If you think relaxation is an unnecessary indulgence, watch out. Welcome to Take the Upgrade Podcast Episode 35! Your host and therapist is Leanne Peterson and she’s joined by her co-host Natalie Pyles to talk about this all-too-common millennial trap.
Watch out for this scenario: Things that should have felt good, like relaxing, felt bad. And, things that should have felt bad, like working all of the time, felt good. We don’t always have to be in motion. Leanne is learning how to come to terms with finding peace in the down time. The parasympathetic nervous system regenerates when we sit still and breathe, so taking time for rest is not a waste!
It’s being said that Millennials are the burn out generation. What we need to do is talk yourself into rest by thinking of it as an investment, a necessity not as an accessory. Leanne challenges you to sit down today and just let yourself feel peace.
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We’ll be back next week with another dose of soulful guidance!
Leanne is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in Houston and she works with clients all over the country. She is committed to helping you find peace in the midst of difficult life situations and transitions. Using powerful insights into health and energy alignment, Leanne helps you create the beautiful life you want!
Here is an edited transcript of the show:
Leanne Peterson: Hello, Upgraders! I’m so excited you’re here. Today our theme is taking time. Taking time for rest, downtime, and restoration. And you know, I’ve felt this thing that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I couldn’t quite name, but it was like this idea that whenever I had downtime, or was just relaxing, or kind of being off, I would feel guilty and unproductive, and like I was wasting time. I really felt that strongly. But I just kind of went with it and didn’t think much of it until an article came out on BuzzFeed recently. You might have read it. It’s talking about how millennials are the burnout generation.
The idea is that millennials have so much going on, so much happening that small tasks, simple tasks, are difficult to complete and it causes burnout. The other thing that this article says, and it’s something that just jumped right out to me was my new watchword was “everything that’s good is bad, everything that’s bad is good. Things that should have felt good, leisure, not working, felt bad because I felt guilty for not working. Things that should have felt bad, working all the time, felt good because I was doing what I thought I should and needed to be doing in order to succeed.”
I find that resonated with me so much. I’m an old millennial, so I’m not right in the millennials, but I’m still in it. And I found that that is such a pervasive thought in my head. On one hand, I have this ideal image of succeeding, and not having to work all the time, and relaxing on a beach, and on the other side I have this voice in my head that if you don’t work hard, and if you don’t work a lot, you’re not going to be successful. You know, I feel like the voices that are kind of shared to us of successful entrepreneurs, or successful business people are these people who are working all the time. Then, you know, there’s this whole other world that we’re not really exposed to of people who aren’t working all the time. I remember reading another article, and it talked about how Warren Buffett has days where the only thing on his calendar is a haircut. Like, here’s the wealthiest man, and he just schedules a haircut. There’s just two such different views.
Another article talked about how, you know, one article said something like, “All the successful people wake up before 6:00 a.m.,” and then JK Rowling was like, “That’s ridiculous. That’s not true.” Here’s another woman who’s super successful and doing something different.
But I think it’s so easy to get caught up in this energy of the hustle, this energy of we have to work really hard, this energy that we always have to be on. Again, I find that downtime, I know that I get to the end of a day that I’m off, and I think, “I wasted that day,” instead of thinking, “Wow, that day felt so good, and restorative.” It feels like it’s been wasted.
I’m really working this year, 2019, I’m trying to shift out of this idea that I have to be going all the time, that I have to be working all the time. For me, it definitely comes out with my business, and my work. I want to be working a lot, I want to be productive, I want to be seeing results, like that’s what motivates me. But it can come up in any arena, so with your kids, if you feel you always have to be Super Mom, you always have to be on, you always have to be planning things and doing things, like there’s another way it can show up. If you’ve been out with your friends, you always have to be out, you always have to be hanging out, you always have to be going, it’s another way that it’s just this idea that we always have to be in motion.
So I know we’ve talked about this before, but I’m talking about this again because I’m continuing to work myself, and work with other people, and how do we come to terms and find more peace in our lives in the downtime? In the space between? How can we have time to be bored, and to be creative, and to restore ourselves in our lives, you know, with our sympathetic nervous system, that fight or flight, we’re always on, we’re always looking for danger. That parasympathetic nervous system is when we can relax, and rest, and let our body regenerate, but because we’re always going, and we’re always thinking, we’re never really regenerating. And I think that’s something that we need to be paying more attention to. We could be doing all the right things, but if we’re not giving ourselves that time to absorb the goodness that we’re creating, if I’m eating right, but I’m eating right while I’m running to the next thing, if I’m working out but if I’m squeezing my workout in between things, so I’m running to my workout, and I’m running out of it, if I’m going to yoga but I’m running into yoga and running out of yoga and thinking about what I’m working on the whole time, I’m not absorbing the goodness of these moments.
