Those of us with children absolutely know this fact from empirical experience. However, I am going to venture that most everyone has seen a toddler in action. They are full of energy, enthusiasm, and excitement. Exploring the world is a blast. As time goes on, a few hours perhaps, the toddler starts to get tired. Things do not come easily, they get frustrated quickly. The mood of the toddler turns sour, and they start to cry, get angry and have significant swings in their demeanor. Happy and jubilant one moment, red faced and crying the next. As adults, we all know the answer to this toddler’s problem. We can all see it.
It is nap time.
The best thing to do is to remove the toddler from the source of stimulation, get them into a comfortable space and then start the nap time routine. The child will resist at first, but then with some soothing sounds, and other pre-nap rituals they will start to rub their eyes and they will then know it is time to go to sleep. They will nap hard, and wake up a few hours later ready to go again. It will be like nothing happened, they will be back exploring their world with all the enthusiasm that they can muster.
The funny thing is that just because we have become adults does not mean that we do not need the toddler equivalent of nap time. We absolutely need a break, some rest, to remove ourselves from the source of stimulation and relax for a while. Just as the toddler, we need a transition time where we perform the rituals that allow us to break from the day and get into a routine that signals that it is time to take a break. The bio feedback mechanism that works so well on toddlers, will work equally well on adults. We have not changed that much from our 2 year old self, we still need to take a break and will still need to transition.
However, most of us completely miss both of these concepts entirely. We continue to push ourselves through work, family obligations, entertainment, whatever it may be and do not remember to take the time for a necessary break from the action. A rest from all stimulus, a time to quietly shutdown and take the necessary respite. Relaxation to us might to watch some action packed dramatic movie, which is not restful at all. Our mind does not know the difference between sources of stress. Watching a horror movie or participating in a conference call probably produced the same net result. Resting is NOT doing something different. Resting is what it is, rest.
Rest results in recovery. Recovery is REQUIRED for growth. You cannot grow as a person unless you provide adequate time for recovery. There is no way around this concept. When you push hard, you need to follow that effort up with time to rest and recover. Then you can push hard again. It is a fact, and our toddler selves learned that very well. We should remember that we need to rest, and to do so with enough frequency so that when we do put in effort, we are putting in our best effort.