Performance psychology coach Faheem Mujahid joins Ofosu and Leah to discuss the importance of letting your body and mind rest without feeling guilty about it.
Learn more about Faheem's work at https://www.faheemmujahid.com/
To stay up to date with "Well Balanced," follow us on your favorite podcast app. And share your feedback with us at [email protected].
[Effect — Singing bowl]
OFOSU: Hey! What’s up? I'm Ofosu Jones-Quartey.
LEAH: And I'm Leah Santa Cruz. We're the meditation coaches on Balance.
OFOSU: And this is our weekly show, Well Balanced.
LEAH: So, Ofosu, this is the busy time of the year we’re in now.
OFOSU: [SINGING] It’s the most busiest time of the year.
LEAH:[SINGING] Where the kids are just yelling and everyone’s telling you gotta be here!
OFOSU: Oh snap! Look at you!
LEAH: So this time of year can be pretty fun, but it can also be pretty busy.
Just with travel, seeing loved ones, thinking about all the things you have to get wrapped up before the end of the year that you hadn’t completed and wanting to spend time with people, quality time during the holidays means getting all the chores done before hand so it feels like a hustle to get it all done.
OFOSU: Yeah and I find that it’s actually rumination, the mental business of it all is even more intense than the physical doing cause you go out and buy gifts that’s it. You do it one time. You clean up the house, that’s it you do it one time. But. um, I might have to think of cleaning the house a hundred times before I actually do it. But then there’s also that imaginary finish line of the new year, ah I gotta get this done, I gotta have this call, I gotta do this meeting and connect with this person before we get to the new year. It’s such an arbitrary deadline but we all feel connected to it in one way, shape or form. So the business is definitely kicked up.
LEAH: Yeah. That’s actually what I want to talk about today. What happens when all that business catches up to you? Because it usually will catch up eventually. For me at least.
OFOSU: It definitely catches up to me as well, so um it’s a worthwhile conversation to have today.
LEAH: Well, I recorded a little clip of what I did recently when it all became little too much. And you’ll see how that went….
OFOSU: Alright, let’s hear it.
Well, it's the middle of the day. And today I was feeling a bit fatigued. I have been traveling a lot and, uh, visiting family and taking care of baby and just, you know, go, go, go and feeling a little bit, run down today because I take a long run yesterday and I'm a little bit sore. And, uh, yeah, so I decided to, um, take a nap. And it was a moment where my inner friend came out and was like, you know what? You can take a nap. You deserve to just relax and let other people take care of the baby for a moment and just enjoy, uh, restoring yourself. And I, and I often do that with meditation, but you know, to, to just lie down and take a nap in the middle of the day is not something I normally do. It felt really good to sort of take care of myself in this way. And I'm like having that inner friend to come out and have that moment. Of just loving myself.
OFOSU: How does, how does it feel to listen back to that now?
LEAH: Yeah, it, I'm glad I took that nap because, um, I tend to be, oh, I like to say every recovering workaholic. And so there's very strong aspects of my personality that want to do more, do more and just stay very, very busy. And, uh, I think the run actually forced me to go, uh I physically can't do all that today. It was a nice moment. I was like, I should do more of this. I should take naps more often.
OFOSU: I’m actually coming off a nap so I really relate to that feeling of just deliberately giving yourself permission to take a nap especially since it’s been such a heavy year. And now that we have a few hours in the day when the kids go off to school, we really are just giving ourselves permission to decompress from a very heavy year.
So woke up and was like, oh, well, you know, got them off to school and was like, okay, well what needs to be done now? And then my mind was like, you know, you could just go back to sleep. So I did and feel great.
LEAH: It’s pretty amazing that we both just gave ourselves permission to nap. Usually, for me at least, getting to the step of letting my body rest in that way is kind of hard to do.
OFOSU: Absolutely. Usually, I am not in the space where I’m giving my body permission. Usually, I’ve just hit a wall and I have no choice. So, deliberately saying, ‘now I’m doing to pause, now I’m gonna lay down and give myself some rest is actually a pretty big deal.
LEAH: And, obviously, we’re meditation coaches, so we are on the same page on the importance of rest, even when it’s hard to make time for it. But rest is not just for people who meditate.
