You’re listening to The Less Stressed Lawyer podcast, Episode 17. We’re talking all about Resting and the Sweetness of Doing Nothing. You ready? Let’s go.
Welcome to The Less Stressed Lawyer, the only podcast that teaches you how to manage your mind so you can live a life with less stress and far more fulfillment. If you’re a lawyer who’s over the overwhelm and tired of trying to hustle your way to happiness, you’re in the right place. Now, here’s your host, lawyer turned life coach, Olivia Vizachero.
Hey there, how’s it going? As I sat down to record this episode for you, I actually had to laugh to myself because I have been doing quite the opposite of nothing.
So, it’s kind of funny or ironic that this is this week’s episode, because I’ve just been over here crossing things off my to-do list, left and right, for the upcoming mastermind live event. And by the time you hear this, all of my work will have come together to fruition and the event will be over. Which kind of makes me sad, but also super excited, because I can’t wait for everyone to be in Detroit, in person, and for us to get to work.
If you followed along on social media, because I did a bunch of behind-the-scenes stuff on Instagram, I’ll probably have a highlight posted there. You can go check out the behind-the-scenes stuff if you missed it, and you’re just hearing about it now. But if you followed along on social media, and you’re like, “Oh my god, I have to make sure I don’t miss the next round of the mastermind,” listen, mark your calendars.
I mark my calendar months and months in advance for the mastermind that I’m a part of, with my business coach. As soon as I know the dates for the enrollment period and for the live event, they go right on my calendar, so I don’t miss a beat. Everything’s aligned. I already have the time blocked off, so I never have a conflict.
I just wanted to give you that suggestion so you can do the same thing, if you want to make sure you’re in the next round of the mastermind, and then you’re at the next live event. If you’re like me, I get crazy FOMO when I see a bunch of people, masterminding together.
Enrollment for the next round of the mastermind opens November 1st; make sure you put that on your calendar. And then, the next live event; it’ll be three days, in person, will be February 1st, 2nd, and 3rd of next year, 2023. So, make sure that goes on your calendar. If you need to pause this audio for a second, go create that calendar event so you can plan accordingly.
Alright, now that we’ve got that squared away, let’s dive in to today’s topic. We’re talking about resting and the sweetness of doing nothing. This is actually an Italian phrase that I’ve seen a few times recently, which means the universe must be speaking to me. I think when messages keep coming at you in different arenas from different avenues, you’re meant to see that message. This one’s definitely been coming to me.
And the phrase is, “dolce far niente,” which means the sweetness of doing nothing. To me, that’s how I think of resting; I think of it as the sweetness of doing nothing. You give yourself a break from doing, and you just allow yourself to be. For me, there really is a sweetness to that practice, to doing nothing. It’s something that I really enjoy. It’s one of my favorite ways that I get to spend my time, just doing nothing and being with myself.
Now, let’s get really clear about what I mean by the word “rest” here. Rest is not the same thing as sleep. Sleep is sleep; rest is rest. They are different things. In fairness, I used to be terrible at both of them. So, for someone who is going to preach to you today about the power of practicing both well, having a healthy relationship with both…
I do want to be really candid with you guys, and tell you that this used to be a big struggle for me. I had a really nasty habit of pulling all-nighters. It started when I was an undergrad, during final season, and then it would get exponentially worse as I went through law school.
When I worked on trials as a law clerk, I would hardly sleep. I would also hardly sleep when I studied for finals, at the end of every semester. I would always have to play catch-up because I was working full time throughout the semester. And then, I would cram, towards the end of the semester, to fit in a semester’s worth of coursework in the period of two or three weeks.
So, there were a lot of sleepless nights, a lot of all-nighters. And, for the sake of transparency, I’m also really honest about this, I am not a superhuman. That came, A: At a huge expense to my health. But I also pulled those all-nighters. I like to say that they were sponsored by unprescribed Adderall.
