Has this ever been you?
You just feel like you have no time. No time to be yourself because any time you take for yourself feels guilty and like a waste of time. Or maybe you want to take time for yourself, but you are so drained at the end of the day, that the thought of mustering up the energy to do anything after work besides your obligated tasks, like taking care of your family and dog, and then pouring yourself into bed seems outlandish and impossible. This was my normal state for years. Teaching and the impossible standards I set for myself pushed me into a negative cycle; a cycle which pushed me into depressive and isolating habits and emotions.
If this sounds like you, first I would like to express deep empathy because I have been there, and though I do not know your situation and I do not pretend to know exactly how you’re feeling. I relate to the hopelessness and fear that this cycle generates. I would like to help and share something that was instrumental to breaking that cycle, and it might seem outlandish, but not only do I have anecdotal evidence, I also have research to back it up (because I am a nerd, and I research things for my own fun and enjoyment lol)
I am happy to say that I spend much less of my time in the depressive state I described above. I have the energy after work to do fun things like work out, cook, hang out with my husband etc. And no, it is not because I changed professions. I am still an educator and this energy came to me while I was still in the classroom. I might also add that this energy came while I was going through grad school. I wondered, “how is this possible?” My work load didn’t change, my profession didn’t change, my home situation didn’t change…” So I looked back for clues. When did I first start feeling better, and that was when I started to try new things. I started going to workout classes after work instead of pouring myself into bed, I tried yoga, cycling, boxing, and I even took a meditation class. My life really took a positive turn when I began to try to cook new things. I remember when I decided I was going to try and learn how to make macarons… it took me 4 separate tries but I did it! Then I taught myself how to build a website, and it birthed the blog you’re reading today. But why? On the outside this all just seems like MORE WORK. How could this lead to me feeling better rested?
“What type of tired are you.”
Well, it turns out, rest is more than just staying in and not doing anything: this has to be one of the most powerfully life changing ideas I have encountered. I read the book Sacred Rest by Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith which uncovered why these new activities filled me up rather than drained me further. According to her research, there are 7 forms of rest that we need in order to be TRULY rested: Mental, Emotional, Spiritual, Social, Sensory, and Creative rest. What type of rest you need depends on what type of tired you are. For me, as I look back, I was a little of every tired. The yoga helped cure my spiritual fatigue because I used the time to pray and connect with God; the meditation provided me with mental rest where I could take a break from all of the mental background noise that bombarded me everyday; and hanging out with my friends provided me with emotional and social rest.
I highly recommend her book. I listened to the audio book which comes with an accompanying PDF assessment that can help you identify what type of tired you are. Additionally, the chapters go in depth about how to get the kind of rest you need. I mean it when I say this book was an instrumental factor to understanding my needs more intimately, and it helped me become more efficient with supporting my physical and mental health.
If you are not a reader, though I believe we all are on the inside, you can check Dr. Dalton-Smith’s website with FREE resources.
The Fun Factor
The next piece of influential research that helped me on my journey to joy is The Happiness Lab with Dr. Laurie Santos. This is a podcast by Dr. Santos who is a Yale professor who teaches a class on get this, how to live a better life! The episode that influenced me the most is “Laurie Gets a Fun-tervention” parts one and two. This podcast shook me to my core because it held a up mirror and made me realize that I could NOT remember the last time I actually had fun! Like true fun.
Fun actually has a definition. In her podcast, Dr. Santos explains that we use the word fun way too liberally. A lot of the time we use the word fun as an inverse to work. Just because it is not our job, doesn’t mean that it is actually fun. To qualify as fun it must satisfy 3 factors: playfulness, connection, and flow! When you are playing, you are engaging in an activity that you are doing just for the sake of doing it. It isn’t for accolades or necessarily an end goal, it is for the pure enjoyment of engaging in the activity. Connection with others is also important for people who do not describe themselves as “people people.” As humans, we crave connection, and when we feel the connection it adds to the fun factor. Lastly, flow. Flow is when you are so present and involved in an activity that you lose track of time. It is when you are immersed in what you are doing, and time flows naturally.
For me, my fun factors came when I was cooking a new recipe. It was playful because it was out of the norm, and it was an experiment just to see if I could do it. I felt a connection with others because I would share my recipes and endeavors with my friends and we would get to eat afterwards. Lastly, I was completely in flow zooming from sink to stove to counter dancing all the while! I also found ways to make my date nights with my husband more than just us sitting on the couch and watching TV. I set up a paint and sip where we followed a youtube painting tutorial, I bought a magnetic dart set so we could compete with one another in the house, and we even took a trip down memory lane and played rounds of Battle Ship.
The possibilities for fun are endless, but the important part is to just start experimenting. I promise you, the introduction of more fun in your life can only help.
Thank you for reading, and I really hope this helps. I mean it when I say that being intentional about rest and fun has changed my perspective and outlook on life. I am hoping the same for you. You deserve to have joy and peace in your life. Until next time remember, mind, body, and then classroom. In that order.