Non-Negotiable #2: Rest or Regret It

This is the second in a series of posts. You don’t have to read them in order, or at all, but I recommend checking out the first post for a little more context on “non-negotiables”

I can remember an incredibly busy season where I’d committed to so many different things that there was literally something happening 3-4 evenings a week, and weekends were just back-to-back things to do. My cup ranneth over.

These things that I had committed to, they were all good things. Recreational things, community things, meaningful things.

The problem wasn’t all of the stuff that filled my calendar, but my unwillingness to recognize that I am human and needed breaks, and my inability to say no. I would go and go and go until I reached the breaking point.

Contrast that to when I was in periods of depression and the pendulum swings the opposite direction. Then I’m not doing anything, but I’m missing out on what’s meaningful, nothing is recreational, I’m loathing being in community with others. See the previous non-negotiable for how I now handle this one.

Neither state, totally booked or totally isolated, is optimal. There has to be a balance, and balance is something people with bipolar disorder struggle with. It’s taken time, but I’ve managed to commit to some non-negotiables that help strike the balance. How I make time to rest:

I WILL regularly evaluate my calendar and block off times where I rest

Rest means different things for different people. For some, it’s going out with friends, hitting the links (Is that what golfers say?) or seeing a movie. I enjoy those things, except golf, but being out usually drains me. I live in a homey home, that’s the only way I can describe it. Trish and I have worked hard to make it the kind of place that’s restful for us, and provides a hospitable feeling to people who visit. It’s my fortress of solitude. Solitude with the exception of my family. A place where we can spend the day reading, playing chess, jumping on the trampoline, watching a movie, making bone broth. I need these days, they’re like water to me. I keep them frequent, I guard them, and it takes something monumentally important or appealing for me to let them go.

I WILL commit to lights out at 7, bed at 8:30

Around seven I walk around the house and turn off all the brightest lights. We don’t revert to the stone age. It just makes it a little more peaceful, a little more serene. Voices naturally become quieter in this setting, kids become a little less active, and we all start the all important process of winding down. I read out loud for a bit (currently Watership Down. Bunnies, man), we get in our pajamas, we do our nightly routines. For me, that’s flossing, brushing, washing my face.

Then in bed at 8:30. Sounds extreme, I know. However, I also get up really early. I’m a morning guy. That’s when I write, when I exercise etc… so at 8:30 I’m in bed, I put some eye covers on (married to a night owl bookworm), slip on the headphones and fall asleep to a story. My goal is eight hours sleep, and I usually manage that and get up at 4:30.

I WILL meditate

Why meditate? Because it’s what makes the previous two possible. By practicing breathing and mindfulness, I’ve learned that I’m better able to fall asleep, or fall back to sleep if I wake up. I’m better able to be present with my family when I take a day off. It even makes it possible to find moments of rest in otherwise busy days.

Meditation is not purely restful in and of itself. It’s an exercise, one that can be hard to get in the habit of doing regularly. I think of it as training for rest, the way an athlete trains for a game. I highly recommend it. I use the Calm app, the benefit here being they also have (the previously mentioned) sleep stories. If you’ve never fallen asleep to the sweet sweet sound of Matthew McConaughay talking about the wonders of the cosmos, you’re missing out.

Next Thursday: Diet or Die. Make sure to subscribe to keep these flowing into your inbox. Subscription box is on the left (desktop), or bottom (mobile). Later.

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