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Buck the System: Go Play!

What do rest and play have in common? At first glance, nothing. When we sit with the question for a moment, we recognize we all need more of both, rest and play. Children in positive environments have the opportunity to participate in both.

When my oldest was in second grade, he announced, "Second grade is so much harder than first. I need more sleep!" (I know how hysterical this is. I managed to contain my laughter and take him seriously.) He understood getting more sleep was an act of compassion — it’s simply what he needed. The boys already went to bed at 8:00 PM. With this new announcement, bedtime was moved up to 7:30 PM.

The dawn of electronics was at it’s inception when my sons were little. We never invested in the latest electronic game or gadget. (Because we were cheap!) Instead, the boys played endlessly outside, making forts, creating battlefields in the sand, climbing trees, rearranging rocks and tree limbs to create villages. (It was free! LOL) The play gave them space for their minds, bodies, and souls to relax and imagine.

Because we base our worthiness on our level of productivity, there is a constant pull in our culture to be productive. Sitting still or doing something that seems purposeless is not on the agenda. For some of us, choosing to not be productive feels so wrong -- making it hard to choose play or sleep.

Learning, re-learning, or choosing to play is an act of self-compassion. Getting off the hamster wheel and doing something that is purposeless is a healthy step toward caring for ourselves. We have so much to do and so little time, the idea of not working on the to-do list is stressful. We start to believe playing is a waste of our precious time. Disconnecting our worth from our productivity will bring us more benefits than we can even begin to imagine.

What would it look like to just play for an afternoon, an evening, a day, a weekend? Is that a hard questions to answer? Than it’s time for you to re-learn how to play.

Not only do we convince ourselves that there is no time to play, we also convince ourselves there is no time to sleep. Notice when you first ask someone how they are doing, typically they answer with, “I”m exhausted” like exhaustion is good — a badge of productivity. Scientific research makes clear sleep is essential for all of us. Sleep powers the mind, restores the body, and fortifies virtually every system in the body.

Are you getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep? Seriously, that is what is recommended for healthy adults. What would you need to adjust in order to get that much sleep? Try it? After you’ve done it for a week, take note of the benefits.

Respecting our body’s need for renewal is an act of compassion. We are a nation of exhausted and overstressed adults raising overwhelmed kids. If we want to live a healthy life, we must become intentional about cultivating sleep and play. It’s time to let go of exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as a reflection of our self-worth.

Making the choice to rest and play is countercultural. Show some compassion to yourself and buck the system.


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