Classically Inclined

June 28, 2022

The Summer Rest Project

Filed under: Meta — lizgloyn @ 9:27 pm
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Over May and June, I’ve been reading two books – Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily Nagoski and Amelia Nagoski, and Radical Rest: Get More Done By Doing Less by Richard Lister. I wanted to read these books after just feeling – well, drained after the last two years of All The Things. I had a lovely long weekend break at the start of May, and the benefits disappeared within 24 hours of returning to work, which was Not Ideal. Plus, while I’ve been doing some recovery work around the complete pit of survival mode in which I spent large portions of 2020 and 2021 (as many people parenting small children whilst working full-time jobs will appreciate), I wanted something a bit more deliberate.

Now, both books were written to appeal to certain audiences. Burnout very definitely has the goal of reaching women who find it hard to make space for themselves within a patriarchal framework that sees women as what the Nagoskis call Human Giver Syndrome (or all the social norms which say it’s women’s job to pour themselves out selflessly to enable others to Do Their Thing). There’s a certain US self-help book tone to the writing which I can cope with but others might find a bit off-putting. Radical Rest, written by a practicing UK nurse, might give a bit more houseroom to alternative therapies than some people are comfortable with. But the overlaps and emphases on the science of rest and stress release mean that combined, they offer a range of solutions and options for resting properly and giving you and your body a chance just to – catch up with itself. Which, under the circumstances, sounds like a jolly fine idea.

So, to practicalities. One option particularly for Radical Rest would be to try each technique described in each (short) chapter for a week and see how they fit in with your own preferences and needs. I would like to try that at some point, but what I really wanted to put together was a practical ‘this is what I’m going to try to do every week over the summer’ with measurable outcomes to say that this resting thing was actually happening. Because, yes, otherwise it actually won’t.

It was an inevitable outcome that there would be a spreadsheet. So there is a spreadsheet.

Screenshot of a spreadsheet heading ‘Liz’s Rest Tracker’, with rows listing activities and columns marking days of the week.

The activities in the spreadsheet have all been chosen because they match on to the science in Burnout and Radical Rest as things that help close off stress cycles and give – well, rest. So, they are:

  • A 30 minute lunch break away from my desk, ideally eaten outside if the weather’s good enough.
  • A Big Hug – this is about positive physical affection and reinforcing a sense of being safe and cared for enough to slip out of fight or flight mode and into rest or digest. The Nagoskis say a hug of at least 20 seconds where each hugger is balancing their own weight does the job (see? Science!).
  • Playing the piano – I really want to do creative fun things! And I’ve been wanting to do more piano for years (quite literally). Taking time to do creative stuff tells your brain you’re not being chased by a saber toothed tiger. Win-win.
  • Running and yoga – different kinds of physical exercise that both simulate the physical bit of fight-or-flight responses we miss when we, for instance, get a really stressful e-mail in our inbox and thus gives our nervous systems a chance to shut that cycle off; also are activities where you’re not thinking about anything except the exercise, and thus enter an kind of mental rest even though your body’s being very active. (I still hate running with the burning passion of a thousand suns but the science has spoken.)
  • Centering prayer – I used to have a really strong centering prayer practice when I was a graduate student and an ECR but, unsurprisingly, parenthood sent that down the drain. This is about calming active or deliberate meditation (any kind of tradition would do, this just happens to be mine) – if I can manage a short slot three times a week, that’ll be doing alright.

Some of this I should be doing anyway. Lunch breaks outside are about discipline and getting away from the screen. The exercise stuff is again where I want to be – I twisted my ankle just before Easter and have just been cleared to run again, so this is the right moment to be setting these goals (and I’ve been really antsy about not being able to do things). But the piano, and the yoga, and the deliberate hug, are about trying to create that bit of extra space and – well, let’s see what happens.

I’ll try to have a bit of accountability/update on how things go over on Twitter, and I want to come back to this at the end of the summer and see what I think. (And yes, if we get back into a run of 30 degree days, I shan’t be worrying too much about getting the running in!) It’s all a bit of an experiment, but we’ll see how it goes – after all, I have a spreadsheet.

With thanks to Jo VanEvery for tipping me off about Burnout.

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