That’s not something I’m proud of, but I do think it’s really important to be transparent about that. I know a lot of people who see colleagues, and they’re like, “God, I wish I could operate like that on so little sleep.” I think people used to think that about me because they see it as something like, “Oh my goodness, you’re kind of like the Energizer Bunny™.” Not naturally, you guys.
So, keep that in the back of your mind if you’re comparing and despairing, and thinking that you should be doing more. Other people might be “energy juicing,” as they say, or “academic juicing,” in order to be able to pull those crazy hours. I just want to be really transparent about that.
Now, my refusal to rest and sleep reached an all-time high when I was practicing law. And then, go figure, cue the burnout, right? That’s when the burnout started to enter the situation. At the same time, I was starting to really experience all of the negative effects of burnout, I also met my friend Kelly Campana.
I met her in the course of completing the certification program that I went through, to become a life coach. Kelly’s so incredible. She is a coach for C-Suite women in Fortune 500 companies. I consider her one of the best coaches in the business. She’s such an inspiration to me, and she’s really taught me a ton about this topic.
Anyways, I met Kelly at the height of my burnout, and I’m sure she could see the exhaustion and lack of rest and sleep written all over me. It was probably as clear as day. If you think you’re hiding your lack of sleep and exhaustion, well, ask someone around you; you’re probably not.
In Kelly’s previous life, she had also been a chronic over-worker. So, she knew the telltale signs of overworking, of exhaustion, of burnout, all of it. Lovingly… As we started to become friends during the course of our certification program, and then afterwards, during catch-up conversations that we would have with one another, she would always talk about her rest routine. And how wonderful sleep was. And how it played such an important integral role in her life.
Now, I think it’s really important to mention that she talked about this in a really loving way. She just led by example, right? She didn’t preach to me; she didn’t tell me what I needed to do. She didn’t tell me that I should or shouldn’t make changes. She didn’t “should” on me. She just led by example. She talked about her relationship with rest and sleep.
Honestly, when she first met me, I was full-on Gordon Gekko energy here. I fully believed that “Money never sleeps.” I was all about the rise and grind mantra, hustle harder, can’t stop; won’t stop. I think I even used those hashtags back in the day, which I’m not proud of. But again, full transparency here. I had really bought into that hustle culture, hook, line, and sinker.
Again, honestly, if given a chance at that time… If you would have given me the option to just never sleep, I would have taken it. I really viewed sleep and rest as being useless, unproductive, inefficient. If I could have opted out of it, I would have. I remember thinking to myself, “I wish I didn’t have to do this. I wish I could just skip sleep entirely and operate without it.” That seemed so much more efficient to me.
So again, lucky for me, Kelly didn’t preach. She just led by example; a well-rested, wonderful example. She kept talking about this nighttime routine she had, and how well rested she was, and how getting lots of sleep really helped her thrive the following day. It started to plant a seed. This didn’t happen overnight, but I started to entertain the idea that my really brilliant friend might be onto something.
I met Kelly in the fall of 2018, and it took me quite a while longer to finally come around to address my Adderall dependency, and my affliction to rest and sleep. But I finally did. And I credit Kelly for getting that process started, or at least helping me to get that process started.
Now, once I stopped taking Adderall, I literally could not function on the lack of sleep that I once did. So, I had to start making peace with sleeping. When I did, imagine this; my life started to change. Right? I felt so much better. I started to realize I was giving myself an opportunity to gain a different perspective about sleep. I was experiencing sleep differently.
And I started to realize that overworking was far less productive than resting and sleeping. I had it flipped. I thought overworking was more productive than resting and sleeping, in the beginning. But as I started to rest and sleep more and more, I realized that, actually the opposite was true.
I can think back to times… I remember typing on my computer, being so exhausted that I would fall asleep in the middle of typing a sentence, because I was so sleep deprived. I really pushed my body to its absolute limits. At the time, I just felt like it was the right thing to do, to just keep working until I literally couldn’t anymore.
But the truth is, that working like that, with hardly any sleep, it honestly slowed me down. My cognitive functioning was significantly impaired. My analytical skills were impacted. Everything took me longer, and it wasn’t as good as it would have been had I approached it with a well-rested mind.
