The Nighttime Routine That Helps Susan Cain Unwind and Tap Into Her Creativity

The author of Bittersweet opens up about working hard while avoiding burnout, walking outdoors to recharge, and listening to stories before bed.

Thrive: When was the last time you felt burned out and why?

Susan Cain: The last time I felt burned out was twenty years ago, when I was a corporate lawyer. I felt burned out all the time back then. Partly because I worked too hard, but mostly because I worked too hard at the wrong thing. These days, I still work hard — it’s my nature, and I follow in my father’s diligent footsteps, too — but I love it all, so burnout never enters the picture.

Thrive: You unexpectedly find 15 minutes in your day, what do you do with it?

SC: Take a walk! Walking through the trees (these days) or along the city streets (my old life) always leads to instant ideas, creativity, and happiness.

Thrive: What advice would you give your younger self about reducing stress?

SC: Understand that if you’re anxious about Item A, this is NOT a good time to think about vaguely stressful Items B, C and D. Challenges that you’d normally take in your stride can seem insurmountable when colored by anxiety.

Thrive: What’s your evening routine that helps you unwind and go to sleep?

SC: I hang out with my family, put on my softest pajamas, and listen to an audiobook—which taps into an ancient and primal love of listening to campfire tales and bedtime stories.

Thrive: Share a quote that you love and that gives you strength or peace.

SC: “There’s a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in.”— Leonard Cohen. 

This quote is my life philosophy, and the epigraph to my new book, Bittersweet.: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole— which is dedicated in Leonard Cohen’s memory.

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