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Rest Before You Need It

You ever noticed that we equate rest with laziness and glamorize exhaustion as a symbol of significance?
Photo Credit: Ilham Rahmansyah on Unsplash

I sat with a group of pastors who were complaining—maybe bragging—about how busy they were, when one puffed his chest and chirped, “Well I’d rather burn out than rust out.” I thought, really? That’s idiotic! Either way you are out. How about choosing to live a life of meaning and impact for the long haul instead?

By contrast, I have two friends who are bucking the trend of “work til you drop,” right now. They left a couple days ago for an international work trip. Gone more than two weeks, with responsibilities in multiple countries, they chose to do something that felt extravagant at first. But, the more they planned it the more brilliant it became.

You know how travel goes. Preparing to leave and putting everything in place to cover the bases while you are away usually means burning the candle at both ends for days. You stumble onto the plane exhausted only to fight with travel fatigue, sleep disruption, and major jet lag as soon as you arrive. Way to suck the glamour out of travel, eh?

My friends chose a different way. Instead of stepping right into everything after flying across the country over the Atlantic and through 8 time zones, they rented an AirBnB near the beach for a couple days to rest and relax when they arrived.

Why do we imagine rest to be something we do only at the end of hard work? Why don’t we think of rest as something to do in preparation for hard work?

"Crash and burn," is not the same as rest.

It’s like the Ironman athlete who stumbles barely coherent across the finish line only to collapse onto a stretcher in need of medical attention. That’s not rest, it’s survival. It might be needed. It might be therapeutic. But, recovery is a precursor to rest.

And, I am not merely talking about the demands of travel. This is the way most of us live regular life. We try to squeeze every last morsel of energy from every last moment we can grab. Then we collapse.

It is time for a new normal. Rest before you need it. Like regular meals, it nurtures your soul and energizes your work.

Rest is how you get ahead, not how you catch up.

Let’s get practical. Besides regular sleep—that’s another whole subject—here are some ways to build in bite-size rhythms of rest along the way.

  • That Sabbath concept is a good start. Enough said. (See my post on Sabbath.)

  • Stop working at your desk through lunch. Get outside. Take a walk. Turn lunch into a leisurely three course affair.

  • Don’t book work appointments with people every meal. Even if eating with a colleague, ban work conversations and talk about your hobbies.

  • How about those life-giving hobbies? How much dust have they gathered?

  • Do something mid-week that breaks things up, rather than blitz your way to a weekend.

  • Deliberately take those "coffee breaks" during your day. Temporarily turn off your work motor for a few minutes—without your phone.

  • Read a fun book for no particular reason.

  • Listen to an audio book while you go for a walk or sit under a tree.

  • And, don’t forget the power nap.

Let’s ask the relevant question: How exhausted or rested are you right now?

You know yourself.

You know the normal rhythms you maintain. How does life-giving rest fit into your rhythms?

If I were your coach, I would ask you to choose one or two specific attempts at rest you could take today. And, since it's Thursday, I would have you explore the larger experiment you will try next week.

So, what step(s) are you going to take?

Bonus: Four Tips for Travel & Rest

I’ve flown nearly 2 million miles over the last few decades, so while I have loads of travel thoughts that might be worth addressing at some point, here are my top four travel-related rest tips.

  1. SLEEP BEFOREHAND: In fact, the most important night of sleep before travel is two nights before you leave. The night before any big trip you are a bit amped up. So, plan ahead to get extra sleep two nights before you depart.

  2. SOLITUDE @ 35,000: When you are on the plane, take advantage of the time for personal solitude. You know that when you land you’ll be busy, so give yourself some time on the flight to chill. Pull out that novel or audio book. Take a nap. Do nothing.

  3. RESPITE ON ARRIVAL: Quick turn around trips are different, but for longer trips, take charge of your schedule and block time for a great dinner, to see something local, to enjoy your destination, and to let your soul catch up to your body.

  4. RECOVERY TIME ON RETURN: My experience is that every day I’m gone will cost me a full-day of recovery when I return. This recovery includes catching up with my wife and kids, the toll of reverse jet-lag, following up on assignments generated during the trip, digging through the backlog that awaits, etc. You can’t simply squeeze it all into a schedule that is fully booked, so plan ahead for recovery.

Photo Credit: Ilham Rahmansyah on Unsplash

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