“Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us,” – Maya Angelou
It is easy to get caught up in all the things that are going on in our lives and forget to take care of our own basic needs. The past month has been one of those times for me. Getting paperwork done, facilitating lunch groups, and providing direct services to students, along with writing this column, doing a weekly radio show, being a husband and a father has had me going and going. It is times like these that I am reminded how important it is to get a good rest.
In “Thoughts are Things,” Prentice Mulford states that certain Native American tribes referred to February and March as the weak months. It was recommended that people rested more, paying extra attention to their mental and physical needs during that time. I like that idea. I have been feeling very tired lately, and noticing that same fatigue in many of the people I interact with. Perhaps we all just need to set more time aside to relax. Rather than getting in the way of our success and our busy schedule, more rest will actually make us more productive, and less busy.
I was talking to a friend about his tendency towards perfectionism. He was referring to the belief that everything he does has to be perfect, or else it is not worth doing. He told me that he had seen a therapist in college who gave him some valuable advice. The therapist told him that he was no longer allowed to be perfect. She told him that he should aim to be “just okay” at whatever he was doing. At first, he was taken aback by her words. He could not imagine himself aiming for anything less than perfection. Then, as time went on, he started to see the value in what she had told him.
For many of us, aiming to be perfect gets in the way of us achieving our potential. Often this perfection leaves out parts of ourselves that are essential to our well being. This includes acknowledging that we need to rest. Rest lends clarity to our thinking and makes us more receptive to new ideas. It is said that Albert Einstein received his greatest insights while resting or during leisurely activities such as bicycle riding.
There have been times as a parent and a teacher when I have felt completely exhausted without even recognizing it. At those times I was more easily frustrated with my students and family members, and was more likely to get into petty arguments and power struggles. I also tended to focus on controlling my surroundings and the people I was interacting with, rather making choices that would inspire and influence them in positive ways. On the other hand, when I am rested and inspired, I find that my sessions are mutually enjoyable, and that challenges are seen as something to be explored and figured out. By approaching difficulties in this way, they tend to resolve themselves more easily. I also find that everyone walks away a winner.
Honoring my need to rest and nurture myself brings me closer to the people in my life. It is liberating to admit that I am not some robot that can just keep going and going. We all have moments that require us to step back and find a quiet place to regroup. It is in everyone’s highest good when I honor myself enough to rest when I need to. I marvel at how easily things that are bothering me become insignificant as I lay back and take even a three-minute nap during the day. I have avoided many a needless confrontation by taking some quiet time before reacting to a perceived challenge with a co-worker, a student or a family member.
Perhaps there is an area of your life where you need to slow down. This does not mean you have to run away or make any drastic changes. It can be as simple as taking a few minutes to close your eyes and breathe before going into a big meeting, or before teaching a class. It might mean grabbing a cup of coffee, or a juice, on your way to a family gathering, so that you arrive refreshed and more at ease. These little steps can have a huge impact on our daily experiences. By taking a moment to care for ourselves, and take a little rest throughout the day, we avoid a majority of the conflicts and misunderstandings that arise when we are running on empty. You never know what inspiration you might be missing out on by avoiding a little afternoon nap.
Edward Biagiotti is the Inclusion Specialist for Culver City Unified School District. He is also co-host of the popular radio show, Funniest Thing! with Darrell and Ed, live each week, Wednesdays at 3 p.m. on www.UnityOnlineRadio.org. Visit www.TappingIntoGenius.com for more articles and a free, inspirational parenting download.