Those three sentence emails took me forever to write. I was slower mentally. I really struggled to articulate things. I second-guessed myself; just everything took longer. Working in a state of exhaustion like that was inefficient, was unproductive, not the other way around.
As I started to see this, I started to change my thoughts about getting regular rest and sleep. And then, I’m not quite sure how I found it, but right around the same time, so this is early 2020, I listened to Matt Walker’s TED Talk called, “Sleep Is Your Superpower.”
In that TED Talk, he talks about the carcinogenic effects of consistently depriving yourself of sleep. Now, as an ex-smoker, I clearly understood at that time, that cigarettes are carcinogenic. And that’s why we don’t, probably, want to smoke, because they have really negative impacts on our health if we expose ourselves to them long-term.
But I had no idea that a lack of sleep could also have that much of an impact on our health. So, if I’m going to quit smoking, I probably want to quit depriving myself of sleep, for the exact same reason. At the time, when I learned this, I was like, “What? You’ve got to be kidding me. A lack of sleep, like I know, it probably causes fine lines and wrinkles, and maybe I’ll age a little prematurely if I keep doing this to myself, but cancer?” That seemed insane to me.
So, this was really the wakeup call that I needed; that not sleeping can actually kill you. Since learning that, I have completely changed my relationship with sleep. If you are hearing this, and you’re like me, and you’re like, “What? You’ve got to be kidding me, Olivia.” Go listen to Matt Walker’s TED Talk, “Sleep Is Your Superpower.” It will probably blow your mind, just like it blew my mind. And it will likely change your relationship with sleep. If you have a habit like I used to have of constantly depriving yourself of it.
Now, I sleep like a normal human, and I love it. I function so much more efficiently and effectively because of it. So, I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is nice to like sleep; I enjoy my bed, now. I like climbing under the covers late at night. I, like Kelly, now have a nighttime ritual. I like to sleep with it being really cold in my room, it helps me fall asleep more quickly, and stay asleep throughout the night.
Find your groove with sleep. Embrace sleep into your life if you have an affliction or a negative relationship with it. That’s a bit of backstory. And, you guys know, I love a good backstory.
But sleep is not exactly what I want to talk about today. Again, sleep is sleep; rest is rest. And I want to talk to you today about rest. But up until this point in the story, where I started to learn about Matt’s TED Talk, and introduce myself back to the world of sleeping like a normal human being, I really didn’t understand the difference yet between sleep and rest.
Once I jumped on the regular sleep cycle bandwagon, in early 2020, because my relationship had changed with it, and I started realizing how impactful it was to have regular sleep, I wanted to tell everyone that I knew about it. About the whole overworking, and working-while-tired schtick was just a total lie. I started to scream it from the rooftops a little bit. I wanted people to learn what I had learned.
Hopefully, with a little less struggle, and a lot less burnout than me, than the way that I had to learn this lesson. So, in June of 2020, some months later, I hosted a virtual summit called, Thrive and Five. It was a five-day long event. Obviously virtual because it was like the height of COVID back then. I had over 30 speakers come, and they talked about every topic over the sun. We talked about all things mindset, relationship related branding, legal innovation, and leadership. So, everything from personal to professional.
It really gave the attendees everything that they would need, in all areas of their lives, to live lives with less stress and far more fulfillment. So, as I was putting this event together, on the mindset day, I knew I wanted to have Kelly speak about sleep and rest, and our relationship with both of those things, and the mindset that we need to have in order to do them effectively.
I call up Kelly, I told her about Thrive, and I asked her to speak to the Thrive and Five audience about sleep. I was so excited to have her do that. She listened intently as we’re on the phone, took a long pause, and then she told me “no.” Admittedly, I was pretty shocked. I was like, “What? You don’t want to?” Then, after another long pause, she goes, “I’m not going to talk about sleep. But I’d love to talk to them about rest. Because they can’t have a better relationship with sleep, until they learn how to rest, until they learn how to be at rest.”
