As women doctors, we love being productive. Some of us are workaholics. We could even be called high-achievers. Regardless, all of us have a hard time sitting down to relax. I know that’s been the case for me. But I have discovered there are 3 important ways resting is connected to high efficiency, and I want to share them here.
Overachieving and Burning Out
After a long and productive day at work seeing patients, I often feel the need to do something else: clean up the kitchen, organize my kids’ toys, or fold laundry. And when I finally retire to our master bedroom for the night, I feel pulled to read 10 pages of the personal development book I’m reading, or complete another lesson for the digital course I signed up for.
I rarely allow myself to sit down, put my feet up, and literally do nothing. No TV, no Smartphone, no laptop or book, only resting and doing nothing. Just me, sitting there with my feelings and thoughts, without the need to create a distraction or add white noise. Is that you too? After a hard day at work, restorative rest is what I’m actually needing. According to research, restorative rest increases our ability to problem-solve, increases our creativity, and enables us to perform at high efficiency.
We Try to Avoid Negative Feelings by Working or Staying Busy
I have come to realize there are many ways we try to neutralize our negative feelings. We use food, alcohol, shopping, social media, or Netflix to distract us from our uncomfortable feelings. These are some of the popular go-to’s. Each one gives us a small hit of dopamine and a temporary, false pleasure when we turn to them.
A subtle way high-achieving women neutralize and avoid their feelings is by overworking and throwing themselves into work. I did this when my kids were toddlers and preschoolers because they would have frequent tantrums. The tantrums would frustrate and annoy me, and my way of coping at the time was to work more and pick up more shifts in the ER. I didn’t want to deal with my frustration and annoyance. Work, even in the ER, felt more controlled than home, and I had been specifically trained for the job. Unfortunately, the negative result of overworking was feeling more burnt out.
Wait, Isn’t Working Hard a Good Thing?
I know it seems counter-intuitive. You may be thinking: “Working hard is good. I don’t ever like to be lazy.” And yes, being focused while working and getting the most out of your work time is important. But resting boosts our ability to problem-solve. Restorative rest increases creativity by creating enough down time to replenish our inner resources. It is equally important to work and to rest. You cannot sustainably do hard work well without resting from it.
In fact, benefits of rest and recovery are high performance and peak productivity. A great example of this is how professional athletes train. Overtraining lowers an athlete’s peak performance, so part of their training is focused on rest and recovery. Rest is essential to high performance.
It’s the same for us women doctors. We absolutely need to carve out time to rest and recover.
At first, the thought of rest felt like I was being lazy. But I learned there is a way to tell the difference between recovery and laziness. Key questions to ask yourself when resting: are you recovering after a productive day? Or are you procrastinating to avoid the work you have to do?
Recovery after you’ve been highly productive feels amazing because you feel accomplished. Resting before you have produced your day’s work doesn’t feel good. It feels like dread and avoidance. Ultimately the key distinction is whether you have produced or not.
If you have produced and are resting, then it is a well-deserved recovery. If you are resting but haven’t produced, then it is laziness. Of course, none of this applies to days off, vacation days (those are specifically recovery days), or necessary sick days.
Rest is the Secret to Being Highly Productive
So friends, restorative rest absolutely boosts our productivity, and there are 3 benefits it gives. Restorative rest increases our ability to problem-solve, increases our creativity, and enables us to perform at high efficiency. Resting creates a buffer for us to have down time in order to replenish our inner resources. I have now begun scheduling time in my week to simply relax and do nothing. I encourage you to do the same. It may feel challenging at first, and many different feelings will come up. But this is a beautiful opportunity to see all the beliefs and thoughts you have around needing to be constantly productive and start to question them. It’s an opportunity to simply know that you are enough and you have accomplished enough in your day. Now, how amazing is that?
Archana Shrestha, MD is a physician, life coach, speaker and entrepreneur in Chicago. She is the Cofounder and Chief Wellness Officer at Women in White Coats and co-author of “The Chronicles of Women in White Coats” book series. Learn more about her by going to MightyMomMD.com. She can be followed on Instagram @MightyMomMD.
If you are ready to rest and welcome balance into your life, take our free training where we cover 3 steps to help you kick overwork and exhaustion to the curb. Live that confident and balanced life you crave. Click here to enroll in our FREE training.