Taking Time off and the Science of Downtime

Posted by Amina AlTai on

Hey Friends,

When I was in high school my tennis coach used to say, “a day off is a day wasted when others become better than you.” Yikes…I cringe when I read that now—it’s like the anthem of hustle culture. What an unhealthy way to motivate young people. This creates a foundation of deep neglect and respect for rest, nourishment, and listening to our bodies.

But, I have to confess, for years I lived by that idea. I was the last person in the library, the last person at work, the last person on the tennis court—terrified that if I took a day off, I wouldn’t be able to keep up. I thought that I wouldn’t be deemed as worthy or good enough if I didn’t give every single ounce of my energy away to everything but myself. And then my body said, “no thanks.” The constant hustling, pushing, and forcing impacted my body and tipped me down the hill and into a pile of autoimmune mud of my own making. Our bodies are WISE. 

It took me years and years since my diagnosis to reprogram and shift out of this always-on, scarcity mindset culture. I had to teach myself and my nervous system that it was safe to rest. So many of us can feel guilt, shame, and a whole slew of negative emotions when we slow down. Even if it’s a life or death decision.

I had to learn that giving my life to being “the best” wasn’t necessary because there is space for us all. I’m right on time for my life. 

The best work and deepest transformations happen when we are nourished at a soul level.  

Don’t believe me? Then you might want to read up on the science of downtime. The gist is this—doing nothing (not even meditation) gives our brains the opportunity to go through the data it’s aggregated, connect the dots, and creatively problem solve in a way that we cannot if we are always using our brains and are “cerebrally congested.”   

In May, I took twelve whole days off to cerebrally decongest. I ate vegan gelato. Walked aimlessly. Swam in the Mediterranean and took naps—and it was glorious. 

As an entrepreneur, truly doing nothing can be a really scary undertaking, but I know that this work depends on me being deeply nourished. I cannot pour into you if I haven’t first poured into me. Athletes at the top of their game live by this. Their best time trials and races cannot happen if they haven’t taken rest days. Their muscles and their minds need replenishing in order to win at the levels that they do.

So, please let this be your invitation to:

  • Book that vacation and do nothing
  • Take that long weekend to rest
  • Leave work an hour early to decompress
  • Or lay on the floor between meetings and stare at the ceiling 

There is no wrong way to do nothing but our creativity, motivation, and joy depend on it.  

To nothingness and nourishment,
Amina xx

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