I take trumpet lessons from a wise man who told me one day as I was racing through the music, “The rests are as important as the notes.” He’s right. Without those rests, the music would be painful to hear—a continuous cacophony that could not be sustained. The rests create a pulse, the rests are integral to the melody and the rests allow the musician to take a breath so she can go on. So why don’t we respect the rests and take time for them more often?
One reason is that our brains are designed to prioritize information and activities by their perceived importance to our survival. If we are not conscious that resting is integral to our survival, then our brains will prioritize the work as most important because our work brings us income which takes care of our immediate needs.
This is where the brain needs a little help. It reacts in a very animalistic way and we follow suit. When our business or project is needy, when we have a lot of deadlines and work to do, the first thing to drop out is usually the thing we need to increase most at this time: rest and rejuvenation.
The very real and disturbing truth about skipping the rests, is that eventually your brain and body and even your business or project will get so worn down that they will force you to rest (like the trumpeter who runs out of breath!). Not only that, but they will reclaim their rest time–with interest.
I am referring to those times when you don’t get enough sleep because you feel a need to “push through” to get the project done…only to become sick for a week and in the end you have less time to do the work…Or you overload your brain and the stress causes you to make mistakes, lose important documents, break equipment…now all that time you thought you were saving is lost, plus you have to search for lost items, replace documents and equipment…Or the times you work yourself so hard, thinking that you can’t afford the rejuvenation time so you cancel your massage appointment, turn down offers from friends to just hang out… and then you get injured or suffer from exhaustion and are unable to give to your work fully.
You know what you do to push yourself to that edge of health, that edge of alertness, that edge of sanity and stress. So let’s take a step back and see what can be done to prevent this loss of time, energy and effort caused by not taking rests along the way.
What are the things you could do to protect your time, your wellness, your health, your joy and the creativity of your business?
* How much rest do you honestly need to function best? A way to find out is to notice what time you go to bed and then wake up without an alarm clock. This is often the amount of time your body/brain is craving.
* What things can you prepare ahead of time to support yourself through stressful times? Things like laying out your clothes the night before a big day, scheduling a massage, a walk or time with friends before the stress hits and then not backing out…
* What do you like to do to rejuvenate? This sounds obvious but it is amazing how easy these things slip our mind when we are under pressure. Make a list of these so that you can refer to it when you need it most.
* Do you keep your frig. and cupboards stocked with good, energy food?
* What is one thing you could purchase or do to create a relaxing or rejuvenating element in your home or office? (foot massager, snacks in your car, music, something to make you laugh, creating a space just for this purpose…)
* What is the first thing that drops out when you get busy? What do you say you don’t have time for?
Answering the questions above and actually making the list of reminders of what rejuvenates and relaxes you can be one of the best things you can do for your business and for yourself.
Another point to consider is that your brain functions at a much higher level when you are rested and not under stress. Stress, panic and fear shift your entire nervous system into a fight or flight response (sympathetic nervous system) and this is not conducive to creative problem solving and generating innovative ideas, working calmly with clients and customers and getting things done efficiently.
Taking a few slow, deep breaths is a quick trick to getting your nervous system to shift back into the para-sympathetic mode in which your mind can think logically, clearly, calmly.
When you listen to music this month, notice the rests. Listen for the pauses that create the space around the music, adding to the fullness, giving the music room to breathe and flow. I also invite you to notice where you naturally want to pause, rest, rejuvenate and take time away from the infinite task lists, the stress and project plans, and then follow through on that impulse.
Some inspiration to rest:
“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.” ~ Sydney J. Harris
“Because we do not rest we lose our way. Poisoned by this hypnotic belief that good things come only through unceasing determination and tireless effort, we can never truly rest. And for want of rest our lives are in danger.” ~ Wayne Muller
“The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” ~ Bertrand Russell
© 2007 – 2009, Karrie Kohlhaas. All rights reserved.