Sometimes, you hit a wall.

You might have seen it coming, noticed the warning signs of feeling tired, distracted, low energy, or upset, but you chose to push through anyways. Or, you might have been surprised to find a wall suddenly smack dab in the middle of your path, threatening you to stop working or else. 

I used to be a can’t stop won’t stop kind of girl when it came to productivity. I’d drain through my resources of patience, presence, and my coveted physical and mental energies, pushing myself until my meters ran negative, and ultimately ignoring my body’s signals that I needed to REST and RECHARGE. Unsurprisingly, my chronic pain went through the roof when I chose this path, and I felt miserable, exhausted, triggered, and lost.

Since I launched The Tending Year in January 2018, I’ve researched and practiced hundreds of self development and productivity tools, and as as result I’ve developed a lot of new habits. One of the most important things I’ve taken away from my personal practice is a personalized rest and recharge toolkit. This blog post will guide your through developing your own personalized rest and recharge toolkit so you can preemptively protect your energy expenditures and acutely manage any “oh shit” moments you might stumble across.

Step 1: Evaluate Your Relationship with Rest

The first step in generating an effective rest and recharge toolkit is getting real with yourself about how you currently approach the acts of resting and recharging. Like all self development and productivity practices, resting and recharging are not one-size-fits-all actions, so your toolkit will work better if you personalize it to your strengths, weaknesses, preferences, and goals.

The takeaway prompts at the bottom of this blog post will guide you through developing your toolkit, but to get a general evaluation for your relationship with rest, consider these two important questions:

When you want to rest and recharge, do you actually do it? Why or why not?

My answers are… Often yes, but sometimes no. I am better at resting when I break down large tasks into manageable steps and accomplish them across time. I still struggle to rest if I am worried I will disappoint someone.

 

Step 2: Identify Your Energy Zappers

Certain tasks, events, experiences, times, or topics will use up your resources more quickly than others. Your goal here is to intentionally notice which things zap your energy so you can strategically adjust your toolkit to help you reserve or recharge your energy.

Types of energy zappers might include:

  • Tasks that require emotional, physical, and/or mental energy
  • Times of the day, week, month, or year
  • Where you are at in terms of health, wellness, or menstrual cycles
  • Events such as deadlines, celebrations, or travel

One of my key energy zappers is where I am at in my menstrual cycle. Although my chronic pain remains undiagnosed, we do know that (1) my pelvic floor musculature is way out of whack and (2) certain placements in my cycle zap my energy and up my pain. Knowing this ahead of time allows me to adjust my energy output for the weeks before and during my period in terms of scheduling meetings, deadlines, appointments, and my planned productivity output.

 

Step 3: List Your Non-Negotiables

Non-negotiables are rules that you refuse to sacrifice. In terms of resting and recharging, non-negotiables are those resources that you strive to protect through preemptive planning and acute decision making. Including your non-negotiables in your rest and recharge toolkit will help you stick to your guns when it comes to setting boundaries and making decisions.

Here are some of my non-negotiables when it comes to rest and recharging:

Sleep. If I don’t get enough sleep, I can have CPTSD flashbacks, so it is essential that I get around 7 hours of sleep every night. My rest and recharge sleep toolkit includes a nighttime routine that allows me to be ready for bed by midnight, sleeping with fan on for background noise, and spraying lavender on my sheets and pillows before I tuck in. 

Do not exacerbate pain in favor of productivity. This took me a while to put into practice and required me to shift my schedule and my habits. When I start to feel pain come on, I stop working and choose to do a combination of the following: stand up, do breathing/calming exerises, lay down, stretch, apply CBD topical oil and an ice pack, or take a break from work and come back to it later/tomorrow.

Step 4: Set Yourself Up for Success

Every person’s rest and recharge toolkit will differ based in their preferences and personalities. That being said, everyone’s kits should include have tools that can help them rest and recharge both preventatively as well as acutely.

Here are some of the practices on my rest and recharge toolkit that I can do on the regular to help me avoid zapping all of my energy and hitting my wall of exhaustion or stress.

