The Pressure of Productivity and How to Set an Anti-Goal
When I graduated from my master's degree program, I set myself a napping goal.
As you might imagine, I was exhausted and in need of some serious rest and recovery. At the same time, it takes time to decelerate from that level of sustained, intense productivity and doing. It was impossible to just come to a sudden halt, so I set myself up with a number of projects to fill in the void.
I’m one of those people who is good at being active and productive, and can often find the greater challenge to be slowing down, doing less, and allowing rest and spaciousness into my days and weeks. When we are in ‘go mode’ so often, it can be really hard to shift gears. Not only does it take time for our bodies to slow down and re-calibrate to a different, less intense level of demand, but all those pesky thoughts creep in too. Am I wasting time? Being lazy? Who am I to take a nap when there’s so much to be done? Maybe I “should” be doing X, Y, and Z? So many shoulds and judgments rush in to block our states of rest. These are fueled by the false belief that slowing down or stopping a) diminishes what we contribute to the world, and b) diminishes our worth and worthiness to exist.
I know, it’s a lot to dismantle.
So in the meantime, I decided to trick myself into the much needed R&R by setting myself a napping goal: 30 naps by the end of the year.
And if the idea of that many naps just made your anxiety spike, you might consider setting a napping goal too.
The napping goal worked! like. a. charm. Every time I felt the onset of fatigue, that sleepiness in the afternoon, that desire to just crawl into bed or onto the couch for a little while that usually induces a feeling of guilt and a cascade of “shoulds”, instead I thought “Oh! Wonderful! I need to work toward that napping goal!” And yes, I kept a tally of my naps, adding one satisfying little tick every time I followed the impulse to stop, drop, and sleep.
And do you know the best part about my napping goal? I DIDN’T EVEN MEET IT! Here we are one week from the end of the year, and I still have two naps left to go! But you know why that’s so great? I don’t NEED to finish my napping goal because I’m no longer tired all the fucking time! I feel rested and energized and well paced at the moment, so the naps have become unnecessary. It’s no longer about meeting an arbitrary number of naps, but about tuning into my own needs and creating a regular yet intuitive way to rest. And that’s the beautiful thing. When we allow rest and spaciousness, we actually open up the energy and the drive to do the things we want in a sustainable and successful way.
"Well, this is all very well and good Lauren, but you sound a little privileged and disconnected from the world with your 30 naps this year..."
Yes, I absolutely acknowledge my privilege. I benefit from white-skinned, economic, and educational privilege, among others, and these contribute to my ability to create space for myself.
But let us also return to that little truth-bomb above about worth and worthiness. We live in a society of toxic productivity where our worth as humans is often measured by our contribution and participation in capitalism, where health of the economy is often placed above the health of individuals and communities. Furthermore, oppressive systems (patriarchy, systemic racism, heteronormativity...) demand that people who inhabit marginalized bodies prove their worth and worthiness to exist and take up space. Women and people of color (among other groups) are told to sacrifice and serve for the greater good and that it is selfish to stop, rest, or care for themselves. Existence within these systems is exhausting, Rest becomes radical when it entails saying NO to the oppressive systems that demand our constant energy, participation, and vigilance.
“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare." ~ Audre Lorde
(I said it was a lot to dismantle... that's why you gotta get in those naps!)
How to set an anti-goal:
As somatic counselor, I guide clients in discovering their own inner wisdom related to resting and resourcing while working towards their authentic and meaningful goals. If you would like support in this process please reach out for a free consultation.
Mindfulness Lessons from my Cat
At first, I did my best to distract myself from this unfortunate situation - listening to audio books, finding new podcasts, catching up on phone calls. But over time, as these distractions grew tiresome, I slowly became curious and began to see the parking lot through Pan’s eyes. I began to notice all the little things that draw him there that I had previously skipped over.
And aren’t there just an abundance of birds! Crows, magpies, doves, finches, blue jays, and woodpeckers, just to name a few. Of course, Pan knows the best places to watch them. By following his lead, I now know the two different corners of the parking lot where the neighbors hang bird feeders. To these, they all flock, taking turns swooping down to get their fill and then retreating to the nearest branches above. Unsurprisingly, the squirrels congregate in these corners too, feasting upon the scraps that scatter underneath the bird feeders.
I have become familiar with the neighbors and workers that pass through on regular schedules. We wave to each other. Some stop to pet Pan. In one house lives a wild little blonde girl who runs out barefoot and smiling to shower him with adoration. She feeds the squirrels too, making her yard another prime squirrel watching venue. On special days, we run into other neighborhood cats, or bunnies, or occasionally raccoons.
