Why it’s so important to give your body and brain time to relax

Biltmore Estate

Jennifer and I went on a trip recently to the mountains of North Carolina to visit her parents. For a week, I laid around doing nothing much other than reading novels and eating. It’s been a long time since I did that.

Before we headed east, I had no idea I would see such huge benefits from shutting down my brain and body for a while; there was too much going on before we left for me to even consider it.

By the time we got to our destination, I was ready to relax. 

With a whole week ahead of me, I decided to do something I’d never done before: read a Stephen King novel. Jenn is a huge fan and had been coaxing me to read him for a couple of years, and I finally gave in.

There were some obvious benefits right off the bat: I could enjoy the talent and skill of a master storyteller and insert myself into a new world, without any of the responsibilities or consequences of living in that world. I came to understand quickly why he has sold so many books. He really is an incredible writer. (And I can still say that after hearing, “I told you so!”)

Beyond that, though, there were unexpected benefits from relaxing that I had forgotten about. It had been so long since I unplugged to that extent that I had forgotten what it felt like to simply not do anything.

Relaxing unlocked a whole world I was unable to see while in the throes of a busy work schedule. I thought about events and experiences from more than 40 years ago. I developed story lines for books I’d like to write someday. I was able to step away from my speaking activities to see more clearly what I was doing, where I was headed, and if it needed adjusting. I had time to dream. 

Taking that time off helped me reframe my business, to think differently about my audiences, and see a future I didn’t know exists. I even discovered new ways to get business. None of these things would’ve occurred to me if I hadn’t slowed down long enough for my mind to get creative.

I had been assuming, and maybe you do, too, that downtime was a luxury I couldn’t afford. I hadn’t been making an effort to really unplug. I didn’t expect any of those epiphanies to happen that week—the only thing I was expecting was to get some good sleep—and now I really understand the benefits of giving my mind and body a break.

None of this is rocket science, but when you don’t relax or take time away from work frenzy, you can easily forget the doors that open up by simply stopping long enough to catch your breath.

So, how about you? When is the last time you unplugged?

You don’t have to do it for an entire week. Start with a day and then a weekend. Get a babysitter, put the cleaning on hold, turn off your phone, and just decompress. No to-do list, no interruptions. Just relax.

You might be thinking, “I could never do that! I’m too busy! No one will help me! I’m the one everyone depends on—everything will fall apart if I’m not there 24/7.” Guess again.

Your fear of letting go is just that—your fear. Your fear of finding out that people can cope well enough without you is just that—your fear.

Let go of your fear, even for just a little while, give your coworkers and family instructions, and go take a walk in the woods or sit on a park bench for a few hours. Go for a run or a drive. Give yourself permission to look at your world with fresh eyes. It really will make all the difference.


About Joe Serio

Dr. Joe Serio is a keynote speaker, trainer, and author who helps the people in your organization navigate resistance to change so they can move forward successfully.

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