgment. Using a prompt to guide your thoughts, such as “What do I need more of in this moment?” or “How am I feeling, and why am I feeling this way?” can be a helpful tool for developing your self-awareness. Mantras can also be an effective tool for meditation, such as “I am here. I am now. I am centered in the present moment.”
If you’re having trouble relaxing into stillness at first, try beginning with a moving meditation. Take a walk outside, listening to the sights and sounds around you or tuning in to non-lyrical music. However you approach your meditation practice, recognize that all it takes is unplugging from technology and a commitment to getting quiet with your own thoughts.
4. Reflect and learn how to protect your energy.
Reflection is also a powerful way to look within and connect with your intuition, and journaling can jumpstart a regular reflection practice. Getting clear on the activities that both relax and inspire you can help you develop a toolbox of practices that support your wellness and creativity – helping you to prioritize what helps you thrive.
5. Consider a regular yoga practice.
Yoga helps nurture the mind, body, and spirit through intentional movement and present moment awareness. This mind-body practice can be an effective moving meditation that alleviates stress-induced anxiety and enables you to ground and center in the present moment.
As a yoga teacher, I’ve personally experienced the physical and mental benefits of a regular yoga practice, which has helped me develop my inner strength and cultivate resilience – preparing me for any challenge life sends my way.
Whether you’re just beginning to notice the signs of burnout or currently suffering from its debilitating symptoms, recognize and honor where you are now. Give yourself the opportunity to hit pause, realign your priorities, and rest.
Remember that effort does not always equal productivity or accomplishment, and ease does not denote laziness or idleness.
Because when we stop wearing “busy” as a badge of honor and shift our perspective of rest, we embrace a catalyst for inspiration and productivity – and that’s how we truly thrive and make an impact.
For an immersive experience focused on mindful movement and centering within the present moment, sign up for my upcoming workshop Slow Down + Breathe at NoDa Yoga in Charlotte.
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