If you often feel rushed through your day, under constant stimulation, or without enjoyment in your daily tasks, you may benefit from a mindful fresh perspective similar to what Pantalaimon gifted to me. Sometimes this occurs spontaneously when we see the world through the eyes of a pet, a child, or an out-of-town visitor. Other times, we may need to cultivate it on our own.
Mindfulness in Daily Life Practice:
Choose one task that has become habitual for you, perhaps a task you find boring or that you often couple with daydreaming or phone calls. Washing dishes, brushing your teeth, or walking to the mailbox are all great examples, but you may choose anything.
For one week, approach this task as if you have never done it before. Imagine the way that a young child gets excited about participating in chores, or the way that a traveler is intrigued by the routines in foreign countries.
Let go of all your distractions during this time (that’s right, no podcasts or phone calls) and give this task your full attention. Move a little slower than usual. Pay attention to all your senses.
Notice the angle of the light, the smells, the temperature of the air or water, textures of soap or paper or whatever you may touch, the movement of your body parts.
Every day, try to notice one new or different thing that you did not notice during this task the day before.
At the end of the week, how has your experience changed?
What might it be like to cultivate this mindful awareness throughout your day?
As somatic counselor, I love using mindful and body-based practices to help my clients transform their daily lives into something they love. If you would like support in this process,
please reach out for a free consultation.
Grounding Techniques for Stress and Anxiety
So many things in life can get us pretty amped up.
Part 1 - Basic Grounding Techniques
1. 5-4-3-2-1 Mindfulness
First look around your space, and orient to where you are including what is above and behind you and where doors, windows, and other people are. Then, name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel on your skin, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.
Use your hands to bring touch to your body and feel your solidity and boundaries. Gently squeeze down your arms from your shoulders to your wrists. Gently squeeze down your legs from your thighs to your feet. You might give yourself a gently hug, or a gentle neck massage. You can rub your hands together to create a little warmth and then place your hands on your face, your heart, or your belly. Experiment with any way to can make contact with yourself through touch that feels nourishing and supportive.
3. Putting Awareness into Supports
While sitting, place your feet on the ground and gently press your feet into the ground. Notice any activation of the leg muscles, feeling the strength in the legs and how your feet connect to the ground. You may also bring sensation into the feet by wiggling the toes or shuffling your feet back and forth against the ground. If this doesn't work for your body, you can also try bringing awareness to your sitting bones and hips by swaying or rocking while you sit. Or if you are lying down, bring as much of your attention as possible to where your body is supported by the chair, floor, bed, or wherever you are. The idea is to feel the support coming up underneath of you.
If you are physically able, stand and jump or hop in place. This is a way to enhance awareness of our feet, the ground, and our connection to our body and our environment.
If you are physically able, come into a standing balancing position. This might be as simple as lifting one heel off the ground, or standing with one foot up but with a hand on a chair or wall. Or, you might stand freely on one foot or engage in a more advanced balancing practice if you have that as part of a yoga practice. Balancing engages multiple parts of the brain, causes us to focus intensely on the present moment, and allows distracting thoughts and worries to fade into the background.
Part 2 - Breathing Techniques
1. The Not-Breathing-Techniques
For those of you that don't like breathing practices, this one is for you! You can start to open up the breath without having to put a lot of attention on the breath. These gentle movements in the torso may allow you to naturally slow and deepen your breathing.
2. Box Breathing
Inhale for 4 counts, hold your breath in for 4 counts, exhale out for 4 counts, hold your breath out for 4 counts. Repeat several times. Go at a pace that feels comfortable for you. If it's helpful, you can imagine a square, with your inhales, holds, and exhales traveling along the edge of the square.
3. Extended Exhale
Inhale for 4 counts, exhale for 8 counts. Repeat as many times as you like. Go at a pace that feels comfortable for you. While our inhale is connected to the sympathetic (or enlivening) part of our nervous system, our exhale is connected to the parasympathetic (or calming) part of our nervous system. So, extending the exhale can signal our bodies to come into a more restful state.
4. Supported Breath
Bring one hand to your forehead and the other hand to the back base of your skull. Inhale through the nose while gently bringing your head back (like you're looking up to the ceiling). Exhale through pursed lips out the mouth while gently bringing your head down and forward (like you're looking down at your belly). Repeat several times..
Part 3 - Grounding in Nature
Being in nature is one of the best ways to ground. Take some time to go outside, go for a walk, or visit a place with dirt, tress, or water. Make physical contact with the world around you by touching a tree, smelling a flower, or sticking your toes in grass or in water. Try combining time in nature of some of the basic grounding techniques or breathing techniques listed above.
Part 4 - Somatic Grounding Sequence
These movements can be done on their own, but make a great grounding sequence when put all together.
As somatic counselor, I love using body-based practices to help my clients work with stress, anxiety, and connection to the self. If you would like support in this process,