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Chill Out! How to Overcome Burnout

lighting-a-match-1-1245615-1280x1920You wake up almost as tired as when you fell asleep, four hours ago. After hitting the snooze button twice, you stumble to the kitchen and chug a quart of coffee. It doesn’t help. Your face in the mirror looks like the child you might have had with Voldemort. You can barely squeeze into your last-resort “fat pants.” Getting your kids off to school feels like climbing Everest; driving to the job you once loved, an uphill slog to the salt mines. You dread interacting with your coworkers. It’s not that you aren’t a caring, compassionate person; it’s just that you hate everyone.

If this sounds familiar, you may think you’re depressed. But you might be dealing with a subtly different problem: burnout. Scientists differentiate the two, and it’s a crucial distinction. If you confuse burnout with depression and address it only with antidepressants or therapy, you’ll overlook the behavioral changes you must make to restore your depleted physical and hormonal reserves. Left unchecked, burnout can be lethal. So if you’re anywhere between lightly toasted and totally charred, it’s time to chill.

The Biology of Burnout

There’s no specific medical disorder called burnout, but every doctor knows that prolonged stress has negative consequences. One of these is adrenal fatigue, which comes from overstimulating the hormones that fuel high-energy behavior. Initially, it feels fabulous—you can work like Hercules, compensating for exhaustion with adrenaline, caffeine, or straight-up willpower. But eventually your high-activity hormones run low. You slow down while trying to speed up. Illness, memory loss, and accidents replace achievement. Jesse Lynn Hanley, MD, coauthor of Tired of Being Tired, has identified five levels of burnout. See if one fits you.

Driven

You’re working flat-out, in a nonstop blur of accomplishment. You feel you can go on like this forever! You can’t!

Draggin

You’re sucking up sugar and caffeine to fight fatigue, maybe popping over- the-counter sleep aids to help you “sleep faster,” and feeling unpleasantly chubby.

Losing It

You’re definitely tired, visibly plump (or alarmingly preskeletal), and perpetually grumpy. You lie awake nights, thoughts racing, longing for sleep. At work and at home, you’ve developed a charming habit of biting people’s heads off.

Hitting the Wall

You’re racked by aches and pains, gaining (or losing) weight, prone to temper tantrums or crying jags, hard-pressed to remember things like computer passwords or your children’s names.

Burned Out

By now you may have a serious illness (heart disease, an autoimmune disorder) or have been in a car accident. To stay marginally functional, you depend on drugs you obtain either from a shrink who innocently believes you’re just depressed or from a man you know only as “Viper.” Nobody likes you. The silver lining? As Hanley writes, “If you do not die during this stage, there is no place to go but up.”

How to Chill Out

Research burnout on the Internet, and you’ll find a trove of helpful hints like “Learn to manage stress!” and “Live life in balance!” This is like hearing a financial manager tell you, “Have several million dollars!” In contrast, authors like Hanley offer wonderfully detailed instructions. Of course, when you’re burned out it’s hard to read a shampoo bottle, let alone a book. The following abridged advice may help cool the burn.

Chill Principle 1: Become a grazer.

Since burnout often includes weight gain, many people try to eat less as stress levels climb. Yet going hungry can itself be very stressful. And feeding a body infrequently creates the alarm state that encourages fat storage. The solution: Eat more. I don’t mean doughnuts and lattes, though. I mean low-calorie green food that you eat throughout the entire day. Adding food with lots of antioxidants, water, fiber, and other nutrients can calm you and help your body relax. (I favor smoothies made from fruit and leafy veggies—tastier than they sound.) In addition, take daily omega-3 supplements such as fish oil. These healthy substances reduce inflammation, the physiological part of the “flame” that’s burning you out.

Chill Principle 2: Sleep as if your life depends on it.

Some people feel superior when they work around the clock. This is like proudly pouring Tabasco sauce in your eyes. Sleep makes you smarter, better-looking, more creative. It can add years to your life. It does more to improve the long-term quality of that life than money, fancy vacations, or hot sex. Not giving high priority to sleep is, frankly, insane.

