Sunday, August 13, 2006

In Praise of Napping and Self-Care

Ah, a four-day weekend. Nothing like it, except perhaps a five-day weekend.

Self-care has become of paramount importance as the speed of post-modern life has steadily increased. Technology's promise of a simpler life---captured to great effect in the 1950's Disneyesque dream of robots doing the mundane tasks as we enjoy increased leisure time---is not necessarily what we have wrought. Cell phones, Blackberries, Smartphones, the Internet, iPods, Tivo---the trappings are all there, but there is no sign of a slowed pace of life that I can detect.

I constantly try to examine my use of time, my choices, the places where I spend my energy. Taking into account the fast pace of my 9-5 existence and the obsessive meticulousness needed to efficiently and thoroughly accomplish my work-related tasks, I find it necessary to keep in check my predilection for being a "human doing" rather than a "human being" when at home. Whether it be blogging, emailing, cleaning, organizing the house, ironing, laundry, paying bills, even socializing---there is generally far too much to do and little time in which to do it. Add to this seemingly endless list my current volunteerism and a sincere desire to increase my activism in the world, and that's alot to fit onto an already overcrowded plate.

How to remedy the slide into overwork at home and office? For one, exercise is key, although that drive to exercise can also become just one other thing that one "must" do in one's limited time. Blogging can be an exercise in self-care, unless one blogs in order to not disappoint readers who are allegedly waiting impatiently for your next brilliant missive. One activity is surely a wholesome way to revitalize the mind and improve one's life, and that would be napping. Napping's positive effects on the autonomic nervous system (as well as personal productivity) has been scientifically measured, and I am all for institutionalization of such practice immediately (reimbursed by all HMO's, of course!)

Just this weekend alone, I have managed a ninety minute nap on Saturday while taking a break from a local wedding celebration that stretched from 1pm until midnight. (Our friends were married on the lake where they live (literally), arriving by raft from the opposite shore to an anchored off-shore dock, then jumping into the water when pronounced as married, the initial receiving line accomplished while all parties treaded water.)

Today, following brunch out and a sunny bike-ride, I succumbed to Orpheus' grip once again as I lay on a blanket next to my love, book temporarily abandoned, hawks circling overhead as we sunned in the grass. Bliss.

Tomorrow, a nap will certainly be in order, not to mention Tuesday---my birthday---when all bets are off and napping could take on Olympic stature, the dogs certainly having the edge vis-a-vis endurance and depth of slumber.

Amidst the hubbub of post-modern life (or are we beyond post-modern now? I forget...), it is so easy to lose sight of mental and physical health. Living right also means resting right, eating right, sleeping well, and knowing when enough is enough, even of a good thing (except for napping and chocolate, that is).

But seriously, this nurse recognizes that giving away one's energy seven days a week will eventually wear the compassion engine down, and an individual's effectiveness and ability to cope will only suffer if self-neglect is the overarching modus operandi. We who work in the "giving trades" must also give to ourselves, as much as that sometimes feels indulgent. No one wants a burnt-out nurse to care for them, no matter how competent that nurse might be, for that burnt-out nurse will eventually blow a gasket and make a life-threatening error or simply say the wrong thing to the wrong person at the wrong time.

These four days are about my own recovery and revitalization, a moment of needed reflection and nervous system taming. I draw a breath and realize that the only thing to do next is draw another. Then another. And then I'll make the dogs' dinner with love, compassion, and a resftul equanimity that feeds my soul.
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