Giving myself permission (acute application): If I find myself low on resources, I give myself permission to adjust my expectations around my productivity, permission to do less, permission to do “good enough,” permission to take frequent breaks, and permission to miss out on events.

Supplements (preventative and acute application): I try to take adrenal and immunity supplements regularly to regulate my endocrine and immune systems, but when I begin to feel my rest triggers (tired, distracted, low energy, anxious, grumpy), I take them acutely, too. My favorite adrenal blends are this one from Urban Moonshine, this one from Herbal Energetics, and the ones that Jade from Blue Dragon Apothecary in Greenfield, MA has made for me. For immunity, I use Source Naturals’s Wellness tincture (they have an alcohol-free one made with honey!) and any elderberry syrup. When I’m stuggling to fall asleep due to a racing mind, I take blue vervain, skullcap, and/or lemonbalm tinctures.

Taking a phone detox by using a “phone box” (preventative application): I described this in my 1.48: Social Media with Intention and Awareness post, but the gist is that you literally designate a little home for your cell phone to live in when you take a break from it for a scheduled amount of time. I use a ceramic chicken cotainer with a lid, and I put my phone there when I take a bath and read at night so I’m not tempted to check it.

 

Once you gain awareness of your rest and recharge strengths, weaknesses, preferences, and non-negotiables, you’ll be able to develop your own toolkit! Use your toolkit to implement small changes, big shifts, or refer to it as a guide when you find yourself facing a wall and needing a reliable go-to plan. Best of all, a well-planned toolkit will help you to manage your rest and recharge practices preventatively and acutely.

Feel free to write your answers to the following questions in a notebook, talk them out with a buddy, or keep a running digital list. Once you’ve got your answers, synthesize them into a visual list that you can hang on your fridge or wall or carry in your bag and refer to regularly. 

What are Your Energy Zappers

Your goal here is to identify your energy zappers so you can prepare for them or avoid them entirely. Questions you should answer include:

  1. When do I find myself with the lowest energy or most requiring a rest and recharge?
  2. What about that specific time/place/event is so energy zapping?
  3. Which energy zappers are unavoidable? Is this a current or permanent unavoidability? How can I prepare ahead of time?
  4. Which energy zappers might be avoidable with preemptive planning or action? List specific preemptive actions I can take.

As a reminder, my list of energy zappers included the following:

  • Tasks that require emotional, physical, and/or mental energy
  • Times of the day, week, month, or year
  • Where you are at in your menstrual cycle
  • Events such as deadlines, celebrations, or travel

Non-Negotiables

Your goal here is to reflect on your current and ideal non-negotiable practices and then list practical steps you can take to protect your non-negotiables. Questions you should answer include:

  1. What current non-negotiable rules, actions, or boundaries do I refuse to sacrifice in terms of resting and recharging?
  2. What non-negotiable rules, actions, or boundaries would I like to implement in service of resting and recharging?
  3. What has prevented me from establishing my ideal rest and recharge non-negotiables?
  4. What would be my process of establishing new non-negotiable practices? (List actionable steps, such as giving yourself permission to do X, asking someone for assistance, shifting your schedule, etc.).

Individualize Your Toolkit

These questions are more quickfire, but they will help you personalize your toolkit to you rather than doing things you might think you “should” do.

Which of the following help you recharge? Add your own if they aren’t on the list.

  • Being alone
  • Being around others
  • Taking naps
  • Sleeping for X amount of hours a night
  • Meditation
  • Moving your body (stretching, exercising)
  • Talking to a friend or therapist
  • Taking a bath or shower
  • Doing self-care practices
  • Breathing exercises
  • Watching TV or movies
  • Taking a day off work
  • Being in nature
  • Eating or drinking particular food/drinks
  • Being creative
  • Crying when you need to cry
  • Reading
  • Tidying up your space
  • Going on an adventure or trip
  • Taking a phone/technology detox

Don’t Forget the Visual Inspiration

I had a blast making a Pinterest vision board for this week’s post with some of my favorite rest and recharge mantras and inspirations. You can view it here: Rest & Recharge Pinterest Board.