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Ikigai

Prioritizing rest: Why vacation and downtime are crucial for your wellbeing and productivity

‘Rest isn’t just sleeping one night’ – Jeff Cooper, ADD/ADHD & Attention Coach

Nothing is more evocative of summer for me than thinking back to childhood moments of sand castle building. Digging for that just-right moist sand to create the perfect sculpture. Or long, laughter-filled days at the swimming pool with friends and family.

Yet re-creating those carefree days are a struggle. Disconnecting from my to-do list to be in the moment with my kids and family is easier said than done. Whether it’s due to ADHD or just the pressures of modern life is unclear, but I know I’m not alone in this problem. And prioritizing rest is so important from a health and productivity perspective – which is why I go back to my ikigai training to remember just how to recharge my batteries.

Prioritzing rest and relaxation can be a source of guilt for those with ADHD
Prioritzing rest and relaxation can be a source of guilt for those with ADHD. Photo: © Jeremy McKnight/Unsplash 

A great starting point for inspiration is neuroscientist Ken Mogi’s Five Pillars of Ikigai. 

The first is Starting Small. Ken Mogi likes to use the example of Anime and Manga businesses, which were set up by fans on a small scale. Their enthusiasm and passion for the genre was obvious in the work they produced, and so their businesses thrived. Moving the concept to vacation time, if you’re struggling with the concept of prioritizing rest, then why not at least go for a walk in a park? Take in some nature and stop to smell the roses. People with ADHD often struggle with guilt when taking time off – so maybe just “start small” and schedule a few hours of leisure time. Let go of the stresses of to-do lists and other commitments, and spend time doing something you enjoy. 

The second is Be In The Here And Now. Be spontaneous and carefree. Tap into your inner child and let go. Remember what it was like to run towards the shore, the wind whipping your hair, the smell and taste of the salty air and the sand beneath your feet. Or if the beach isn’t your thing then head to the mountains and enjoy the majesty of nature. Those of us with ADHD have an especially hard time with this, so a recommendation of mine is to try to schedule a walking mindfulness meditation into your day.  Even if it’s just five minutes, put away your phone and earbuds and tune into how the different parts of your feet feel as they hit the earth and what the city sounds, smells, and looks like as you enjoy your stroll.  Chances are, you’ll notice things you’d never noticed before.

prioritizing rest by walking
Try a walking mindfulness meditation to help disconnect from your to-do list. Photo: © Jon Flobrant/Unsplash 

Ken Mogi’s third pillar is Harmony and Sustainability. This is about being mindful of how your actions affect those around you and the society at large. From a vacation perspective, this could include being respectful of local cultures and the local environment. You’ll get so much more out of your vacation if you take the time to talk to local people, find out about more about the local history, and be mindful of any environmental impact your trip could have. This can be especially challenging for those of us who struggle with executive functions because ADHD negatively impacts working memory, planning, and prioritizing. The trick is to go back to the first pillar of ikigai and start small and build up from there.

Fourth is Releasing Yourself. Accept who you are. Ken sees this as the ultimate goal for societal harmony. If we love and accept who we are, we’re more likely to accept other people. We can become better versions of ourselves if we no longer constantly compare ourselves to others. Those who aren’t comfortable with themselves tend to be more reactive and angry.  Our experiences, preferences, and personality traits are unique, and we should celebrate them. Embrace your neurodivergence!

Ken’s great tip for achieving this seemingly impossible goal is to aim to meet new people all the time. And then see how you are reflected back to yourself through them. Use them as the mirror that reflects your true self. And what better time to do this than on vacation? Especially if you’re in a different culture than where you regularly live. By meeting people from different places, you can discover more about yourself and gain a deeper understanding of what makes you tick. 

And finally, the fifth pillar is taking  Joy In The Little Things. Whether that’s your first cup of Joe in the morning or taking a walk as the sun comes up. Anything that will give you a little hit of dopamine to get your day off to a great start. On vacation, maybe try something new – a local drink or a yoga session on the beach. 

The real trick is to incorporate these practices after your vacation. Everyone must prioritize rest and downtime, and this is especially important if you live with ADHD.  Remember to take joy in the little things in life – like curiously observing a butterfly or listening to a child sing. Be in the here and now. Accept yourself. Enjoy meeting new people and seeing yourself in their eyes. Live in harmony with your environment and society. But don’t feel like you have to do this all at once! Take baby steps, start small, and you’ll soon see how powerful living your ikigai can be. Most importantly, focus on prioritizing rest. Your body and your mind will thank you.

Feel free to reach out for a free consultation with me to find out more about how ikigai can have a positive impact on your life.