The profound nature of the statement, honestly, went over my head a little bit, because I replied to her and said, “What’s the difference, Kelly?” And then she told me; she explained to me that rest isn’t what you do when you’re asleep. Learning to be at rest is something you do while you’re awake. It’s a state of being not a state of doing. It’s about stopping activity. It’s just sitting with yourself; allowing yourself to do nothing.
The benefits of this are it increases your physical and mental well-being. Now, sleep is certainly a restful state. But sleep is when you’re sleeping, right? It’s a disengagement, that’s a lot different than just resting. So, resting, you’re awake; sleep, you’re not.
Because I think Kelly’s brilliant, I told her to talk about whatever she wanted to talk about to the Thrive audience. Then, I went back to planning the summit; I had a lot of things to do. When the day came, I watched her present and teach the audience about resting. Honestly, she blew my mind.
Despite being a little skeptical about this whole rest business, I started to give it a try. And lo and behold, just like with sleep, Kelly was right. Resting, truly resting, is the practice of doing nothing.
So, it’s sort of like meditation, not a guided meditation, where you’re listening to someone prompt you and tell you what to do, and where to focus your mind. That’s still you consuming information, consuming content. True rest eliminates consumption. You don’t have to process anything external. So, you finally get a chance to process what’s internal, in that head of yours.
In Kelly’s talk, she started to explain that one of the ways that you can begin to practice rest is to pick an amount of time where you let yourself not consume; you just sit with yourself, you just let yourself be. So, that’s how I started my practice. I have breaks in between my coaching sessions throughout the day, so that’s when I started to implement this and work it into my schedule.
In between my coaching sessions, I would just lay down, do nothing for about 20 minutes or so. No phones, no distractions, no nothing. Now, as I started to practice this, I really fell in love with doing this, with spending time this way.
Here’s why. Number one, it gives my brain a chance to process things. So, I think of it like clearing out my mental inbox. You can’t get to mental inbox zero, if you’re constantly taking in new information, listening to podcasts, listening to music, reading things, scrolling on your phones, doing, doing, doing. Your brain has to process all of that new information, so you never give your brain a chance to be at rest, to take a breather. That’s exhausting.
Also, when you stop consuming and you quiet your brain, you give it a chance to start creating. You access your creativity. You access your problem-solving skills. This is why you get your best ideas in the shower. For most of us, we are not consuming information, music, or other content while we’re in the shower.
That’s not true for everyone, I know. With the advent of technology and waterproof phones and things like that, a lot of people are starting to consume while they’re in the shower. So, if you are doing that, I want to encourage you, maybe give it a little rest. While you’re in the shower, give your brain that 10-minute, 15-minute breather.
Okay, now again, the first way that you can practice resting, being at rest, is to just lay there or sit there and do nothing, for a period of time. If you’re lying there, and your eyes are closed while you’re doing this, I think that this is actually what a catnap is, and you are welcome to disagree with me. But I used to hear about catnaps all the time.
I’m not someone who can fall asleep at the drop of a hat. I used to date a guy who could fall asleep… He was like those baby dolls, where when you lay them down their eyes close, that was him. He could fall asleep in, I don’t know, 10 seconds or less, I think. That is not me. My mind is normally racing so it takes me quite a while to fall asleep.
I never really understood the concept of catnaps. I couldn’t wrap my head around people who could lay down and actually fall asleep for 20 minutes at a time. I’m like a two hours-or-nothing kind of girl. But with that said, I started practicing resting like this, for 20 or 30 minutes, of doing nothing, and just being there.
Then, I’d go back to work. I started to realize how refreshed I would feel afterwards. How I get this boost of energy that I would feel throughout the rest of the day; like way better than coffee, you guys. So, it started to dawn on me, I’m like, “Maybe that’s what a catnap is. It’s just like laying down and closing your eyes for 20 or 30 minutes.”
That’s kind of my definition of a catnap. Maybe yours is different, if you’re like my ex, and you can fall asleep pretty quickly. But that’s not me. So, these 20- or 30-minute breaks of closing my eyes and just lying there doing nothing, that’s my kind of catnap. And it’s really refreshing. It’s really restorative, very energizing for me.