So Natalie, I want to talk to you about how you do with this rest. Are you able to really rest and relax, or are you always feeling that pressure that we’re talking about to be on the go and doing?
Natalie Pyles: Yeah, it makes me feel uncomfortable when I’m not working. I’m more comfortable working than I would be playing, I guess, and I think the word “play” is important to use, because that’s the word we would use for children. But that’s the same thing that we’re talking about. Grownups need play, too.
When you were talking about how it’s when we’re having downtime that we are regenerating, that kind of gets through to me, because then I can think reasonably, that okay, if I need to regenerate to be better at what I do, or become better at my job, then I can consider this an investment. So if you’re reasoning through it that this downtime is an investment, then maybe that might be the way that we have to talk ourselves into it, or not feel so guilty about it.
Exactly. I think it’s being portrayed as this luxury, you know, when people go on vacation, or people have downtime, it’s like, “Oh, that would be nice. So luxurious.” And you know, there’s luxury or there’s wasted time. I think certain activities might be more of a waste of time, but also overall thought, downtime and just being, we almost need to recategorize it in our lives as a necessity, not as an accessory.
Like it’s something that really is important for all of us to be finding this time.
That’s so true, and necessity, not an accessory. I love that.
Yes. And you know, I was sitting, I had a really rare day off in the middle of the week, so my son’s being watched, and I’m just off. I met a friend for lunch that I met a business meeting. And then she left, she had to go do something. And I had nothing really that I had to do. I had a lot of things that I should have done, but there was nothing pressing. I just sat in my favorite restaurant for a half hour, just sipping on my matcha latte, and I was like, “Wow, it has been so long since I’ve just sat. I’m not filling my time with anything, I’m just here.” It was really shocking to me to realize where my life has come, because it used to be, especially when we moved to Houston, I was just getting started with things, I had plenty of time for lounging and resting and going on long walks. I did all that, I didn’t even think about it. Then as I got busier and busier, I got kind of addicted to that busyness, I had less and less time for things like just sitting for a half hour at a restaurant, and just kind of having it back was this stark change from where I am and this reminder of where I’d been. That question of like, “Is where I’m going better? Is it better now than it was then?” I’m more successful now than I was then, but what have I sacrificed in terms of my time to be where I am now?
I think that we don’t realize that we’ve been doing it until we’re out of it. It’s kind of like coming out of a dark cloud, right? And you were sitting there having free time for probably the first time in like 18 years. I don’t know, how many years, and it felt like so drastically different than the pace you’d been living at before. That’s always eye-opening to me that we don’t even realize that we’re in it until we’re out of it.
But I think it comes down to no one giving us a bedtime. So you know how you grow up, and finally no one’s telling you to brush your teeth and go to bed? Like no one tells you to do that.
And that’s when we start having these seasons of crazy productivity, where we’re getting ahead, and we’re working really hard, and we’re doing a lot of great stuff, but whenever we’re getting ahead in one area, we’re just getting behind in another area, so there’s no one really there telling us to go to bed, or to go outside, or to close the book. This is just probably something that is like a rite of passage as an adult, where it’s like, “Oh, I have to manage my own time. I have to enforce balance on myself.” It’s tempting not to do.
Exactly, and you know, you think, at least I thought when I was younger, “Oh, when I don’t have these rules, I’m going to do whatever I want,” and then it’s like, “Am I doing whatever I want, or am I doing what I think I should be doing in terms of needing to do, do, do, do, do?” Because when you’re a kid, you also don’t have a lot of say in terms of how you spend your time. Your parents just take you places, and you have to play, or you have to entertain yourself, or you have to be bored. Now we don’t have to. I can do the things I want to do, and put myself where I want to put myself, and often what I’m doing is putting myself in really high-energy situations, and high productivity situations instead of, “Hey, I’m going to give myself a time out and take myself to the spa.” That is rare. It’s, “I’m going to run and get a pedicure before my next client.”
So for me, if I’m having a really stressful day, or I feel like I’m having to do a lot more than I should, I tell myself, “Tomorrow, I’m going to go to my favorite store, and I’m going to get a smoothie, and I’m just going to walk around. I’m going to buy myself some new shoes,” and I tell myself that to kind of get through the night. But then, Leanne, what’s wrong with me? I never do it. The next day, I never, the next day, I’m always like, “Oh, I don’t need to do that.” So I have got to start forcing myself to come through on the promise that I made to myself the night before, I think.
