Last week was spring break and my fourth grader was couchside. I am THAT mom, the one who no longer cares if she plants herself in front of Austin & Ally repeats if it means I can get 22-minutes of uninterrupted work done.
But it feels a little frantic too. Moving between my roles as mom and writer and cat feeder and housecleaner-upper and all the other things I do each day.
Last week I felt the stress and by the time I ended up at my desk to work, I wasn’t as focused as I needed to be.
I was bitching about this as I have every spring break since the beginning of time – seriously, I’m bored with myself. Juggling different roles is old news to every woman I have ever met so enough already – but, I was complaining just the same when I was reminded of Productive Relaxation.
Never in my life have, NEVER EVER would I have put those two words together. But makes total sense.
What is Productive Relaxation?
Productive Relaxation does not mean you lay back on the couch and maw down on Doritos, although, frankly, I see nothing wrong with that. At all. But it does mean to take more frequent breaks, find ways to get the sleep you need – more than six hours, people – even if that means taking a nap. You stop eating lunch at your desk. You work in 90-minute intervals and then take a short break to do things throughout the day to refresh and restore your energy.
And in the end, according to researcher and author Tony Schwartz and others, you’ll get A LOT more done.
Stress is Costing Us and Killing Us
According to q piece in the New York Times, one-third of us eat lunch at our desks, more than half work over their vacations and we are sleeping six hours or less a night.
That means we aren’t taking the time to restore and rejuvenate the way we need. In other words, we are operating in a sustained stressed state and that is costing us and killing us.
Stress causes the release of cortisol. Sustained, high levels of cortisol contribute to autoimmune disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease and other illnesses like colds and flus. People who are stressed out, get sick more often, have more sleepless nights (not a good thing) and a higher risk of depression and other mood disorders.
The National Institutes of Mental Health report that lost productivity due to employee illness and medical appointments costs corporations more than $260 billion (!!) a year.
How Stress Shows Up at Home
Stress also causes us to snap at our kids, eat more comfort food (high levels of cortisol make it hard to regulate our weight too) and make more mistakes. In short, we (OK, Me) are much less effective and productive when we are freaking out.
So this whole notion of Relaxed Productivity is awesome, right? Relax. Curb the stress. Take more breaks. AND get more done in your day.
One of the studies suggests that we do this by taking 90-minute naps. WHAT?! Ummm, yeah, sleep would definitely help, but I don’t think I’ve slept 90-minutes total since my daughter was born nine years ago. So what can we do?
Harder we Work, Less we Accomplish
How can we manage our stress and capture this kind of relaxed productivity in a lifestyle that doesn’t allow for a trip to the Bahamas every other week or a 90-minute siesta every afternoon?
This is what I’m working on. To ease the everyday stress we’ve got to create practical habits — things we can do right in the middle of the day while commuting to work or grabbing coffee — that remind us to take a break and a breath throughout our days so we can recover emotionally and physically, and get more done.
So often, we toil away, work through lunch, rarely taking breaks thinking that we can get more done this way. Nope. Our productivity drops the longer we sit at our desks. We also tend to make more mistakes. And creativity – the stuff we need for innovation, problem solving, even conflict management evaporates.
We start off alert. We are all about seizing-the-day-and-then-some. But this go get’em mode fades and at the end of 90-minutes we are toast. Mentally wasted and needing a rest.
So take one. Get up at the 90-minute mark. Stare out the window, go for a quick walk around the block. Move. Take deep breaths. Do a gratitude exercise. You’ll feel so much better and you will do better in the next 90-minute interval at work.
Try it. Work for 90-minutes, then do something different for 15 or 20 minutes, then get back to work. Betcha feel better and get more done.
On Wednesday, I’ll share some things you can do during those 15 minute breaks to restore and build this kind of relaxed productivity into your day.