As I started to rest my mind more and more, the silence started to become a little addictive. It felt so good to clear out my mental inbox and give my brain a chance to process information, and access its creativity. Just give it a chance to rest, to breathe, to recharge, essentially.
I started incorporating more and more silence throughout my day when it came to doing other activities, outside of these 20 to 30 minute “catnaps,” where I would just lay down and not really do anything. I started incorporating silence in more places.
Now, I usually drive in complete silence. I have friends who think I’m a complete lunatic when it comes to this. They’re like, “How? How do you do that? You sound like a serial killer.” I promise you, I’m not. But I do love it. I love driving in complete silence, especially on longer car rides. It really gives my brain a chance to think of different things, clear out that mental inbox.
I also like to walk in complete silence. I used to go for walks, and I would listen to something, like a podcast episode. And now, I just give myself that time to take in my surroundings, to think, to brainstorm. I just let myself get really quiet. I give my brain that additional break.
The more and more I do this, the more and more essential it becomes in my life. It is one of the reasons I’m able to create big things like; this podcast, the mastermind, all the content that I create, my webinars. Because I just give myself a chance to let my brain run wild and think of things.
As it’s become an essential, integral part of my life and I’ve realized the benefits of doing this, I started to talk about my rest practice more and more and more. And it’s so fascinating to see people’s responses when they hear that I give myself a mental break like this. People are normally horrified if I’m being really honest. They’re like, “How? Why would you do that?” They really find it impossible to be that still. To do nothing. To just be alone with themselves and their thoughts.
In fact, I had talked to a couple people about this recently, and they thought it was so bizarre, it inspired me to do an Instagram poll. I asked people if they had the ability to sit with themselves and just do nothing for 20 minutes. And every single person, aside from one, said, “Absolutely not.” The one person I know: she’s my cousin. She was like, “Yes. I love to be alone with myself.” I’m like, “Of course, you do. We’re so similar that way.”
But everyone else saying, “Absolutely not,” was really striking to me. I was blown away. It got my gears turning. I started to think about and explore the different reasons why people really struggle with practicing rest.
Number one, I think it feels super unproductive, and feeling unproductive feels awful to a lot of people. They’ve bought into the belief that they should always be doing something. That that’s what’s valuable; is to constantly be doing. It feels like they’re wasting time, otherwise. They perceive wasting time as one of the worst things you could do.
Another reason that people don’t practice rest, is that they won’t carve out the time because of other people’s demands on their time; work, kids, maybe their partner, their spouse. This is really going to look like a lot of martyrdom. Like, “Maybe I’d love to have that, but it’s just not something that’s accessible to me because people constantly need me.” It’s going to look like a lack of boundaries, or very weak boundaries.
I think people also tell themselves that they’re bad at doing nothing. That they’re bad at being still. That they’re not good at it. And who likes to practice doing something that they’re not good at? Not most of us.
I think people also, just don’t like to be alone with themselves and with their minds. They think it’s scary. They think it’s going to be a dark place. Maybe you don’t talk to yourself kindly, so being alone with yourself isn’t an enjoyable experience. If that’s the case, rather than avoiding doing this, you want to work through that. That is your work; to become someone who talks to yourself more kindly.
Another reason people don’t rest is because they haven’t tried it. You assume it’s going to feel terrible, so you avoid it without giving it a chance. If you tried it, you might actually really like it. I think one of the reasons that people assume that it will feel terrible, is because they assume that they will be bored. And being bored is something that we, nowadays, perceive to truly be a problem. It should be avoided at all costs.
I’m using “should” really loosely here because I don’t believe that at all. I think being bored, giving yourself an opportunity to experience boredom, is really something that benefits you. It’s not a problem. We access a lot of creativity when we’re bored. When we’re bored, we typically problem-solve for the things in our lives that aren’t working. It gives us an opportunity to address what’s not working, what we’re tolerating.
