Solution: Set aside time every evening to relax and decompress.
How to do it:
- Schedule at least an hour (2-3 hours is ideal) every evening to relax and de-stress. It is vital that you carve out this time in your schedule; otherwise it will likely fill with something else.
- The activity can be anything that helps you to relax and decompress, like reading, watching TV, knitting, making love, taking a bath, meditating.
- Make sure not to do anything that will wake you up (like going on the computer or exercising).
- Protect this time (this is where saying “no” is vital).
Common Objections for Setting Aside Time to Wind Down:
“I don’t have the time.”
Managing stress (and sleeping better) requires valuing yourself. Everyone has the same amount of time (24 hours/day); it’s how you allot your time that matters. If something is important enough, you will find the time for it. And downtime is vital for managing stress and sleeping better.
Ask yourself this: “If I were counseling a friend or loved one about healthy living, would I tell them to work night and day without taking any breaks or rest?” My guess is that the answer would be an unqualified “no.” Apply the same good advice to yourself.
“I don’t really need it.”
Everyone needs time to rest and refuel. There is no way around this. You are not a robot (but even robots need recharging :)). Not taking time to rest on a daily basis leads to fatigue, illness, reduced motivation, burnout, lowered performance and sleep problems. It will catch up to you—it always does.
Not only is it physically necessary, but downtime is also required for happiness and enjoyment of life. All work and no play will leave you feeling dissatisfied, unmotivated and possibly depressed. What is all that work for anyway? Yes, to achieve and be productive and get the life you want. But what’s the point if you never get to enjoy it?
“I’m afraid I won’t be as productive.”
It may seem like the more time you work, the more productive you’ll be, but this is simply not true. Paradoxically, limiting the amount of time you dedicate to work will actually make you more productive.
When you set a time limit for how much you work, your mind looks for ways to get it done. If you know you have more time to accomplish something, you are likely to use all of that time, or wait until the last minute (like cramming for a test).
Moreover, it’s not just how long you work, but how efficient. The more tired you are, the less efficient you will be. If you don’t rest, your tiredness and fatigue will slow your brain down and you’ll have a harder time thinking and remaining alert and focused.
“I feel guilty if I’m not working.”
This concern is common. But ask yourself: “Is it reasonable to expect that I should always be working and never take a break to just relax or have fun?” Is this what you would expect from your friends, kids, or spouse? If not, why is it any different for you?
If you understand this logically, but can’t seem to get rid of the guilt, then you must challenge the underlying belief (which you adopted at some point) that relaxing means you are being lazy or not a good person (you can use the skill Examine the evidence to help challenge this belief).