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How to Unplug and Rest When You’re Way Too Busy

A little encouragement for extremely busy people

Have you ever considered taking a break from the grind? It could be it’s just a much-needed lunch break — or maybe a ten month sabbatical. Rest has been proven again and again to increase our well-being dramatically … and yet, we don’t do it.

For me, it took the sudden loss of my 22-year-old daughter to drop everything and simply do nothing for a while. At the time, I was a work-addicted striver with little interest in anything beyond hitting my goals.

Turns out there’s a lot more to life than just work. And oh, what sweet redemption that is.

If you’re like I was, you work 50-60 hours a week. Or you take work home, work on weekends, and try to juggle the rest of life as well. It gets overwhelming, doesn’t it?

But here’s the thing …

 Would you actually unplug if you could?

Often we get lulled into thinking we have no choice. We believe we have to overwork in order to succeed, in order to be viable. We believe we must suffer to be whole.

Yet when I gingerly returned to work, I found my priorities had shifted dramatically. No longer was I interested in ‘killing it’. Instead I wanted to live a more meaningful life. And I wanted to do it in a kinder, more relaxed, far more easeful way.

Surprisingly, life met me on my terms. My old, frantic career slowly died, and was replaced by work that is much kinder to me and a better use of my gifts. I also found that setting up some basic self-care habits naturally led me back to where I belong.

The key was becoming grounded and generally more present — to really listening to life again, and following its lead.

For one week why not try some of these unplugging ideas as an experiment in your own self-care?

You’ll find out exactly how willing you are to stop being so busy. You might even find your way back to greater peace.

1. Begin to breathe. Take five or ten minutes at the start of each day, before you even reach for your phone. Sit up, get comfortable, and simply breathe with your eyes closed. Follow your breath in and out. Let your mind go crazy but keep coming back to your breath. Do this every day for one week, and then observe the results. Are you starting to feel calmer?

2. Forgive those who anger you.  Take thirty minutes of quiet time on a lunch hour to write out all of your resentments towards a particular person. Write it all down. Eventually, you will get to the end. And there you will naturally find forgiveness, which feels so much better. For maximum results, pick the person you resist doing this with the most.

3. Acknowledge yourself.  When is the last time you tuned into your inner conversation about yourself? It’s there, trust me. Consider adding some kind words or a little pep talk each day when you’re taking a shower or brushing your teeth. Picking a regular time seems to help.

4. Take back lunch. If you work through lunch, stop immediately. You need this break and you deserve it. Allow yourself to shut your door and relax. Bring your lunch to work and find something fun to do with this precious time. Read a juicy novel. Knit. Take a walk. The Draugian Group, a Latvian corporation, tracked employee breaks at work, and found that their most productive workers did not work longer hours. They took more breaks.

5. Turn off your phone in small increments. Try this for an hour or two per day, even if it feels incredibly uncomfortable. You will find that what once seemed incredibly important isn’t, actually. If your boss demands you keep it on, simply smile and keep setting that firm, polite boundary. If you doubt you need this, track your phone usage with the Moment app. You can do a digital detox with an app called Offtime.

6. Start to walk places – or ride a bike. This is a good one if you can’t make time to exercise. Consider walking or riding at least part of the way on your commute — and do it without headphones on. The idea is to tune in to the world around you. The natural endorphins you’ll experience may make this irresistible.

7. Take a nap. Insane right? Au contraire. According to The National Sleep Foundation, a 20 to 30-minute nap will leave you far more alert and better able to perform, without grogginess. If there’s no couch at work, go out to your car, set an alarm and take a nap at lunch.

8. Ask yourself what you need … then provide it. So often we put ourselves last in the rush to please others and get ahead. But our needs never stop. Get in the habit of asking yourself several times per day what you need. Take the first answer you get, even if you don’t like it. It’s okay … you really can trust yourself to know the truth.

Remember, you were designed to be whole and complete, without overwork or stress of any kind. You can get back to that place by simply allowing yourself to unfold, just a little at a time.

Chances are the results will surprise you.

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