Yes! Because as you were saying that, I’m like, “Oh my gosh, Natalie, you’ve nailed it. You’re doing this, you’re doing exactly what we should be doing,” and then you’re like, “And then I never go.” And I’m like, “Mm-hmm.”
Okay, you’re like all of us. But you’re right, we need to come through on that, because it’s so true, and I think that’s like this weird web we catch ourselves up in where we give ourselves imagined time off and never take it. Because it’s the same for me, like, “Oh my gosh, I just had this super awesome month, I’m going to really enjoy it. I’m going to book,” you know for me, one thing that’s really been resonating is these spa trips. I don’t, massages are great and fine, whatever, it’s okay, but I really love is being in those peaceful environments. So I’m working on spending more time in those peaceful environments. Again, where you don’t really have a phone and you can just relax.
If I go with a friend, it’s even better. Just to be, and sit, and kind of be pampered a little bit in terms of a robe there, and your food whenever you want it. I love it. So anyway, I’ll have a big month, and I’m like, “Okay, I’m going to really celebrate by going to the spa I’ve been wanting to try out, I’m going to do this.” Like you said, you never do it. The next month gets busy, things happen, you know, “Oh, I don’t need to spend money on that,” and then I never do it. Like you said, I didn’t even think of it, but there’s almost these imagined treats and rewards we’re giving ourselves that we’re never redeeming. So it’s kind of this cycle that we think we’re going to find balance, we never follow through on the part that would bring us balance, and then we just keep pushing forward.
Yeah, and I worry about that. I worry about doing that to myself long-term, that one day, the dam will break.
And all the shoes and smoothies in the world will not fix it.
I just, you know, one thing, so when my son was born, my husband, he’s a soccer coach and so he coaches games on Saturdays, and he has Sundays off, so I started working on Sundays, because that way, for the most part, we always have coverage with our son on the weekend, and he gets to be with a parent. So I would watch him Saturdays, my husband would watch him on Sundays, and we did it, and it was good. Then I realized my son is almost 15 months old now, and I’m like, “I’m still working Sundays. Is this what I want to do? Is this how I should be spending my time? Is this prioritizing the things I need to prioritize?” Because I was realizing when I was doing my end of the year inventory, that my time to tune in spiritually was really taking a hit from not having that Sunday morning time at church, and not having that day to rest. Because Saturdays are just a busy day, and I’d sometimes work and do workshops, so even my day off, I wasn’t giving myself.
So starting in February, I’m shifting my schedule and kind of reclaiming my Sunday. But again, that’s just this wake up call of like, “Wait, what am I doing? What am I prioritizing? And is this what I want? Is this what’s serving me, or is this what I started?” Maybe at one time it was serving me, and it’s not anymore, and how do I shift that? I think also, in that, it can be hard to shift the momentum.
I’m busy on Sundays, people love coming in on Sundays, I love seeing people on Sundays. Everyone’s relaxed and in a good mood. It’s a great day. It’s quiet at the office. It’s great! But it was no longer serving my family to have that schedule, so I had to shift that schedule.
You now, I think stuff like that, paying attention and being like, “What’s serving me now, and is this still serving me? And do I have built-in rest?” One thing I really want to look at is this idea of the Sabbath, and we’ve talked about this before, about this idea of really, what does that mean? What does it mean to really pause? I know in a lot of different religions, there is this time built in to pause. I don’t think I’ve ever been really good at utilizing that time well. Because if I take my Sunday off and I just fill it with grocery shopping, errand running, and all these other things, am I really doing anything better than I was? I feel like I might as well be at work. If I’m going to be working the whole time, I might as well be at the office. What does it mean to create actual space and time to be off?
It’s neat that you’re seeking that out for yourself, because I think for some people who do have a religious practice, they might be raised in a background where they feel like it’s restrictive because they’re being told what they should or shouldn’t do on a certain day. So they end up resenting it, and not seeing it as a gift. So you’re arriving at it in the most natural way, where you are seeing it as a gift and you know that it is for you, not to you.
Exactly. Too, I think what you say is so perfect, like things get so distorted, so something that maybe was intended for good turns into something that’s no longer good, and no longer feels good, because it feels, like you said, restrictive, or we’re not really connecting the meaning or the purpose behind it. So I think that’s why it’s also important for us to tune into ourselves and look at, “What do I need? What do I need to keep running? What do I need to connect? Am I connecting?” Because some people might not need that time, but for me—I think we all do need time, at least with ourselves, to check in and say, “What do I need?” and it sounds so easy, but it’s not. In the running kind of hustle and bustle of the day, it’s easy to just do what’s in front of you, not do what’s best for you.
