You work hard to succeed in your personal and professional goals. I know I do. Some people love to work under pressure, while others hate it. You may have heard a coworker say, “Sleep is for the weak!” or had a boss that recognized hard work when you “burn the midnight oil”. Sound familiar? Pushing yourself beyond your limits can help you feel successful in the short run, but success is a marathon, not a sprint. Reaching mental and physical burnout is not to be taken lightly. If you want to break the cycle of work – no sleep – burn-out – rebuild – repeat, then read on.
Why should we rest? For one, our body needs it. When we sleep, we repair our bodies and grow muscle. Resting does more for us than just help our bodies recover, however. Lack of sleep can affect our core body functions like the ability to fight off infection. Our minds also need to rest to strengthen electrical pathways and restore brain function. This affects our ability to stay alert, think critically, learn and remember information, and be creative. Have you ever had a grumpy day after a bad night’s rest? Turns out, sleep impacts our mood as well; lack of sleep has been linked to irritability, anger, and even depression. On top of all of that, women need more sleep than men. We have a shorter circadian rhythm, and we’re more likely to be woken up during the night.
Working hard is important to reaching your goals. But it’s not the only thing you should focus on when trying to succeed. Taking care of YOU is important! Consider the goal of going to the moon. NASA put years of work into those space shuttles before blasting off and reaching that goal. Your body is the space shuttle – you have to invest time in taking care of it in order to expect it to perform! Set aside the mindset that you can put yourself last and still expect to reach for the stars. Studies show that getting better sleep can have a positive effect on productivity and creativity which are crucial to pushing yourself in your personal and professional goals.
Even if you’re getting enough sleep, you might still feel tired if you’re grinding all day. On a lucky day, you might be able to fit in a lunch break nap. Napping is great, but don’t overdo it. Have you ever closed your eyes for a quick 20-minute nap, woken up 2 hours later on the couch, confused about what day it even is? Studies show that longer naps can actually leave you more tired than when you started. Even if you can’t nap, resting doesn’t have to be limited to sleep. You are not so busy that you can’t make time for a quick mental break during the day. Try practicing simple breathing exercises, meditating, or even taking a minute to reflect on how grateful you are for the people in your life. I find it helpful to do these things before switching tasks for the day, to “reset” my mind and focus on what’s ahead. You can even use your commute home to practice these moments of mental rest.
If you find yourself constantly rushing to get things done, and you keep saying, “There’s no time to breathe deeply, I’m running late!”, it might be time to build rest into your schedule. You might find that by keeping track of what you do in your spare time, you can cut out some procrastination habits. These behaviors could include cleaning your desk when you know you’ve got work to get done, or flipping through social media to delay getting out of bed in the morning. Try replacing some of those time-sucking habits with a moment of extra rest like deep breathing before tackling work or replacing phone-scrolling with a few extra minutes spent asleep. If you notice you’re spending a lot of time lying awake at night, make sure you’re using a comfortable mattress (like these here) and minimizing distractions that wake you up – like a snoring partner or noisy TV. Finding time for these moments of extra rest will leave you feeling more focused and creative.
Pushing your limits and reaching your goals do not have to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. Ignore the pressure to always be hustling, 24/7. Feeling guilty about taking care of yourself will not make you more successful but investing in your body and mind will! Once you embrace that you need to rest in order to push yourself, you can prove to yourself that success is measured not by the number of hours you put in, but by the quality of your results.