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.

9 replies
  1. Joy Tanksley
    Joy Tanksley says:

    God bless you for teaching me about Minimum Days three years ago when I read The Four Day Win. They’ve saved my life time and time again. Just yesterday I gave into a day where I slept for all but four hours and during those four hours I was planted firmly on my couch. Next time, though, I’ll make sure to have some pie! XO!

  2. Sandy
    Sandy says:


    I wholeheartedly agree with you on the resting part, but not necessarily on the Minimum Days part. As a life coach myself, I can’t resist sharing something that might work better. Would you be at the burnout phase if you had built in minimum TIME during the day, each day. That time spent watching the wind in the leaves, napping in the heat of the day? Why not do that on a regular basis?

    I have clients who actually schedule in ‘me’ time during the day, blocks of time during the week where they go get a manicure, take a walk in nature, meditate.

    My daily walk with a friend is something I wouldn’t miss.

    Just sayin’…

    And by the way, I love the transparency of your blog. I am so inspired by how you live your life, and it helps to know that you’re also human, just like me!

  3. Debbie Baillie
    Debbie Baillie says:

    Martha, darling, are you sure you are not here with us right now?! It sounds just like you are here with us nodding our heads with every symptom! Both my husband and I are feeling adrenally exhausted and can’t wait for our summer holiday when we intend to sleep, eat French cheese, drink French wine and generally get back to some kind of normalcy – as you put it. wish us luck!

    Debbie (still excited from meeting you at CHA last January!)

  4. Julia Stewart
    Julia Stewart says:

    Thanks for writing about this, Martha – As a fellow human-driven-to-super-human-activity, I’ve experienced and been diagnosed with adrenal burnout. As I was pondering why I was feeling so exhausted and why my coaching work was feeling strangely draining, I though, ‘Oh yeah, what Martha was writing about? That’s what’s going on here!’ I’ll be eating ice cream instead of pie, at least until my doctor tells me to stop and I’ve canceled everything until Monday!

  5. Mary
    Mary says:

    Wow; amazing that I logged on to this blog during a fifteen minute “break” at a week long training that is actually called “boot camp.” Thanks for the idea…definitely will need several minimum days and lots of pie…am listening to “Steering by Starlight” and am starting to notice some magic…thank you for that!

  6. Laura
    Laura says:

    Lately most of my days feel like Minimum Days. I need somehow to accelerate that treadmill because i keep getting to the end of the week and thinking “well what did i accomplish this week? A whole lotta nothin.” It’s not depression, just overwhelming inertia. Gah.

  7. Pamela
    Pamela says:

    What a wonderful reminder.

    I’m off to nap now, and just maybe I’ll go to my yoga class if I wake up in time.

    p.s- It was thrilling and uplifting meeting you after your book signing at changing hands last year 🙂


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] easy, and I’m definitely on track to do what my teacher Martha Beck calls a “minimum day.” I do have some commitments to meet, but it’s not going to be a aim-for-the-stars […]

  2.— Open Loops 7/20/2010: Articles I Think Worth Passing Along— says:

    […] to the points in Martha Beck’s “Is It Time For You to Take Some Minimum Days?” I am suffering from burnout. So on my vacation this month, I will be doing as little as possible. […]

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