So I wanted to bring on a guest to share a different perspective on this. His name is Faheem Mujahid. He is a renowned performance psychology coach. He works with college and professional level athletes, like the women’s soccer team at University of Miami and Inter Miami CF — the major league soccer team.
OFOSU: That is awesome.
LEAH: And you know, for athletes — resting their bodies and minds is super important — because how rested they are can affect their performance and the outcome of a game.
But even for those of us who aren't athletes — how rested we are can affect how we move through the day and interact with others. So I want to see what we can learn from the philosophy that Faheem coaches his athletes with -- like - for him, are rest days as important as conditioning days? These kind of questions.
So, let's welcome Faheem to our show. Hello Faheem! Welcome, and thanks so much for being here with us.
FAHEEM: Hello.Hello. Thank you for that beautiful intro.
LEAH: It's great to have you. I know that you work with a lot of different elite performance athletes, people who are really on top of their game in sports. Can you tell us a little bit more about how you work with them in terms of incorporating rest into their routine?
FAHEEM: You know, the conversation around rest is an interesting one, right? I find in my field a lot of times when you're going into, especially the performance spaces that you're going into, they have so many resources. And so many people contributing to keeping these athletes a top, a top of their game, top of their fields.
But I do find that there's a huge disconnect with how important it is to mentally detach and rest. Just as important it is for the physical element of their performance to rest. But the conversation around how your mind, how the psychology of how you perform, how the mental state, how your cognitive function also needs to recharge. It's something that players at that level aren't necessarily getting access to earlier on. So those are the most challenging conversations
LEAH: That makes sense,because we all know a little bit about the fact that when you work really hard, physically, your body needs to, to physically rest. But I think it's like, especially if you're a recovering workaholic like me, maybe I'm not a performance athlete, but I tend to want to do, do, do. And I think a lot of people are that way in our culture. It's a do,do culture and to give ourselves the permission to not do something can sometimes feel like, oh, am I being lazy or all these things are still needing to get done. So how do you think our need for mental rest is the same or different?
FAHEEM: Yeah. I always challenged players to look at what I call the measured meaning. A lot of times we're always measuring and interpreting an experience based off our current measure meaning. So a lot of times that pitch or that image that you have of yourself performing at a high level or the exhausted player leaving it all on the field of competition or the marathon runner crossing the finish line and crawling if she has to, or he has to. The images that we receive,the stories that were made to believe as far as what performance looks like, it doesn't leave room for rest.
So that meaning that you're giving that rest, that you needed at that time is going against a wall full of conditioning.
OFOSU: It brings to mind for me, those walls that we’ve built over time, that says that rest equals laziness. And that conditioning is really powerful. Um, the messaging for anybody in any field was that more equals better. So more hard work equals success and it’s pretty linear. So by inference, less hard work equals less success and less is worse. Uh. but what you’re saying is we’re really not able to do the hard work that equals success if you don’t factor in time to rest and refuel.
LEAH: Yeah, I agree with you and I think the first step towards breaking down this type of conditioning is figuring out how you can sense when you should give yourself permission to rest? I’m curious, Faheem -- what do you think we should look out for in terms of mental or physical signs that are telling us that we need to rest?
FAHEEM: Well, I think the first place that you should probably create or arrive at is getting very clear about what you look like. Not just in the mirror look like, but what does your life look like when you're fully engaged and fully rested?
Professional athletes are no different from every one of us. A lot of times, we're not really clear about what it looks like. What does optimum health feel like? And if you don't have anything to compare it to, then a lot of times what you can do is you can end up going through that experience without necessarily knowing what the experience is all about. So by you being able to kind of have this measurable, this clear indication of okay, these are the words I usually use when I go feel rested. These are the ways that I usually hold space for another person when I'm usually arrested. This is the way that I usually engage with my work or my practice when I'm usually arrested. So anything that has a tendency of falling somewhat south of that means that I'm going a little bit further to the not feeling rested than I am feeling really rested and connected to the work, into the purpose of what I’m doing.
The second thing I think is important to do and I tell the smart players all the time, if you can't maintain concentration or focus throughout the entirety of practice or through whatever that activity is that you're doing, you know Leah, like mostly cognitive function is a real thing. And we only have a certain amount of it every day. So if you're depleting that before you can even start practicing and you find it hard to concentrate throughout the course of practice or throughout the course of the day, chances are, you can probably use a little bit of rest and recuperation.
