At a physiological level, we spent two years running on adrenaline, in fight or flight mode, with our sympathetic nervous systems working in overdrive. We then launched into a new year without having had any real time to rest, restore our nervous system, or prepare for what was to come.
All this to say that if you are feeling tired, you are not alone.
As we conclude our year, we would do well to reflect on our approach to rest. For many of us, rest is one of the most difficult challenges we face. Those of us with Type A personalities, a passion for our work and a deep drive for productivity and success know that slowing down to a full stop can be a process riddled with anxiety and guilt. However, it is a process that is fundamentally necessary both for our future capacity and our current wellbeing.
To this end, here are 3 things to consider as you slow down this year.
1. Don’t be alarmed by the doldrums.
When ships draw near to the equator, they enter a stretch of sea known in nautical terminology as the ‘Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone’, or more colloquially as ‘the doldrums’. Winds blowing from the north collide with winds blowing from the south, and intense heat creates consistent rain and storms. As the air moves upward, there is little air movement on the ocean’s surface, meaning the area can be dead calm for weeks.
In the days when ships depended solely on their sails, entering the doldrums could mean weeks at a standstill, with no sign as to when movement might pick up again. There are stories of crews dying as their resources couldn’t last the stretch of time that they were forced to remain there.
For many of us, entering the doldrums is a deeply frightening experience. Metaphorically speaking, many of us would choose the storm, wind and waves of stress and full schedules over the guilt-ridden emptiness of the doldrums any day. In the silent places, when the to-do lists and inboxes begin to empty and the phones stop buzzing, things we would rather not face have the space to float to the surface. Stopping feels like we are forfeiting our own momentum and wasting time when we could, or should, be moving forward.
The reality is though, our moving forward depends on the energy we can only gain through true, deep rest. It’s crucial to not only enter a state of rest, but enter it voluntarily and intentionally. As you move into the holiday season, don’t be surprised if your slowing down leads to a bit of a slump. It is similar to when we do a juice cleanse or quit coffee for a stint, and we realise just how unhealthy and addicted we were. The toxins and withdrawals which emerge are not a bad sign – they merely indicate just how much we needed a reset as we are finally giving our body a chance to heal.
Having run on adrenaline for such a long time now, it is likely that for many of us our time off will come with a kind of adrenaline withdrawal. Don’t be discouraged by the slump you may enter – feeling a bit listless and down is normal. However, the key principle is to avoid making permanent decisions when in these temporary circumstances. Don’t let your temporary sense of malaise lead you to exaggerated conclusions.
2. Don’t rush your recovery.
Related to the last point, the process of slowing down and resting will come with some uncomfortable feelings. It feels cliché but it is absolutely essential here that we simply trust the process.
I recently read about the innovation of extreme fast-charging for electric vehicles, which was responding to the high demand of electric vehicle drivers for better battery solutions. Some outstanding solutions have been created, with most of the big brands now offering 100kW charging. However, the sacrifice that must be made for fast-charging is a compromised battery life. Rapid-charging a car battery more than three times a month reduced the average battery SoH to 80% over a couple of years.
Whatever the technological details may be, the principle is a profound one. Recovery should not be rushed. It is tempting to approach a season of rest as another item on the to-do list – once we have had an adequately calm day off, we can tick that off the list and get back to work. But in reality, for our bodies and souls to experience the deep rejuvenation they are currently craving, we need to give ourselves the space to rest properly. Don’t rush to fill the empty days ahead with activities just because you are uncomfortable with the void. Let the process of healing take the time it needs.
3. Don't stop without a gameplan for restarting.
Stopping is difficult, but so is starting. It’s likely that many of us are anxiously aware of the projects that lie ahead in our new year. Following a season of rest, getting things off the ground again can be a challenge. Most of us are governed by the law of inertia – we move well when we are moving, but getting moving is the hardest part.
To make the transition from rest to activity again as smooth as possible, it is a good idea to lay the groundwork now – especially so that we aren’t tempted to forfeit some of our rest in favour of work. Before you break for the year, make a plan for your approach to next year’s early projects. It might even be an idea to get some of them started now, so that you can pick things off where you left them next year, rather than attempting a full sprint from a standstill.
Don’t compromise on your rest this holiday season. We are all in dire need of time spent healing and rejuvenating from a year of an intense ‘new normal’, and two years of the most shocking and abnormal circumstances most of us have ever experienced. We would do well to make the most of the time and space the holidays can grant us.
Michael McQueen is a trends forecaster, business strategist and award-winning conference speaker.
He features regularly as a commentator on TV and radio and is a bestselling author of 9 books. His most recent book The New Now examines the 10 trends that will dominate a post-COVID world and how to prepare for them now.
To see Michael speaking live, click here.
For more information on Michael's keynote speaking topics, michaelmcqueen.net/programs.
 ‘Difference between sympathetic and parasympathetic,’ BYJU’s, 6 December 2022.
 ‘What are the doldrums?’, National Ocean Service, 6 December 2022.
 2022, ‘Does fast-charging affect the battery’s longevity?’, StoreDot, 2 June.