Nathanael Garrett Novosel, March 22 2023

Push Yourself and Rest; Don’t Hurt or Coddle Yourself

We live in an interesting time. For billions of years, life evolved by searching endlessly for resources, using those resources to grow and reproduce, and then dying. And, at its core, that’s what humans still do today. But the past few centuries have seen great advances in humans’ ability to require less effort to survive and to reduce the risk of not surviving. In just the last several decades, we have seen huge gains in health, productivity, and luxury. People are able to spend their money on expensive material goods such as jewelry and smart phones, vacations, and even to just have someone deliver food made by someone else to their door.

In fact, things are so good that many people don’t know how to do things like cook that most people knew years ago, and top causes of death are ones that are self-imposed like obesity-related illnesses, smoking-related ailments, and suicides. Despite all of this real, objective progress in human’s quality of life, a wealth of psychologically-driven and lifestyle-driven issues have emerged, from depression and anxiety to ulcers to heart conditions. Of course, many of these kinds of ailments may have existed before and simply went undiagnosed, but many others are due to the two extremes of too much psychological stress or too little physical stress. So what can you do to keep yourself from experiencing these issues?

This is a difficult one because the solutions sound easy/obvious and yet I still have to say them because people neglect to do them. Let’s start with the “push yourself” side, which are very straightforward:

So by pushing yourself, you can reach your full potential. Note that you can work hard in constructive ways; while doing the above, eliminate the physical and psychological harm of putting too much stress onto yourself: plan and prepare to avoid injury, and don’t beat yourself up or let negative thoughts get to you that can drag you down. Pushing yourself is about positive striving for success; if you are hurting yourself, you have gone astray.

Every Yang has its Yin; there is balance in all. And for pushing yourself constructively to be effective, you have to balance it with rest and recovery for the next push. Here are a list of rest and recovery items that can help as you try to reach your full potential:

There are many more, but hopefully this gives you some ideas of ways to recover from life’s stress after you have appropriately pushed yourself. Note that I intentionally left out the go-to activities that, while helpful for unwinding in many cases, can result in overindulging or addictive behavior, including food, social media, TV, video games, alcohol, sexual activity, and gambling. You can definitely use them as part of your rest and recovery process, but be careful that you don’t get sucked in to the point where it detracts from your growth.

One final point on the “coddling” side: Just like you shouldn’t do things to hurt yourself, you also need to prevent yourself from becoming too “sheltered” and unable to handle life. There are plenty of people who do everything they can to protect themselves from things they don’t like, and you definitely should spend more time on things that make you better and happier and less on things that don’t. But, as we’ve seen in recent years with the increase in peanut allergies from overprotecting children, optimal growth requires some sort of adversity or challenge. If you protect yourself from anything that is difficult, challenging, stressful, or risky, your ability to handle those situations at all atrophies.

And we see that in the state of the world today where people fight and scream when things are not exactly the way that they think they should be (probably the best example of this trend being the epic meltdowns of My Sweet 16 that were the epitome of coddled children freaking out when an event entirely for them was anything but perfect). While there are situations in which you will need to do this, in general it’s not going to do anything. In fact, you’ll get others to think less of you and your adversaries to dig into their beliefs more. It’ll make you feel worse and achieve nothing. Instead of avoiding anything that makes you feel uncomfortable, you should seek opportunities to be a positive force during those times. Whether you volunteer to help recover from a natural disaster or decide to host a fundraiser for a cause, you are more constructive when you are making things better than showing your entitlement by expecting the world to change at your whim.

Whatever you do in life, remember to balance pushing yourself and resting and recovering. Keep a watchful eye that you don’t overload one side or the other, and also be careful that you don’t go too far into hurting or coddling yourself. By striking a healthy balance, you’ll optimize your growth. Too much pushing or too much rest will hinder your progress or limit your potential.

Written by

Nathanael Garrett Novosel


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