I invite you to imagine a river that’s run dry. It’s the middle of a severe drought, and nothing is moving.

Next, imagine a stagnant, polluted river full of rotting debris. The stench invades your nostrils, and there’s a feeling of sluggishness in the air.

Finally, imagine a free-flowing river in radiant health. You feel energized and alive just standing beside it. The sense of growth and possibility is palpable.

Big difference, right?

Our bodies are like riverbeds for life force energy.

When we’re exhausted, we’re apt to feel parched, as if the flow of lifeforce energy is dried up. When our minds and lives are overflowing with tasks, the river has little room to flow.

When we’re burned out, we might know we need a change, but when we ask ourselves—What is calling me next?—we might only hear nothing at all.

Many clients come to me confused about what’s next in their work-lives. They’ve burned out and are wondering if they should look for different work.

And, certainly, intense burnout is often a sign that it’s time to leave our jobs.

But, if we make big changes from a depleted state, we’re acting with a limited ability to sense what we really want. Jumping from one job to another may not solve our problems if we’ve burned out because we’re not prioritizing our wellbeing.

So what to do?

As much as possible, rest first.

Before my sleep-deprived clients prioritize sleep and replenish their energy, they have a hard time feeling motivated, and their progress is much slower.

But once they tend to their energy, they’re often surprised how much easier it becomes to decide what they want and make choices they trust.

So, if you’re exhausted, I implore you to pause and prioritize rest.

In fact, if you only listen to one word of advice from me, let it be this:

Sleep.

Although capitalism trains us to expect ourselves to produce constantly, the reality is that, like the seasons, the moon, and the tides, we humans are subject to the natural rhythms of life, just like any other animal.

Like a river, connection to lifeforce energy is our birthright. Sometimes, though, we need significant rest to help the energy flow again.

Our body-brains go through all sorts of necessary processes while we’re asleep to integrate what happened during the day and replenish our mental and physical capacity.

When we cut these processes short, we’re more likely to get sick, make decisions we later regret, and feel tired, stressed, overwhelmed, cranky, and impatient. When we get enough sleep, it becomes easier to make wise decisions and show up in ways that support ourselves and the people we care about.

How much sleep do you need, exactly?

It depends. Different people need different amounts. Some people need seven hours. Others need nine.

If I get less than eight-and-a-half for a few nights in a row, I’m tired, and I have less emotional and mental capacity to write or to be fully present for my family. In the summer, my body often wakes up earlier, feeling refreshed with less sleep.

The simplest way to find out how much sleep you need is to pay attention to how you feel. Are you tired? If so, you probably need more sleep.

(And if you’re getting what you think is plenty of sleep but you still feel tired or you struggle with chronic insomnia, please see your primary care provider to rule out medical conditions like thyroid imbalances and sleep disorders.)

But what if you struggle to fall or stay asleep?

Again, different people need different things. For me, after a long period of turning out the lights before 9:30pm in an attempt to become a morning person but then laying awake for an hour or more, I had to concede that my circadian rhythm wants me to sleep from 11pm to 7am.

I now know that it helps me to read in bed before my eyelids get heavy. If I watch a movie right before bed, I have a harder time falling asleep. If I look at Instagram, even worse. I forget all this once in a while, but then my body remembers, and I reluctantly get back on track.

What helps you sleep?

Perhaps it’s having a consistent bedtime, not drinking caffeine past noon, cutting back on alcohol, taking supplements, making your sleeping space quiet or a cooler temperature, making your bed more comfortable, blocking all light at night, increasing your exposure to natural light during the day, limiting the time you spend napping, listening to a guided meditation practice before bed, or exercising during the day.

You can also take a free online quiz to discern your chronotype—your natural circadian rhythm, the timing with which your body prefers to be awake and asleep—and do your best to honor your body’s unique rhythm. Or you might read my favorite book on sleep: The Sleep Fix by Diane Macedo.

If you don’t feel the way you want, ask your body: Am I getting enough sleep?

If the answer is no, ask yourself: What do I need to do today (or as close to today as possible) to get more sleep?

Make that step your priority.

Wishing you all the rest you need.

In love and solidarity,

P.S. If you’d like support soothing your nervous system so you can fall asleep easier, I invite you to check out my new free offer—Somatic Practices for Social Change.

It’s ten free, short videos with me guiding you through practices to help you feel more settled and centered so you can replenish your energy and show up more effectively. I hope you enjoy it! And please feel free to share this with any colleagues or loved ones who might benefit—thanks!

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