Because our culture doesn’t teach this, many people feel they don’t have time to sleep. There are certainly days, even weeks, when this is true. But when sleep deprivation drags into months or years, we’re making choices that sustain it. Because I’ve been all the way to burnout, I’ve become vigilant about getting enough sleep—and I started when I was unemployed and in debt. Exert every ounce of your will and ingenuity to do the same. Hire someone to help with the kids, even if it means living in a smaller house. Refuse to work for bosses who expect frequent all-nighters. Don’t take on tasks that disallow sleep, any more than you’d say yes to a job that deprives you of oxygen.

For “driven” patients, Hanley suggests six to eight hours of sleep each night, with naps as needed. For “dragging” patients: eight hours a night, with one period of relaxation during the day (sitting somewhere quiet, even in a restroom stall, for ten to 15 minutes). If you’re “losing it,” you need eight hours of sleep plus two ten- to 15-minute relaxation breaks. “Hitting the wall” means eight to nine hours each night, plus two breaks. And once you’re “burned out,” you need eight to ten hours of sleep, plus three 15- to 30-minute naps or retreats. Ignore these minimums, and your body will eventually end up lying still anyway—in your bed, a hospital, or the morgue. You choose.

Chill Principle 3: Exercise for fun.

Almost no one ever tells you to exercise less, but if you’re burned out, you should. I fried myself into chronic pain by forcing workouts when my whole body wanted to rest. Ironically, when I began exercising less, I got leaner and fitter. Some exercise helps prevent burnout, but too much, at the wrong time, only turns up the heat.

If you’re “driven,” aim for an hour of vigorous exercise three to five times per week. “Dragging” folks should limit hard exercise to one hour three times a week, or one to three sessions of moderate activity like light yoga. If you’re “losing it,” do three gentle hours a week. “Hitting the wall” calls for 30 gentle minutes one to three times a week. If you’re totally “burned out,” roll over in bed occasionally until you’re stronger.

The key to gauging how much you should exercise is a mysterious thing called fun, which you may remember from childhood. While exercising, ask yourself, Is this fun? If running isn’t fun, walk. If walking isn’t fun, sit. If even that feels wearisome, take a nap. Your body-mind fun barometer is sophisticated and accurate. Use it.

Chill Principle 4: Unplug heaters, plug in coolers.

Make a list of all the people with whom you regularly interact. Next, list environments you inhabit—your office, your car, rooms in your home. Finally, list your usual activities, from relaxation (ha-ha! just kidding!) to laundry to office meetings. Now imagine each item separately while noticing how your body reacts. Tension, jaw-clenching, or churning are signs you’re plugged into a heater. Muscle relaxation, spontaneous smiles, sighs of relief show you’re chilling.

You may not be able to eliminate the “heaters” from your life, but you can—and must—unplug from them every few hours and plug into “coolers” instead. Detach from your sick child, even for a few minutes, to call a healthy friend. Stop doing paperwork and read a novel for 20 minutes. Leave all technology and reconnect with nature—petting puppies, walking in the park—whenever possible.

Chill Principle 5: Practice peace.

I love watching TV cooking contests where grown adults go into full-scale hysterics over things like overboiled pasta. Since I’m not a foodie, I find it hilarious when people sacrifice their peace of mind to the Cuisine Gods. On the other hand, when my computer recently contracted a virus, sending early drafts of work instead of the final draft, my head nearly exploded like a popcorn kernel.

The fact is, all of us can eat soft pasta, correct computer errors, even fight an illness—in panic or in peace. But choosing peace doesn’t just happen; it’s a skill that takes regular practice to master. Choose and use such a practice, whether it’s prayer or simply clearing your mind. Though you may never reach Yoda-level equanimity, devoting even five minutes a day to telling yourself I am all right in this moment builds increasingly effective air-conditioning into your body and mind.