So, we want to give ourselves a chance to experience boredom. But bored is really uncomfortable for people. That’s been an emotion that I’ve really had to work on allowing rather than resisting, avoiding, or negatively reacting to. So, that’s probably a reason that you don’t practice rest, too, if you have an aversion to being bored.
And then lastly, you won’t practice rest, if you don’t think you’ll gain anything from it. So, I just want you to hold space for the belief that practicing rest can be really beneficial in your life. Rest, just like sleep, can be a superpower.
A way to think through that list of reasons, that I just went through, and ask yourself; which one of those reasons resonates with you the most? Maybe it’s one, maybe it’s a combination. But you want to gain that awareness. What are your thoughts about resting? And why don’t you want to do it if you don’t want to do it?
Here’s what I want to offer you. First and foremost, don’t knock it till you try it. It can be really beneficial. I want to go so far as to say, it will be really beneficial, if you give this a chance. Give yourself an opportunity to experience the benefits of practicing rest, and then make up your mind. Don’t make up your mind beforehand, and just assume that it won’t help or that it will be awful. You might be surprised.
Also, if you struggle with embracing the sweetness of doing nothing and resting, I just want to tell you, this is a skill set that you can build. Even if it’s not easy for you at first, you can work on this and make progress. I once had a client ask me… We were talking about practicing rest, and it is not a skill set of hers. It’s not a superpower of hers, or at least it wasn’t at the time.
She wanted to practice the sweetness of doing nothing, in order to realize the benefits that I’ve listed in this episode. She asked me if she should start with 20 minutes of a guided meditation? Or, five minutes of doing nothing? And I asked her, I kind of already knew the answer to this, but I asked her, “Which of the two would be more uncomfortable for her?” And she said, “The five minutes of doing absolutely nothing.” And I said, “Great, do that then.”
Of course, I think she was hoping that I would say the 20 minutes of guided meditation, but I told her to start with the five minutes. So, that’s my recommendation for you. If you want to be at peace in your body, you have to be at peace with being alone with yourself, in your mind.
The way to become someone who is at peace in their body, with their mind, is to start small and build the skill set, build this practice. So, start with five minutes of doing nothing. Evaluate how you feel after the five minutes; what do you think about? It’s okay, if you think about all the things you have to do, that’s your brain processing. That’s not a problem; let it do that. Let the thoughts come and go
Again, this is sort of a meditative experience. You’re just noticing what comes to mind. What works through your brain. What you realize. What you notice; that’s normal. So, start with five minutes, evaluate how you feel afterwards. And then, do this every day; five minutes every day.
Increase it a minute each week. So, seven days of five minutes, then seven days of six minutes, seven days of seven, all the way until you can get to 20. I think 20 is a really great number. If you can do more than that amazing. But 20 is going to give you that restorative benefit, like that catnap I talked about.
Now, if you’re bored at first, that’s okay. It’s okay to be bored. We bend over backwards and do, what I call backward handsprings, to avoid being bored nowadays. It gets us into a lot of trouble. A lot of our bad habits and coping mechanisms come as a result of our unwillingness to feel bored. In a world of constant entertainment. We need to be able to put the world on mute, and process everything. We need to be able to be alone with ourselves and in relationship with ourselves.
So, if you struggle with this, you want to build the skill set. And for your own sake, I want you to know, if you have an inability to be alone with yourself, ask yourself, “Why?” If you don’t like resting and the sweetness of doing nothing; why not? What is it that you don’t like? Get really specific here. You want to gain this understanding about yourself.
And then lastly, how do you need to think about being with yourself, to feel differently about it, so that you’ll do it? What benefits might you get from this practice of resting? Explore it and find out for yourself. Report back. Let me know how this goes. I would love to hear about it.
Alright. That’s our show. Have a beautiful week. I will talk to you in the next episode.
Thanks for listening to The Less Stressed Lawyer podcast. If you want more info about Olivia Vizachero or the show’s notes and resources from today’s episode, visit www.TheLessStressedLawyer.com.