LEAH: Hmm. Ah, that makes sense. Totally. think most people are, are going on a lack of sleep and rest deprivation in our culture. This has been wonderful to hear your perspective.
What you were saying about just recognizing the signs that are out there that are saying, Hey, you need some rest and it's okay. And it's actually better for your performance.
FAHEEM: 100%, 100%. I think these conversations are so important. And I thank you for allowing me to be apart of it.
LEAH: Well, thank you. Thank you for talking with us.
OFOSU: Yeah, I appreciate you.
LEAH: You know, Ofosu, hearing Faheem talking about this cultural conditioning — how we teach athletes, and everyone really, to NOT prioritize rest — makes me think about how this is somewhat specific in America, maybe… and probably some other places, too. But I have seen other cultures do it better. They take a siesta in the middle of the day. And it's like, oh, you know, we work and then we come home and we sleep and we eat and then we go back to work. And they're out in the parks and there's this real art of doing nothing that is really common place in other cultures. And I think we are really uncomfortable with that in America.
OFOSU: Totally agree. It's like you have to earn your rest in the same way that you like, you know, earn a wage.
So, even last night, I had done quite a lot in terms of just activities for the day and I was like wiped out in such a brutal way, but I had this like sense of pride, like, yes, I've earned this feeling of just being brutally destroyed. I did so much today and like, I earned it. So like I've earned my I've earned my rest. Um, and so, and I did not have that feeling when I woke up today and was like, I had. Really talk myself into taking a nap. So, it's definitely not the intuitive feeling. I was talking to my mom and she was like, you know, you, you give yourself space to rest and then you're sitting there thinking like, what else could I be doing? Is this the right way to be using my time?
LEAH: There’s the guilt!
OFOSU: That relaxation guilt is, uh, is something I'm very familiar with also.
Especially like with a, with a little one, just to be like, I'm just going to ask for support here. Can somebody watch the baby? I'm just gonna go take a nap. Um, it might seem like a small thing, but it's actually a pretty revolutionary thing given our cultural, um, leaning.
LEAH: Yeah. And to go, oh, I, I can give myself permission also means, well, I'm not going to go into shame or guilt or. Or spend that time being anxious. It's like a real shedding of, I'm just going to let all that go for now. I think it takes practice. So starting off,little small breaks and then eventually giving yourself that long siesta. I would like to make it a regular part of my, my lifestyle.
OFOSU: We even talk about encouraging people to write, to write in break times and relaxation times into their schedules. But I mean, if I'm being honest, I've never done that for myself. And, um, it's yeah, it's still, I see empty space on my calendar and I feel the compulsory need to fill it with an activity.
And that, I think, is especially true for me during this time of year. Thinking about Faheem — the holidays are kind of like an athletic performance!
LEAH: Yeah, you know I heard every 4-5 hours of a woman in labor is equal to running a marathon so I think every couple of days you spend with your family during the holidays is like a marathon, right?
OFOSU: [Laughs] I mean, yeah so thinking about the importance of factoring rest in there - if I saw a friend - or anyone - filling every space on their calendar with something, without a doubt I would tell them not to do that. And to be deliberate in taking a break, talking about this….. realizing we actually built a meditation in the Balance app -- the holiday stress single -- and the point of that — to encourage people to take breaks and take care of themselves during this time of year.
Like anything else, it's easier to try to support others in this way — and to help them feel okay about resting. but it’s a lot more challenging to turn that inward and be the one to give yourself that same friendly, compassionate permission.
LEAH: I enjoyed this conversation, it’s definitely a great reminder. It’s just such a relief to give ourselves permission like that.
OFOSU: Ya know, Leah, thank you for opening up about that nap.
OFOSU: It’s so nice to see people taking care of themselves and honestly, it helps encourage me personally to do the same.
LEAH: You’re welcome!
[Effect — Singing bowl]
OFOSU: Alright y’all! We are gonna be back here again next week to talk about something new that life throws our way so be sure to follow our show on your favorite podcast app so you can get notified when the episode is added. Please be kind to yourself and we’ll see ya again soon.
LEAH: Buh- bye!