I’ve been to the bleary-eyed burnout stage, and I’m here to attest that these simple suggestions work. They aren’t difficult. Today, start grazing. Lie down for ten minutes and just breathe. Unplug from the chaos of life long enough to connect with whatever calms you. Tonight, choose to sleep; finishing that project or supervising that homework isn’t worth your health, and you’ll do it faster when you’re rested, anyway. In fact, everything works better when you stop playing Joan of Arc. Refuse to burn. Claim the time it takes to be happy. Everything you value will benefit as you learn to keep your cool.

Doing Nothing… Insight From Martha

TailLob2Yesterday I went whale-watching with my son Adam and my partner Karen. It was a beautiful day, and there were humpbacks everywhere. Aside from the slight injuries I sustained being elbowed by other tourists, it was awesome.

Of course Adam had his own odd way of whale-watching, which consisted of sitting on the boat with his eyes closed for three hours. Whenever I asked him something (“Don’t you want to see the whales?”  “Don’t you want some water?” “Don’t you want to elbow a tourist?”) he’d shake his head briskly, wide awake. When I asked him what he was doing, he said he was “feeling ALL the sea animals.” As one does.

This illustrates a paradox I’ve noticed this month: Sitting still is incredibly powerful. Recently I’d been hankering to meditate more, and I can’t sustain a good hanker, so I started sitting more often, and for longer time periods, than ever before. This has had a weird result. Slowing down has caused everything I do to happen faster.

Every day, after meditating for an hour and a half, I get up and observe my body as it does chores. Then I watch my brain and body together writing, teaching, or answering email. I don’t feel as if I’m doing it, and it happens bizarrely fast.  All my life I’ve felt rushed, but the more of nothing I do, the more I seem to feel my way through the ocean of tasks we all face.

This month, especially if you have a lot to do, try doing more of nothing. If you don’t meditate at all, try 10 minutes a day. If you do meditate, double your time. Then notice the velocity at which things get done. If you don’t notice an improvement in a week, quit. But give it an honest try.

Lao Tzu says, “When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.” I’m finding this to be almost magically true. 

Do it—that is, don’t do it—and see for yourself.

A Resting Revolution: Insight from Martha

Resting CatSo, as you know, if you’ve been following my writing and coaching, I’m heavily into helping people reclaim their “true nature.” It is what I’ve always done, but with a new sense of purpose and urgency as change begins to make our habitual ways of behaving obsolete and counterproductive. I frequently review a list of “brain rules” created by Dr. John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist who specializes in understanding the brain. Medina’s first brain rule is that we learn best outside. Another is that since every brain is wired differently, we should follow our own impulses rather than adhering to rigid external rules. But I think my favorite brain rule is rule number seven. Four words: “Sleep well, think well.”
 
It seems reasonable to suppose that as humans evolved, tribes or bands of people were safe if not everyone slept at the same time. “Night owls” like me could tend the fires and watch for predators at night. By the time we hit the hay, the tribe’s “morning people” would be alert and standing guard. That’s the only explanation I have for the fact that I—and all my blood relations including my children—simply cannot fall asleep early or bounce out of bed at sunrise feeling like a million bucks. By contrast, my partner Karen apologizes each night at 8:30 when she becomes completely unable to function. “I just need to close my eyes for a minute,” she’ll say, and then drop into a sleep so profound we have literally thrown parties without waking her up. Early morning, Karen turns into the US Army. She moves so fast and gets so much done that my groggy eyes cannot follow the motions. 
 
In the world that is becoming, as our society undergoes rapid change, we must return to our true nature in terms of how we rest and relax as well as in terms of how we work and play. Our “normal” terms of sleeping and waking were created so that factory workers could all show up at the assembly line at the same moment. School started in the pre-dawn hours for adolescents so they could be home to help with chores on the farm during most of the day. (Schools also give summer vacations because the summer months required children to stay on the farm to help during the most active part of the crop cycle.) There is no reason to continue scheduling our activities based on a model from the 19th century. We don’t work effectively when we are on a schedule that isn’t natural for our own individual bodies. Studies have shown that adolescents desperately need to sleep late in the morning and that forcing them to show up in class at pre-dawn hours can cause everything from emotional volatility to traffic accidents. 
 
