Learning to rest when you're a workaholic

A little under a week ago, I was sat on a train travelling from Brighton to Milton Keynes, writing the first draft of this post. The ends of my hair were split, the bags under my eyes had doubled, my skin was breaking out and I was paler than I'd been in a long time. 

"I'm 24 and have been living independently for years, but I feel like I've reverted back to my third year as a journalism student, drowning in media law revision and stacks of final project work."

"Exhausted, hazed and living off the reserve energy for my reserve battery," I wrote.

Life since my last post, where I revealed I was quitting my job to create a business, has been a bit of a whirlwind: an overwhelming flock of support, the launch of the City Girl Network, a weekend in Berlin to launch a collective over there, and being accepted into the Entrepreneurial Spark Business Accelerator Programme to slightly minimise my chances of fucking the whole thing up. 

However, juggling a full-time content marketing job, with running a business, working on three freelance projects and blogging, over an average of 110 hours a week - not to mention the mental exhaustion that came from my entrepreneurial confession (to be shared in due course) - pretty much knocked me out the moment I stepped off the train at Milton Keynes, where I was to spend the week with my family.

It's no secret that I'm a workaholic, nor is it a secret that I really like that about myself, but I rarely talk about the difficult part of being wired this way: resting is hard work.

I get such a rush out of what I do that I lose sight of how exhausting it is on both my body and my mind. Sometimes I fear that if I stop working, everything will crumble, but, honestly, most of the time I keep going because I love it.  

But I'm not a superhero. I do burn out. 

With just one month left in employment before I plunge headfirst into this terrifyingly exhilarating entrepreneurial minefield, I knew that a good chunk of this Christmas week off-my-9-to-5 had to be spent learning to rest.

It's been six days since I wrote that rambling mess of a first draft, and before I head back to my chaotic Brighton life, I feel that now is the time to share my tried and tested "Resting Tips For Beginners" - I'm not an expert and I did work on Christmas Day... but if you're anything like me, this could help you to start.

1. Prepare to rest

Taken in Nowhere Man

Taken in Nowhere Man

Contrary to what the films say, you can't just up and leave. You have to make sure that you've sorted all of your work to a point where you can stop for the time that you've chosen to stop for. If you don't, your "resting time" will be replaced with "overthinking, stressful, guilt-fuelled time". 

And on the same lines, if you do prepare to rest and feel like your affairs have been wrapped up by the time your out of office is on - run with it and don't challenge yourself. Trust me on that one. 

2. You really do have to hibernate

I don't necessarily mean total social media blackout - I was still posting on Instagram - but don't make plans and limit your people time. Imagine you're playing hide and seek with your own life - mastering the art of resting is essentially the same as mastering the art of hiding.

3. If you need to escape into Netflix to lose sight of reality, then that's ok

I would have lost my sanity years ago without my Netflix subscription. I've relieved a lot of stress over the years by getting lost in a Netflix series, but I do also get to a point where I feel a great amount of guilt for doing so. But if Netflix holds the secret for your ability to chill, then get rid of the guilt and keep watching it.

4. Pamper yourself - your body needs it more than you think

I'm probably the worst blogger to be giving beauty advice (contrary to what it may seem, the hands in the photo above are my sister's), but I do love Lush for their ethical code. This Christmas I was treated to Golden Handshake and Salted Coconut hand scrub - my hands feel amazing. 

5. You can still do what you love, you just need to do it differently

This lesson has taken a long time to realise, admittedly - the photo above was taken in a shoot on Christmas Day with my sister and then subsequently used across the City Girl Network's social media feeds... but, in my defence, it started out as just a shoot.

The biggest problem with resting as a workaholic is that in order to rest, you have to take time out of what you do. However, if what you do is also what you love, taking a break from it can suck during a resting period. For me, photography and writing would have been the hardest things to leave behind - so, I didn't.

Rather than working with my camera and my keyboard, I escaped into them - writing a few bloody awful poems that noone will ever read and using my camera to enhance my creative side, over my marketing one.

6. Being active is still resting

Teardrop Lakes, Milton Keynes

Teardrop Lakes, Milton Keynes

I always thought that resting was just vegging on the couch for hours, but it turns out that a two and a half hour walk can make you feel more rested and revitalised than a chick flick and a box of Pringles - most of the time. 

7. Drinking wine can be part of resting too

Google agrees.

8. And seriously, have some time away from the screens - and avoid business books

I adore reading, but these past few months have taken all the time up that I set aside to read anything that's not a business-related book. I binged Emma Gannon's 'Ctrl Alt Delete: How I Grew Up Online' last summer down to the penultimate chapter - and finally, finally my resting time allowed me to finish it. 

Final thoughts

According to Pinterest, Banksy once wrote: "If you get tired, learn to rest, not to quit."

Regardless of whether or not those are his words, this quote has resonated with me. Starting a business and taking total control over your life, as well as giving opportunities to others, requires a lot of energy. That energy runs best on full power - not on the reserve energy for your reserve battery. 

Resting is hard work because it requires a total shift in mindset - and when you're switched on all the time, the off switch is really rusty. But despite how I may seem 99% of the time, I do know how important it is to have a full energy tank, I just need to work on filling that up, in the same way that I fill up my inboxes, Trello boards and calendars.

Will I be better rested by the time 2018 knocks on the door? Probably not, but I should hope that some of these lessons will have stuck around longer than 6 days.

Big love to my sister, Charlotte, for being my model.