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I’ve Got So Much to Do–I Better Take a Nap: The Link Between Creativity and Rest

Posted Aug 27 2013 3:55pm

A couple of years ago I had a major talk for a college coming up. Mothering Mother (my book) was the spring selection read for the entire college. I was invited to not only come give a talk, but to also visit several departments, talk with students, a luncheon talk with the staff, a one-woman play in the community, and any other publicity (television/radio) that might arise. Pressure. I had to ON. I needed to be prepared, present, interesting, educational, entertaining and all in all, a razzle-dazzle kind of gal for all of the upcoming events. And that’s when it hit me: I need to rest.

This isn’t just woo-woo. Rest is crucial to creativity. A recent study out of Harvard Health shows a direct correlation between creativity and rest. A group was given a complex problem to solve and then divided. One half of the group was told to work on the problem all day. The other half was encouraged to nap. Not only nap (not just a ten minute break), but were allowed to rest long enough to enter REM sleep. You guessed it. The group that napped showed a 40% cognitive improvement in problem solving. “Those whose naps were long enough to enter REM sleep did 40% better on the test than nappers who didn’t get any REM sleep and non-nappers. Rather than simply boosting alertness and attention, REM sleep allowed the brain to work creatively on the problems that had been posed before sleep.”

No wonder Google now  encourages naps. Other great nappers include Albert Einstein, Salvadore Dali, Winston Churchill and Thomas Edison.

Salvador Dali

Back to my story: I spent two months (or more) preparing for the various components of my upcoming events–preparing  posters, writing blogs, tapping into social media to help promote the event, lots of phone calls, printing of new materials, practicing endless hours so that my talks were seamless–and yes, plucking the wiry eyebrows and checking off a rather formidable list of personal hygiene items.

But as the time came closer my world grew quiet. I stepped aside from other commitments. I spent time in my garden. I rode my  bike. I took naps. I envisioned myself fully present with folks who needed me not only to talk, but more importantly, to listen. Every time an anxious thought entered my being I imagined us (students, professors,  community  folk) in a circle laughing, talking, sharing, reading, crying. I decided that going to these events rested and fully present was the best gift I could give myself–and everyone else. In the words of Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love, I wrapped us in love and light.

So…how’d it go?

Amazing.

I was received with kindness and ease. I was treated with respect and appreciation.

I was able to handle several days of a busy schedule and welcomed each event and each  group of people with joy, sweetness and intention. It is truly one of my best “author” experiences that will forever cherish. And I don’t believe it would have turned out so well if I hadn’t tapped into the secret of rest.

Rest doesn’t mean sleeping (although it includes sleeping).

Rest is a state of regeneration.

Our brains are “free” from our consciousness (and  critic) while we sleep. Solutions can “come to us,” when we stop trying so hard.

Rest doesn’t just mean catching some zzz’s. It’s whatever feeds your spirit.

Clean water, long walks, talking with people who invigorate your  mind and spirit.

It might mean creating a meal, deadheading a bed of flowers, bird watching all afternoon, pouring through magazines and surrounding yourself with  positive images. It might even mean addressing some minor irritations that are sapping you of your thoughts. It’s also body care–yoga,  stretching, getting a massage, swimming, catching up on dental appointments, perhaps doing a juice cleanse.

It means time for quiet. For  reflection. For envisioning how you want to feel at whatever is coming up for you. I wanted to feel deeply rested, present, and have the energy to give myself wholeheartedly to this endeavor.

Flash forward three years:

New opportunities are swirling around me. Several possibilities at once.

My head is spinning and my first thought is:

“Whew! There’s a whole lot about to happen–I better rest!”

 


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