So forget the Industrial Revolution. Let’s foment the Resting Revolution. If you want a nap right now, the most intelligent thing you can do is take it. If you want to perform well, sleep until your body wakes up on its own. If you have small children and you are severely sleep deprived, know that finding a way—any way—to get sleep is the only way to give children a healthy, cheerful, available parent.
 
I know this is asking a lot. But any way you slice it, today’s world is going to ask for everything you can give. Make your first priority your own well-being if only to serve the greater good. I would say more about this, but I really need a nap.

Follow the Rhythm of Your Destiny: Insight from Martha

Yes, yes, yes!  I am sill working on a book!   

Oh, I know I’ve been working on it for years, and I know I keep saying it’s almost done.  It is almost done, dammit!  But book writing is an incredibly slow process, and I can be “almost finished” for months or (please God no) even years.

The problem is that I keep slowing down the completion of this project by trying to do it faster.  Every month, when I stop to write my magazine column, I resentfully toss together a few ideas so I can get back to my book, thus ensuring that the column will need several rewrites.  Every time I need to run an errand, I become so distracted and anxious that I forget important items or information and end up taking much more time than I’d expected.

These days, with everything happening so incredibly fast, I think most of us are feeling rushed.  Every time someone asks, “Haven’t you finished that yet?” or “So how’s the [your project goes here] coming along?” our guts clench and our minds race.  In that moment, as we try to speed up, we invariably slow down. 

I have a theory that during prior periods of history, working harder and bearing down actually did increase the speed at which we could complete tasks.  But things are changing on planet Earth.  Events are much more sensitive to the energy we broadcast and the energy that makes things happen is love.  Fear – including all varieties of anxiety and rushing – causes a tension that chokes off what wants to happen.  Remaining calm, as calm at the end of an event as at the beginning, facilitates a smooth relaxed completion.  A pattern I’ve heard described by many fellow coaches is:  trying hard to finish something; getting closer to the finish; getting excited or frustrated; encountering all sorts of maddening obstacles and delays; giving up; then suddenly receiving a fire hose blast of everything we were trying to accomplish.

As I attempt to finish my own long term project, I have developed the goal of making this process less traumatic.  That means relaxing, instead of tensing, when people ask me “aren’t you finished yet?”  It means being as fascinated with the sentence I’m writing as I am with the concept of being finished.  It means letting the present moment bring whatever love it intends.    

One of my coaches recently went to work on me as I wrestled with this issue.  Instead of the statement “I have to get finished with this book,” I came out of our session with the conviction “This book has to finish me.”  As it balks and refuses to be finished, it teaches me to follow the rhythm of my destiny, rather than the rhythm of human expectation. When I do that – when we all do that – our various desires and objectives will not only finish themselves, but finish teaching us how to bring everything we have imagined into reality.

Is It Time For You to Take Some Minimum Days?

Dog walking.

This week I recalled a procedure that once regulated my life. I call it “Minimum Days.” A more accurate title would be “adrenal burnout recovery days.” Lately, I’ve come to believe almost everyone needs it from time to time.

Here are some symptoms of adrenal burnout, all of which were ragingly evident for me these past few weeks. See if they describe you, too:

• You wake up every morning not because you’re rested, but because “it’s time.”
• Absolutely nothing sounds interesting except sleep. If you won the lottery, it would make you want a nap.
• People keep genially commenting, “Hi! You look like crap!”
• You keep misplacing important things, such as your spouse and children.
• You have no will to live.
• Walking the dog sounds like climbing Everest.
• All you want to eat is Boston cream pie.
• All your Master Coaches keep telling you to REST, DAMMIT!

