How many of you are familiar with this scenario: push yourself, push, push, then crash? For me the crash was inevitable and it usually fell on the first day of a vacation or long weekend off. It happened every time. It was an inside joke between my body and I. I spent many sunny holidays suffering from a cold only to be better by the time I was to return to work, feeling as though I was cheated out of time off. Was this coincidence or circumstance?
In one week I will be one of 1000 talents participating in the first ever UNLEASH Innovation Lab, an initiative that will bring together people from 129 countries to generate ideas and solutions for a better world. Leading up to and while participating in UNLEASH, myself and others are going to experience a certain amount of pressure, tight deadlines and, of course, excited energy as we collaborate to help advance the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
The last thing many people in this situation would probably be thinking about is when they’re going to take breaks and how they are going to rest, but I am.
I am curious. Insatiably so. I crave information, as many of us do. Continual introspection and analysis are a natural process for me and brainstorming is an enjoyable pastime. I have a mindset that doesn’t often acknowledge the “cannots” in life. Instead, I am continually wondering, how can I? (Which all made sense when I realized I am typed as an INFJ personality).
The above points, together with the example set by being raised by a single mother (hard-working doesn’t even begin to describe her level of dedication), helped lead to my continual crash pattern, when they could have instead been leading to my success. I was lacking balance. I was pushing without properly giving back to or respecting my body or mind. When I learned to give them a break, I managed to go further in terms of my productivity, creativity and goal reaching.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines restfulness: as a state of freedom from disturbance.
A series of events in my life helped me understand the idea of true restfulness and relaxation, beginning with a move across the Atlantic Ocean from Canada to the south of Spain almost 3 years ago. Although the differing pace was frustrating at first, it was out of my control and I decided to swim with the stream instead of against it. I observed and took it all in.
The Andalusians showed me the importance of a long meal enjoyed with friends or family, that there’s always time to stop for a café and what doesn’t get done today, can be done tomorrow. I know that this isn’t always the case as there are deadlines and priorities, but there’s usually something that we are trying to squeeze into our day that can surely be pushed back in order to introduce a little bit of restful time.
The importance of rest was again brought to my attention through the words of a university professor. “Go home, it’s better you take some rest.” This is what I would hear almost daily as I sat hunched over my desk making patterns or trying to break through a creative block, long after the day had finished. “Take a break and go for a walk. This is when the answer will come to you,” she would repeat. I finally began listening. I should have taken the advice earlier considering her impressive resume and life experience. From running her own business in Germany to speaking multiple languages and traveling, volunteering and teaching extensively across the globe, she must know a thing or two about productivity.
Lastly, in my constant and habitual search for information and growth, I decided to take a course about how to optimize learning potential. You can find it here. The course explained, among other things, that periods of study, followed by deliberate breaks enhanced learning potential, that taking a break to exercise can actually increase brain power and that rest can help you break through blockages. It gives your brain a chance to assess what you have taken in and begin working on a solution or put together thoughts that may lead you to the answer. Amazing, isn’t it?
Taking a pause, one step backward, can lead to three forward.
Take a deep breath. Take a restful minute right now wherever you are. Examine your body. Are you hunched over your computer or have you been scrolling on your phone for far too long? Close your eyes, set a timer for 5 minutes and meditate, stand up and stretch or go for a walk. Examine how much better you feel when you return. We all have a moment we can give to ourselves.
As I eagerly join UNLEASH next week for a profound and impactful experience — with a flurry of energy surrounding me, all with the intention to help spread social conscience, ignite ideas and cement solutions — I will be remembering to take a pause every now and then. I hope you will too, wherever you are.
I’m a Canadian living in Spain, moving to San Francisco in the new year. I am currently studying design with an emphasis on eco fashion. My past background is in NGO management.
I want to be part of a generation who normalizes the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to the point that achieving their outcomes are so deeply ingrained into everything we do that we can’t imagine the world without their end-result.
Originally published at medium.com