About a month ago, I came across several articles in the news, each questioning the effectiveness of the health tracking devices and wristbands that have flooded the market over the past few years. I've never used one myself, but I am surrounded by friends and family who rely on them daily.
Do they actually work? Do they help people stay in shape, reach their exercise goals, or lose weight? I don't know. But if the device is putting an emphasis on moving the body, and encouraging people to do more than they would, it has to be a good thing.
So if it's working, I say keep at it. If not, it may be time to lose the arm candy, and try something new. I suppose the real challenge is identifying when it's time to switch up your strategy.
As I read these fitness articles back in September, I realized I had my own strategy to overhaul - a sort of "napping intervention", if you will. My daily, afternoon nap, a ritual on which I have relied for years to help manage my lupus symptoms*, was getting short-changed, and it was time I took notice.
Having settled into life of two school aged children (my previous 'back-to-school' post found here), I was thoroughly enjoying my newfound free time between 8am and 1pm each day (one o'clock being the start of said afternoon nap.) But breaking for that nap took willpower. I was like a kid in a candy store - I wanted to do everything, all at the same time, right up until the last possible second. Most days, I would plan to work like crazy until 1pm, with the intention of stopping at exactly 1:01pm so I could dive into bed, sleep for two hours, and wake up by 3pm, just in time to pick the kids up from school.
But 1:01 would come, and I would keep working. 1:15 would come, and I'd snooze the alarm I'd set on my phone (because I just knew I'd need a back-up reminder.) Soon enough, I was consistently pushing the start of my nap to 1:45 or 2pm, with no wiggle room on the other end to catch up. With kids to pick up, homework to supervise, after-school activities to manage, and an evening ahead of me, my measly nap of an hour and change was proving grossly insufficient.
So my strategy had to change, and I knew it.
I thought about my options, and brainstormed ways to force myself to stop working (or erranding, or whatever I was doing) and go to bed. How could I guarantee that I would fit in my required two hours of sleep? How could my nap become non-negotiable in my mind?
And that's when I decided to listen to the advice I've given others so many times in the past:
Put your health first, and everything else second.
When applied literally, that means that I have to NAP first, and WORK second.
So instead of working madly up until 1pm (or whatever time that really ended up to be), I now work until 12 or 12:30pm, grab a quick lunch, and hop off to bed. I then wake up refreshed almost two hours later, usually between 2 and 2:45pm. Some days, I have a full hour before I leave to get the kids. Other days, I only a few minutes. But in either case, I get the sleep I need, and everything else comes second.
Over the past month, I've seen several benefits to my new work/nap strategy:
1) Better Productivity:
Without a doubt, I work better when I'm rested. (Don't we all!?) So by transferring a chunk of my work time to after my nap, rather than before, I've instantly tapped into a more productive time frame for myself. I'm always full of energy, and my work ideas are flowing directly after I nap. So I'm now maximizing my ability to focus on projects and get things done. My old strategy (of working right up until my nap time, if not beyond) had me functioning well into the onset of my afternoon fatigue - which is a total waste of time. So the time shift makes for a double win!
2) Less Anxiety:
Because I'm allowing myself ample time to nap, I no longer have to rely on an alarm to wake up. There's no pressure looming at the end of my nap, and no deadline to meet. And waking up on my own is a glorious feeling. I no longer have to tell myself to "nap hard and fast" as with my old routine. I can get into bed, and let my mind naturally fall asleep, rather than flooding it with thoughts of, "Fall asleep fast! You only have 70 minutes! You need your sleep! You're already running late!
3) Improved Quality:
Now that I'm allowing almost 3 full hours from the time I start my nap to my next hard deadline (the 3pm school pickup), I'm able to get the extra rest I need, when I need it. My typical nap is an hour and 45 minutes. But every once in awhile, I blow through 2 hours, and wake up two and a half to three hours later. Guess I needed the extra sleep, huh? Could that have happened with my old "race to the finish" strategy? Was I allowing myself the extra recharge when and if I needed it? No way. I barely had time to freshen my breath before dashing out the door!
4) Quieter Inner Critic:
Because I now consistently put my nap first, my overachieving, perfectionist self has had to accept that "this is what we do now". I no longer have to haggle with my inner critic - struggling to resist the temptation to complete that one last thing before my nap. I know whatever it is, it can be done when I wake up. I know it must be done when I wake up. I no longer feel like I'm sacrificing something to nap. I'm merely postponing it until after my one o'clock appointment (with my pillow) has been accomplished. (Once a type-A, always a type-A!)
In an upcoming post, I'll expound on this idea of postponement. It's amazing what a couple of hours will do to a to-do list!
*NOTE: My daily nap has been essential to keeping my lupus activity at bay for over 10 years now, and allows me to get through each and every day with energy to spare. It has evolved over time, and you can read more about my beloved naps here.)