Okay, that last one may be specific to me. At any rate, this weekend, after getting mild cases of yellow fever, hepatitis, typhoid, polio, and lord knows what else from the vaccination lady here at Phoenix Travel Health (I believe this woman won the 2010 Most Pessimistic Person On God’s Green Earth Award), I went to sleep for almost three straight days. I got up only to eat Boston cream pie and whine intermittently.

This is what I mean by a Minimum Day—a day when you do virtually nothing but rest—and I do believe mine just pulled me back from the brink of exhaustion. These days, life is like a treadmill that’s lost its regulator and just speeds up, minute by minute. When things get too crazy, just jump off. Sleep and then sleep some more.

It took three Minimum Days to get me back to something like normalcy. It may take you one day, or five, or ten. This may feel exorbitant to you-mine did to me. But in my mind and heart (though not my driven ego) I believe humans were to sleep when it’s dark, to watch the wind in the leaves, to nap in the heat of the day. We long ago lost this natural pattern. Minimum Days help take back a bit of what we forfeited by becoming work- and clock-obsessed. I’ve been preaching about them forever. Now, having practiced them, I’m urging you all over again: go to sleep. Have some pie. Then go to sleep again. I’ll see you when your will to live returns.

I Rest My Pace…Insight From Martha

This week I sliced my thumb nearly to the bone, smashed my knee so hard my head exploded, bought $400 worth of software it turned out I did not need, and spent one long day griping at everyone I saw. This, gentle reader, does not fulfill my self-help motto “live it to give it.”

At the end of that awful day, bruised and bleeding from both my thumb and my bank account, I realized I had lost the life rhythm of my essential self. I was working flat out and accomplishing very little.

This is not a first for me.

Past experience has taught me that although we all have the same amount of time in one day of our lives, we can put a great deal of life in our days by re-establishing our natural rhythm. It’s not about working harder, smarter or faster; it’s about working in harmony. (Check out this month’s telecourse below to get Terry and Susan’s take on this issue)

The rhythm of our essential selves is like almost every other rhythm in nature. It has two phases which I call “rest” and “play.” When you rest in harmony with your essential self, you feel as drowsy and contented as a cat in the sun. Right now, look back on a wonderful lazy day in your past. Maybe you were falling in love or you just finished a huge project. For some reason, you’ve given yourself permission to just goof off.

For the next ten minutes, give yourself that permission again. For me, it helps to pretend I’m in the company of “resting buddies.” These are real people in my life with whom I’ve goofed off in the past. As I picture them, that energy of loving relaxation comes back easily. It can also help to be around an animal — a horse, an iguana, or a dog — who is just being.

As you stay connected with your essential self through rest, there will come a moment when something piques your interest. You will want to get up and investigate, or you’ll be thrilled by the idea of exploring some area of your life – familiar or unfamiliar. (For me, this often takes the form of something I want to write.)

This is your signal that the essential self has finished resting and wants to play. Let it.

In previous posts, I’ve mentioned the idea of using the word play to replace the word work. If you have no way to feel playful doing your work, get different work. One of my coaches will be happy to help you.

This is not to say that play is easy. Real creativity, which is the essence of play, can feel absolutely grueling. But ultimately there is a sense of joy and meaning in having done it. The essential self doesn’t mind hard work. But it will reject meaningless work.

Of course you may not always be able to dictate the times when the external world wants you to work or play. So make conscious deals with your essential self (I’ve shown you how to do this in my first-ever video blog) Say right out loud, “Essential self, I promise you, that if you get up now and drive to the office with me, I will spend 2 hours goofing off this evening.” (For me “goofing off” is always watching TV with my family.) Or “Essential self, my body’s too tired to keep playing and I need rest. I’ll play your favorite computer game so you can wind down.” You’d be amazed how your energy cooperates when you make and keep such promises.

This is what I did to get back in touch with my own harmony. Though I felt as if I were slowing down, every good thing in my life suddenly quickens. People who had been ignoring me once again began returning my emails and getting my work done. Once I’d rested deeply, the project I was “playing” on developed with astonishing speed and ease.

