By Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium
I wrote last week about making the most of your life by finding your stress "sweet spot," that state between ambition and anxiety in which you can function at an optimal performance without being overwhelmed. The challenge for most people today, I'd wager, is in knowing when and how to back off so that ambition and anxiety are not overwhelming.
When it comes to recalibrating and recharging so that we can continue to perform at a sustained high level, I think we have some work to do. At meQuilibrium, we prescribe a system for managing stress, because stress is a normal part of a busy life and the trick is to let it work for you, not against you.
Given how connected and driven people are (or feel they need to be) these days, making time to rest can feel like slamming on the breaks when you're going 70 miles an hour. Moreover, as we "work" longer and longer hours, the idea of taking time off to rest and recharge can become increasingly daunting, especially if this time off serves as a total contrast to our normal routines. Have you ever dreaded taking time away from work because you know emails will still build up in your absence, or felt diminished pleasure in the "cheat day" from your diet because of how crummy you know you will feel the morning? Have you ever felt like you needed a vacation from your vacation? If you've known any of these sentiments, it might be time to reexamine what it means to recharge.
It's tempting to think that a day spent lounging in sweatpants, eating whatever you want and watching back-to-back episodes of your favorite TV series is the perfect antidote to six days of non-stop business. But instead of following the "feast or famine" framework of rest and effort, I challenge you to think about one little thing you can do every day to ground and renew yourself.
As an example, I'd like to offer a realization I recently had about my brother and the balance that he has found in his life. He regularly pulls 12- to 15-hour days at his work, and I can't remember the last time he took more than two consecutive days off, let alone the last time he had a vacation. I was always baffled by this. How did he keep it going without an escape?
I finally understood his secret when I visited him one weekday and observed his daily routine: He's fortunate to live in a beautiful rural area and makes a point of spending a few hours outside each morning, swimming, running or just enjoying the solitude. In those few hours, he gets the benefits that most of us associate with a vacation: time unplugged, outdoors, away from the demands of the day.
Here's the kicker, though: He does this every day, and that's why the rest of his busy, high-pressure life is sustainable. For him, normal life and vacation cease to function as the two binary options for how he spends his time. Because he has found a way to get the benefits of a little vacation every day, he's not caught between the competing pressures of rest and effort.
Here is the takeaway: Let's stop thinking about rest as the opposite of effort and start thinking about it as the foundation of effort. What can you do every day to build in a little more relaxation or pleasure, to draw you out of the moments that wind you up and leave you so tight you feel like you might snap? It could be as simple as indulging in a really good latte every morning or a walk with your dog. Find something energizing to come back to every day or every week to help you to recharge without forcing you to disengage. You'll be well on your way to finding a more sustainable balance.
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