I think we can all agree that for most of us, this mid- Fall time of year is always the busiest and most hectic. All activities and events are in full swing, people are (already) prepping for the upcoming holidays, and there seems to be this constant pressure or just general need to be running around and getting things done (as there always seems to be). Not to say that it isn’t good to be working hard or checking items off of your lengthy to-do list, but I think taking the time to step back from pushing yourself or from a stressful project or situation and letting your mind and body reset could be equally beneficial and productive in ways you may not even realize.
This year I am taking part in the New England Center for Circus Art’s professional training program. I train circus arts there 5-6 days a week all day. As much as we need to be exercising, stretching, and rehearsing, our coaches also stress to us how important it is for us as athletes to give our bodies a rest. We need to be able to distinguish training time between rest time and commit fully to whatever we choose. Your muscles (and your brain) need time to adjust, rebuild, and recover after such rigorous exercise. Rest and recovery is actually something that is a crucial part of our weekly training. Resting your sore, tired body can help with your strength and flexibility just as much cranking your splits or pumping out a bunch of pull-ups at the gym can.
At the beginning of the year, this whole idea of rest and recovery before and after hard training was something that was really foreign to me and honestly seemed slightly counter productive AND was definitely a bit anxiety provoking. It was a challenge for me to take a step back and do almost what felt like nothing at all. Little did I know how much good these rest days/weeks were doing for me physically and mentally. This has sort of made me realize how this idea of what’s “productive” has been so ingrained in all of us. It’s almost as if we don’t have some physical, tangible proof (or sometimes in my case, soreness, am covered in trapeze bruises, and building muscle by the second), we feel basically as though we got nothing done. I mean, it’s better to just keep pushing and complete as much as you can as soon as possible, right? Sometimes right, but a lot of the times WRONG! What if we could take this athletic idea of rest and recovery and factor that time and philosophy into our everyday lives?
Now you’re probably wondering how on earth you’d find time to fit in doing “nothing” into your already hectic schedule. First of all, I kind of (for myself) want to take away that the idea of relaxing being the same as doing nothing. That could be what it means sometimes, but you can also relax and take a step back while doing things that bring you joy or just take your mind off of what may be causing you stress or taking up the most of your time. You’ve probably noticed the difference in your progress and productivity when you are working based on your mood going into the task. Even if you are so organized and have everything laid out and ready to go, if your brain is tired and you’re not in the right headspace to be working, you’re going to get just as much done (if not less) as you would if you put it aside and took some time to “recover” in a sense. Our brains can get just as burnt out as our bodies can. In a way, making that decision to take the time away and listen to what you are feeling, is equally as productive as responding to all of those business emails that have been piling up in your inbox. You’re giving yourself time to rebuild your confidence and excitement to tackle the job!
Here are some simple things I like to do to relax or just to give my mind and body a little break:
- going for a walk or leisurely bike ride (or just spending time outdoors)
- watching a good movie or an episode of my favorite show
- reading a fun book (usually Harry Potter or some fluffy teen novel that I read multiple times in seventh grade)
- listening to some SWEET TUNES or a podcast about a topic that inspires or interests me
- talking on the phone, in person, or texting with friends and family
- working on a smaller project I am excited about or tackling another task that’s more towards the bottom of my list and less crucial to me (sometimes getting the smaller, more joyful things done can feel just as rewarding as the bigger projects)
- doing some work around the house or organizing a busy space
Most of these activities could literally take you anywhere from 2 minutes to multiple hours. It’s all about how much you feel you can fit it and what you feel will best serve you best in the moment. This whole idea all probably seems very obvious to you, but sometimes a big part of being able to relax is just giving yourself permission to in the first place. It’s also being able to recognize what’s most crucial for you to get done and what can wait for another day or free moment. I think if we all saw relaxation or taking it a little easier as way of being productive or supplementing that progress, we’d definitely be a lot healthier and lot more willing and ready to work when the time is right, instead of seeing all tasks as such chores. It’s obviously not an easy fix, just something I wanted to write about because I’ve been thinking about this a lot in the past few months. Obviously there needs to be a balance in how you factor in your relaxation, but I really wanted to shine a light on the importance of taking a break and letting yourself recover from stressful situations or just life in general. Plus, how listening to exactly what your body needs at a point in time can be extremely productive and rewarding in the long term.