You get more life in your time when you find the path of harmony, rather than the path of force. And it really, truly feels as if you have more time in your life, too.

More time. Can you imagine that?

How You Got Here Is How You Walk Here

bigstockphoto_Baby_Feet_46519

My friend Dan believes that our whole lives are metaphorically prefigured in the story of our respective births. I’ve been asking everyone, to see if I agree, and I have to admit Dan has a point.

My own birth was pretty normal except that I was huge—10 pounds, 14 ounces. Eight years later, when I went to get allergy shots, the pediatrician’s nurse looked at my chart and then cried out in what sounded like horror, “Oh, my gosh, you were that enormous baby!” And, indeed, there are still plenty of people who’ll tell you I have far too big a footprint on the earth.

I’ve written about two of my children’s births in different memoirs: Adam came into the world triumphantly peeing in the face of an obstetrician who would rather have performed his abortion; he has lived as a walking testament to the value of being different. Lizzy’s birth was early and easy, just like her departure from home (she’s 19 and already living in Japan). My first child, Katie (sorry, I mean Kat) almost stalled out because I was trying too hard to give birth perfectly. I was in labor for 40 hours before I finally had an epidural, fell asleep, and relaxed. Then she popped right out. And since then, she’s always held back until she’s sure before going ahead with anything.

What was your birth story? If you know it, think about how it might inform your life right now. Call your mom and get the details—I promise, giving birth is something most of us can talk about until were blue in the face (and many of us were, right around the time our babies emerged.

Dan suggests that you close your eyes and rest for the circumstances of your own birth; for your mother, your father, siblings, other relatives, friends. Soften the pain and magnify the joy of the event. Retroactively fill it with as much love as it will hold (hint: a lot). It’s worth the time. After all, I think it’s pretty safe to say it was one of the most important days of your life. Then, as Kabir suggested, “hold each moment as I did my son when he was born.”

Give It A Rest — And See What Happens…Insight from Martha

Warning to all those who think that resting is out of the question when you’ve got goals to achieve! Last June, I began getting an insistent message from a variety of sources telling me that the time has come for those who wish to heal the world to paradoxically move forward through rest.

I have suspected this for several months, but I wasn’t sure quite what this meant or how to do it. For me, rest has usually meant working (playing) until my eyes crossed, then collapsing into a coma for a few hours. Then, just when I needed the information, a teacher appeared in the form of Dan Howard, a wonderful Team member who spends his life developing and teaching a technique he calls “intentional resting”.

In a few minutes, Dan took me through some basic resting exercises, which seemed similar to other relaxation exercises, but for some reason created dramatically different effects in my body and mind. We’ll walk through one of these exercises in a moment, but first I want to say that using Dan’s resting techniques consistently has suddenly increased my ability to manifest the things I want to experience. In that sense, I have come to believe that resting deeply and deliberately is more than a nice idea. It is powerful magic!

Here’s your first intentional resting exercise:

Step One: Scan your body and find an area where you’re holding pain, discomfort or tension. For a few seconds stop reading this and imagine all your attention flowing into this stressed out part of your body. Allow the sensation of discomfort to grow until it fills your awareness. Then come back.

Step Two: Repeat step one, but this time, silently give your stressed out location the suggestion, “relax.” Then meet me back here.

Step Three: Note any changes that occurred in your stressed out area in response to the command to relax. Now, return your attention to that spot and this time mentally give it the invitation “rest.” Continue to invite the area to rest for at least 30 seconds, then return back here.

Step Four: Notice any changes, brief or lasting, that accompany the invitation to rest. Common experiences may include a sense of softening, or melting, diffusion of energy, lessening of stress symptoms, or nothing at all. No right or wrong answer – just observe. 

Step Five: Send your attention into your stressed out area once more. This time, slowly switch back and forth between the words relax and restNotice any differences.

