We encourage our babies and toddlers to take naps. But adults? No, naps are for kids. Or are they? I remember laying down with my children many times to get them to take a nap only to “doze off” myself. Is that bad? Researchers don’t think so. In fact, they suggest that naps may prove beneficial for adults as well as children. In one interview, the person being interviewed went so far as to report naps as virtuous.
What makes naps so good? We all get that “lull” in our attention and concentration in the afternoon. That represents a low point in our ultradian rhythms. It points to a need to let our body rest and recover from the natural work it has done and is doing during the day. When we take a short nap and allow our mind and body to recover, it sharpens our mind and helps us solve problems more effectively. In fact, one study noted that those who took a short nap were better able to solve a math problem they struggled with prior to their nap. Naps also make us more productive; and they improve our mood.
There is a caveat though. The most productive naps are only 20-30 minutes long. These “short naps” allow us to rest and recover without suffering the sluggishness of trying to wake up from a deep sleep. Also, it is best to nap prior to 5pm so your nap does not interfere with your nighttime sleep schedule.
All this being said, a nap may be good for you and your family. It can help everyone stay in a better mood and so have greater patience with one another. It may help your family solve problems more easily, reduce conflict, or recover from conflict more quickly. And don’t forget that a nap can just make a person feel better. So why give all the good stuff to the kids? If you’re feeling overwhelmed, grumpy, or struggling to respond in a productive manner to the many things that arise in the day, take a nap. In fact, enjoy a family nap. It’s OK. It’s more than OK. It’s healthy for you and your family.
My wife asked me a question, a simple question. “Where’s the cinnamon?” But there was an edge of irritation in her voice that sent “my mind a wandering.” Why does she sound irritated? Does she think I stole it? Why would I steal cinnamon? She is probably accusing me of putting things in the wrong place or not even putting them away at all. What’s the big deal with cinnamon anyway? Why does she always think the worst of me? On my mind ran, escalating my fears and defensiveness. You can imagine my response was less than ideal.
Have you ever had a similar experience? Your spouse asks a simple question and sounds slightly agitated. The agitation strikes a fear within you. You jump to a conclusion and assume the agitation is pointed toward you. You personalize it and think it’s all about you. It’s a common response, but not the best response.
When we take our spouse’s agitation personally, it almost always makes the interaction go south. When we personalize their agitation, we tend to respond with defensiveness. They hear our defensiveness and feel misunderstood. And so begins a downward spiral of communication that began when we personalized our spouse’s mood and thought it was all about us.
But I have a secret for you…and for me. It’s not all about you…or me. Most of the time it’s about something totally unrelated to you…or me.
What can we do instead of personalizing and getting defensive? How can we nurture a better response and interaction? Good question. Here are some suggestions (given in no particular order).
- First, take a deep breath. Let the breath out slowly as you start talking to yourself. Begin with statements of curiosity: “Hmmm. I wonder what’s going on here.” Then offer yourself soothing internal thoughts in a calm tone using calm words. Remind yourself of the love you and your spouse share.
- Second, believe the best about your spouse. Practicing a calming internal dialogue, leaves space for alternative meanings to your spouse’s behaviors and words. It allows room for a compassionate interpretation of what your spouse said or did. Look for those compassionate, loving interpretations and let your mind dwell on them.
- Third, acknowledge your spouse’s feelings in a calm, non-defensive way. Simply reflect back the emotion you perceived in what they said. This opens the door for clarification and communication. It provides space for your spouse to clarify what’s going on for them and for the two of you to come together in a common understanding.
These 3 simple steps can help save an interaction from the downward spiral of personalizing, defensiveness, and feeling misunderstood. They will help you create a calm interaction of clarification and support instead. That will go a long way toward building a more intimate, loving relationship. And it all begins with realizing that “it’s not all about you.”