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Easy, Quick + Free Rest Strategies (that saved me)

Updated: Feb 17

When my daughter was a little one, I was a single mom, had a full-time job, and had two side hustles. I was busy, gripped, burned out and in some serious anxiety. One day, as I was driving from my job to pick up my beautiful daughter from after-school care, I noticed that my hands had a death grip on the steering wheel and I was barely breathing. In that moment, I knew that if I didn’t change things up, I was going to get sick or blow apart emotionally. 

I went out and looked for someone to help me figure out how to rest in short, bite sized increments and came up empty. People and practitioners told me to take yoga classes, go on vacations, change my diet and start a hobby. They didn’t understand that I had exactly no minutes in my day to do any of that. So I researched and read to be the resource that I needed, and I want to pass on what I know to you, just in case you're also in the spot where you have no time and one zillion responsibilities to take care of. 

In this article, I am not going to tell you to take a yoga class, or nap more (though please do if that is accessible to you). Instead, I am going to share with you short strategies to take mini rest throughout your day to give your brain and nervous system a break.

Taking little breaks during the day makes you

  • smarter

  • more intuitive

  • more emotionally regulated

  • calmer

From The 5 Resets: Rewire Your Brain and Body for Less Stress and More Resilience by Aditi Nerurkar. Stop, Breathe, Be. This can be done just as you’re opening the door (or the Zoom link) to a meeting, as you’re about to have a hard conversation, as you answer the 876th question in an hour from your family member or as you tear out the door to get your life started in the morning. Intentionally give yourself 5 seconds to be where you’re at. Stop. Plant your feet on the floor, straighten your shoulders. Breathe. Take a nice deep breath in through your nose, hold it, and let it go. Do it again. If you have time, do it four times, if not, one time with intention is enough. Be. Let yourself be totally in that moment without needing to be anywhere else. Stop, breathe, be. Do this 5 times throughout your day - it won’t even equal a minute of time but gives your brain and your nervous system a little break. Does this sound too easy to be effective? I totally understand and would completely agree with you… except that it works. Try it. 

From my conversation the other day with Arlene Johnson from The Dope Life Podcast - sit for a few minutes and be still. That is all. You don’t have to worry about your thoughts, you don’t have to worry about regulating yourself or your breathing or what you’re saying to yourself. Simply just sit there and zone out. Sit like you’re a teenager in a science class listening to your boring chemistry class. Zoning out is incredibly good for our brain - it gives your brain a little break and the research says in the rest (even small incremental rest like this) different parts of our brain light up that make connections for us that we won’t make when we’re focused on a task. Just let your mind go. This hack can be made even more powerful if when we’re still, we’re looking out a window at something far away, and even better again if what we’re looking at is something in Nature. 

From Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life by Dacher Keltner as well as Ross Gay’s work, The Book of Delights: Essays. Once a day, focus on something that gives you delight, or a feeling of awe, wonder or magic. Research has shown us that what we put our attention and intention on matters - once we put our brain to work noticing desired states of being, we’ll see more of them… we can literally use our brain function to filter in experiences that we want to have. Even in the busiest of lives, there are moments we can look for where we experience a momentary hit of delight, happiness, ease, peace or magic. If this feels difficult for you, start actively looking for something during the day that gives you a moment, even a glimmer of your desired state. Notice it. Savour it. If another comes along, capture it too like the precious moment it is. If you have time, make a quick bullet point list of the moments that you notice over the week. As you create this habit, you’ll notice more and more moments that bring you the state that you want.

by Emily Nagoski, Amelia Nagoski, et al. Dance in the kitchen. Grab one of your people’s hands just for a moment and tell them how much you like them. Hug someone you trust for 20 seconds, kiss someone you really like for 5 seconds. Phone your friend and have a laugh with them. Take 10 minutes between meetings and go for a stroll outside and notice Nature. Each one of these will lower your nervous system and give your busy brain a break.

I know implementing these strategies will help you along your way to being all the things to all the people, being the brilliant person you are at work, AND leading a life where you can relax your grip on the steering wheel and take some deep breaths. Let me know how it goes.


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I'm Kelly

This is a space to get tips, coaching inspiration, get to know me a little better and engage into learning.

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