I wonder if, going back to our problem of these promised rewards, these future rewards that we never cash in on, maybe the problem is that I don’t need a day off tomorrow. I need a break right now.
I need to take a half an hour right now. I can’t just procrastinate the rest that I know that I need. Because tomorrow, I won’t need it. I need it now.
I love that. Because it’s so true. Like you said, yeah maybe you’ve been thinking of it wrong, because it’s kind of like your body saying, “I can’t take it now,” and you’re kind of trying to push it off. Like when you’re hungry, and you’re like, “Well, you’ll get dinner tonight.” No, you need a snack now. Your blood sugar is crashing right now.
We wouldn’t do that to a child. We wouldn’t make them wait for what they needed, because we would see, like, either give them what they need now, or it’s going to be a disaster.
Exactly. I think looking at kids is our best way of understanding ourselves, because yes we’ve evolved, yes, we can handle more, but at that core, that’s what we’re needing that same level of care, and that same level of resting when we’re tired, and eating when we’re hungry, and just like a kid, like my son, if he’s well-rested and has eaten well, he is such a joy. When he has not, he’s a little terror. I think we’re all kind of that, but we mask it, or we suppress it instead of just honoring that yeah, these human bodies need rest, these human bodies need food, and these human bodies need a lot more downtime than our modern life is allowing.
Yeah, downtime, and also some of the self care things that I have kind of discovered lately that I think the whole world already knew about, but are just brand new to me. Like it feels so good to take a shower in the morning. That feels really good.
You’ve unlocked the secret to life! But it is so true. That’s one thing I had committed to when I had my son was I was going to shower every day, and I take a shower every morning. Like you said, it’s such an act of care, or if someone likes it at night, take it every night. But like having that time where you just, “Whoo, let me get myself set.”
Yeah, you do not get extra points for not doing this, which I think is one way I used to think about it. I was like, “Oh my gosh, I’m so ahead because I spend all my time doing things that I can measure,” and you know, you can’t really measure that. So it didn’t feel like I was getting ahead, I guess. I don’t know, I do a lot of score-keeping in my head, and I’m realizing now it’s kind of hard to put into words, but in my head, it wasn’t getting me anywhere. But it actually would have been getting me somewhere happier.
Exactly, and like we’re talking about, having more time to do things isn’t necessarily better, or the goal. I think that’s the mind shift we have to change. It’s not this kind of, “Hurry, fit it all in! Fit it all in!” It’s more like, “Okay, they said that if Albert Einstein was solving a problem, he’d spend 95% of the time thinking about the problem, and 5% solving it.” I think so many of us are living in reaction mode, and just trying to solve everything, solve everything, that we’re not pausing and thinking about it, and setting ourselves up to make good decisions. We’re just like, “I can do it all!” And like you said, “I have all the time, because I don’t do the other things that are bad,” when really, those are good. Showering is good.
Yeah. That’s a good quote to remember in those moments. I think we’ve had a lot of good takeaways in this conversation that we can kind of remember when we need to take a nap, or we need to take time for ourselves, and how to frame it, so we’re not feeling like, “Oh, I have to rationalize this, or justify this,” but thinking like, “Oh no, this is actually the best possible ROI I could possibly do right now.” And feel good about it.
Exactly. It’s all about just noticing what we’re needing, and noticing, even, you know, drawing out a pie chart. “How much of my time is spent in motion, and how much of my time is spent in rest, and how much of that time in rest is quality rest?” Because you know, watching TV isn’t what we’re talking about, because while it can be fun and enjoyable, it’s different. That’s not that kind of like just sitting and being. It’s still this thing of doing. It’s kind of like, how do you find a way, what are the things that really restore you? Like I said, for me, just sitting at that coffee shop was, like, “Whoa.” Or that restaurant, I was like, “Whoa. I’m here, not really thinking of anything on my own, I’m just noticing.” I was like, “Wow, that’s nice.” So finding those things that are like that kind of long exhale.
Well, I hope you have some things to think about in terms of how do you want to keep creating more space in your life knowing that there’s value in this, knowing that we’re going to have to, as Natalie said, give ourselves our bedtime, give ourselves our playtime, give ourselves our downtime. We’re going to have to enforce that, and we’re going to have to build it into our days, and into the moments we need it. I want you to really think about, “Where could I create more space in my life to just breathe, and be, and where can I create some more room for this boredom, for this downtime, for creativity? To allow space to emerge without continually being stuck in this idea that I have to be doing, doing, doing all the time to be successful, doing, doing all the time to be productive? Can I allow myself to start being more, so these awesome ideas and this great inspiration can come to me without me always having to be in motion?