Ah, Friday night: the landing of every downward free fall from the peak of the Wednesday workday. They call Wednesday “hump” day, a phrase that alludes to the shape of a hill that slopes down gently from the apex of business to the trough of weekend relaxation. But it seems that, more and more, that hill has become a damn cliff. You don’t slide down into the weekend anymore; you crash into it.
After Wednesday, you’re a free-falling meteor burning through the apathetic atmosphere of a work culture with more responsibility, no raises, and fewer vacation days. When we do make impact with the weekend, some people fall into a pitcher of beer; others fall into bed naked with complete strangers; and others, still, can be found doing both simultaneously (a trick reserved for those few nimble overachievers). I realize there are other, less risqué acts of weekend entertainment available for those playing “house”, but I’m still young, so bear with me.
Anyway, last Friday night I wasn’t any of those people—not one. It’s not that I didn’t WANT to be one of those naked drunks, destined to spend most of their Saturday trying to piece together memories from the contents of their pockets. I would have LOVED to be that guy—but I wasn’t. And, I wasn’t that guy for two reasons:
A.) I’ve been on a sober kick recently (almost three weeks without alcohol)
B.) I was utterly exhausted.
So last Friday night I trudged off the evening train and straight into my shower, barely remembering to remove any clothing. Afterwards, I plopped on my reading couch, where I managed to stay conscious long enough to finish one page from my favorite Buddhist book. And then, blackout. I passed out faster than a college freshman at his first frat party—the word “coma” about sums it up.
It takes a lot to drain me of energy. Even when my body gives out, I can often tap into reserve fuels provided by mental and spiritual energies. But last week was different, as the busy work day had successfully drained every form of life from me. From the second I walked onto the hospital campus, until the second I finished working overtime (without pay of course), there was no break. Even if I wanted to celebrate the weekend like most young adults, there was no way I could do it.
So, okay, it’s no surprise that work can be draining, but that’s not really my major concern. The fear begins when I reflect on the effects of such energy depletion: I don’t have much energy to invest in my creative aspects. (And if you’re someone who knows me well enough, you know that my creative pursuits are ALL that matter to me).
As human beings, our lives are subjected to the limitations of how thinly we can spread our energy across life roles and goals—limitations that are often reached by the demands of the workday. That being said, it’s important that we acknowledge and cater to our own humanity, so that we might conserve and regenerate the energy necessary to pursue aspirations beyond work. As working culture in America becomes more and more demanding under the stifling pressure of an unremittingly competitive job market, we must find effective means of recharging our batteries and do away with unnecessary behaviors that drain us.
As someone who’s taken up strong roles outside of a professional working identity, I’ve learned a few simple tricks that have helped me to conserve and recharge the vital energy needed to pursue my true passions in life.
Don’t Get Revved Up Before you Wind Down
I’m amazed at the amount of highly stimulating activities people engage in before they go to sleep. From murder thriller dramas, to videos games, to interactive media, people seem to find all the best ways to keep themselves wired just before turning in for the night. Four words: Calm the Hell Down. Turn off the television and disengage from digital media (including your cell phone) for at least a full hour before getting ready for bed. If your brain is getting too much input from external stimuli, it’s not getting the message that it’s time to settle down for sleep.
Take a Hot Shower or Bath
Nothing encourages relaxation of mind like relaxation of the body. Slide into a hot bath with some quiet music, or have a long hot shower to ease tension in your muscles. Take the time to practice a mindfulness of the heat and sensation that the water brings to your body. Afterwards, wrap a hot towel around your head to keep the feeling going as you make your final preparations for sleep.
Cut-Out the Booze
While alcohol is certainly a means of relaxing after a hard day’s work, people can often fall into the trap of becoming that weekday-drunk that nobody wants to be. As workloads pile up, one beer after a demanding day at the office can easily turn into a couple. Before you know it, you’re drinking a few times during the week, and getting drunk before the weekend. Drinking a few hours before sleep (even a few beers) not only ecourages shallow sleep, it results in an overall loss of sleep quality over time.
Meditation is one of my favorite ways to wind down after a long day. I usually reserve about 30-45 minutes each day for deep breathing meditation before bed. Breathing in through the nose, the exhaled breath is pushed out the mouth and down into the stomach. It’s important that you exhale completely until the stomach is pushed out. This action triggers the parasympathetic nervous system, switching off “alert mode” in the brain and sending the signal that its time for rest.
If you’re a tea drinker already, you probably know this one. Many popular herbal teas like Lavender and Camomile are used successfully for effective relaxation, as they tend to be delicate and caffeine free. Try pouring yourself a cup or two before bed and sip in a quiet space.
Dim and Quiet Time
When it comes to effective relaxation, environment is everything. You can’t send a message of calm and peace to yourself if your environment is wreaking havoc on your senses. Light some candles and ditch the florescent lighting, and turn off all electronic distractions. Take some time to crash on the couch in the dim glow of candle light and the calm of silence without the digital hum.
This relaxation technique is not only fun, it’s super effective. Get together with your partner for some hot lovin’ at a slow and easy pace. There’s no rush; you don’t have to do the porn star thing tonight. Save that for another night. When you’re looking to de-stress, a sensual workout with your partner in a quiet and comfortable setting is the perfect remedy. The combination of physical activity, orgasm, and romantic intimacy is guaranteed to put you to sleep fast, and find you waking up to new spiritual, mental, and physical energy reserves.