This is the basic format to achieve resting as opposed to relaxing.  The two are not identical. If you felt a positive response to the word rest, try scanning your entire body while slowly and gently stating “I am resting for my feet now; I am resting for my legs now; I am resting for my heart now;” and so on. Put special attention on areas that are in pain or in distress.

Then you can begin applying rest to non-physical aspects of yourself. Try stating “I am resting for my fear now; I am resting for my perfectionism now; I am resting for my troubled past now; I am resting for my future now.”

Then choose one thing you are trying to manifest into your material experience — good health, a relationship, more money, friends, whatever. Spend 30 seconds resting for these things: “I am resting for the friends I am about to meet now; I am resting for my bank account now; I am resting for my good luck now.”

As simple as this exercise obviously is, I have been flabbergasted by how powerful its effects can be. Not only have I been able to reverse minor infections in my own body, but the people and things for which I rest have been responding in ways that are simply too improbable to be coincidence.

Whatever it is you hope to attract, add a little extra twist by resting rather than forcing the result. The worst that can happen is a wonderful feeling.

The Adequate-Sleep Life-Enhancing Experimental Project

First of all, I want to register a simultaneous apology and complaint:  My blog won’t post pictures today.  This has made me feel so defeated I think I’ll go back to bed.  Which leads me to today’s topic…

Something incredibly bizarre happened to me last night.I turned out the light at midnight, but didn’t fall asleep right away, because—this is the bizarre part—I wasn’t tired.

I didn’t know that was even possible.True, I was only really tired during one period of my life, but that period lasted from January of 1970 until this past June. By then I’d begun getting Messages From the Universe indicating that I’d spent enough time in a physical and mental fog.For example:

  • Having heard that Thomas Edison relied on refreshing mini-naps, I started taking them regularly. While driving.
  • I had elaborate, compulsive fantasies about sleeping with all the most beautiful people I know.None of these fantasies involved sex.
  • My caffeine-related jitters were interfering with seismographic readings as far away as Bangladesh.
  • I kept confusing Anne Coulter with Kim Jong-Il.
  • I was legally required to change the eye-color listing on my driver’s license from “blue” to “red.”
  • One night in a hotel room, judgment deeply impaired, I used the scissors from my travel sewing kit to give myself a haircut that was basically an Homage to Sheep Shearing.

Then an intuitive friend said something I thought was very profound:“What would you do if you knew that every good thing in your life depended on your getting enough rest? Because it does.”

At least I think that’s what she said. And I think it was my intuitive friend. It could have been the cashier at Target. Or Kim Jong-Il. It’s all sort of hazy.

Anyway, at that moment I made a radical decision: I would put sleep above all other priorities until I was no longer tired.Every night, I would sleep until I woke up. I would consume no stimulants, and I would go back to dreamland whenever I felt fatigued.

When I woke up six weeks later, the whole world seemed shiny and attractive, like Patrick Stewart’s head. I was filled with ideas. My eye-bags had shrunk to the point where they looked less like Hefty garbage disposal units than tasteful evening clutches. I felt an inner peace I thought came only from enlightenment or horse tranquilizers.

That was yesterday, and it was followed by the bizarre experience mentioned above: I just lay there, awake and perky, feeling the amazing sensation of not being tired, and vowing that somehow, I’d make the feeling last.

So I invite you to join me in something I’m calling the Adequate-Sleep Life-Enhancing Experimental Project (ASLEEP).The requirements for membership are simple: we sleep until we aren’t tired, whenver possible. And I mean WHENEVER POSSIBLE, as in, if you show up at your best friend’s wedding tired, you take a pillow and sleep through the ceremony. Better yet, don’t show. Man up. Stay in bed.

If you violate the project’s strict standards, the rest of us… won’t even know about it.We’re ASLEEP, remember?We don’t check up on our collaborators, evaluate performance, or do a damn thing with the data from our research.All we do is enjoy life a hell of a lot more than we did when we were always tired.Because every good thing really does depend on rest.Go get some.