Balance Your Body Budget
Last week, Make Your Show didn’t post anything. Or the week before.
We took a break.
Of course creatives, like anyone else, need to work hard to accomplish their goals. But taking breaks is an essential step on the path to success.
Humans aren’t designed to do any one thing all the time. We move in rhythms, and we can’t hustle 24/7.
Taking breaks can be tough, though, because our culture teaches us that we need to work, work, work. We’re trained to believe that more work equals more output which equals more success.
WHY WE NEED REST
We have something called a body budget. Dr. Lisa Feldman Barrett, a neuroscientist, uses the analogy of a bank account to describe how our brain works.
Our brains are like excellent accountants - keeping track of all the resources we need to do everything we do. I mean, think about it - it’s doing things like pumping our blood, regulating our glucose levels, balancing our blood pressure, interpreting waves of light, and predicting what is going to happen in the next moment. That’s on top of all the things we’re actually conscious of, like trying to learn our lines or write a screenplay.
Our brains need certain things in order to be able to do all that - and to keep us alive! We need enough water, enough of the right nutrients, enough exercise, hugs, and definitely enough rest. Those are the funds we deposit in our bank to maintain our body budget.
If we withdraw more than we deposit…well, then we have to stop spending. One of the biggest draws on our body budget is mental effort, and creativity falls into that category.
If we get enough rest, it will help us with our:
HEALTH - Rest provides stress relief and helps ensure our immune system is working as it should to protect us from things like viruses and other illness.
CREATIVITY - A resting brain is actually just engaged in a different kind of thinking that allows it to make connections that it normally wouldn’t make.
PRODUCTIVITY - A rested brain will improve efficiency, decision making, learning, and attention.
WHAT IS REST?
Sleep is an obvious answer - regular sleep is essential to being creative. Research shows that the two main phases of sleep work together to help us find previously unseen links between ideas and uncover innovative solutions to tough problems. That’s why we’re sometimes told to “sleep on it.” And most of us need to sleep on it 7 to 8 hours each night.
But what about shorter rests like naps? They definitely help us recharge - even 10 to 20 minutes. Just make sure it’s not too late in the day, or it could interfere with your nighttime sleep.
But rest can be any activity that restores your body budget. And the best rest is usually more vigorous than crashing on your couch. The key is to not focus on “work,” whatever that may be at the time. Letting your mind wander while your body is working is ideal.
Sure, our society calls this zoning out or daydreaming. We’ve been taught it’s not good to do that! We’ve been told that’s procrastinating, it’s wasting time! But what is actually happening when we’re not focused on a specific problem or task is that a system in the brain called the default mode network is firing up, connecting regions that usually don’t communicate.
Activities like brisk walk, a jog, yoga, or an even more intense workout can clear your mind and activate this network. But if you can’t be active, things like breathing exercises, meditation, or a gratitude practice can help. Even something like taking a shower or listening to music can help activate your default mode network.
HOW TO REST
In order to make sure you get enough rest, your best bet is to schedule it. Make it a priority to get rest every day and throughout the day.
When it comes to sleep, sticking to a routine will help ensure a solid night of it.
During the day while you’re working you could use a method like the pomodoro technique. The quick explanation is that you set a timer, work for 25 minutes, and then take a 5 minute break. That’s one pomodoro. After 4 pomodoros, take a longer (15-30 minute) break.
We wrote about a morning routine that includes restorative practices like meditation and journaling, but having some sort of schedule planned ahead for when you’ll do things like exercise, take a walk with the dog, or just stare off into space will help make it much more likely that you’ll get the rest you need!
Have a tough time getting rest? Let us know your challenges with taking some time off.