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Dec 19 2019

Books to Read for Better Work-Life Balance in 2020

If you follow us on social media (hint, hint), you’ve probably seen some of the year-in-review questions Upswept has been posing. One question was particularly convicting for me: did you take enough time to rest this year? 

Anyone reading this right now probably has a lot to do and very little time to just sit and relax. But for the sake of your brain and body, it’s important to take a break every once in a while. Sitting down to read a good book is one of the best ways to unwind. And come on—reading more is always a worthy resolution. 

I’ve recently read three books that have inspired me to be less obsessed with dedicating every moment to productivity. And ironically? It seems like that may end up helping me be more effective in my work performance.

But you don’t have to take my word for it.

levar burton on reading rainbow

How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy

By Jenny Odell

This book isn’t about throwing your phone in the river, nor is it full of of guilt-trippy demands that you take an impossibly long digital detox. (What kind of money-bags can take that kind of time off??) Nor does it lecture on how looking at social media keeps you from getting enough work done. Artist, speaker, and cultural critic Jenny Odell is often invited to speak with tech company employees, so she approaches the subject with a true understanding of the role of technology in our lives, both good and bad. With a little bit of naturalism and an artist’s eye, Odell’s book encourages us to reacquaint ourselves with nature and the physical world that surrounds us.

Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle

By Emily Nagoski, PhD, and Amelia Nagoski, DMA

Burnout follows on the heels of Dr. Emily Nagoski’s New York Times bestseller Come As You Are, which introduced the idea of “the stress cycle.” In Burnout, Nagoski and her sister Amelia expand on what the stress cycle actually is—the instigating stressor, our reaction to it, and how we ultimately deal with  the feelings that come with it. Today’s stressors don’t have clear beginnings and endings. They’re not lions and tigers that we can have the satisfaction of escaping. Instead, they provoke our stress responses, and then we basically just simmer in a very uncomfortable cortisol stew-pot.

This might not be news to you, but it turns out that if we don’t deal with our stress it rips us up inside. No really—it leads to major health problems like obesity, clinical depression, and even heart attacks and strokes. Fortunately, the Nagoski sisters have some helpful recommendations about how to process the inevitable pressures that come from living in the modern world. (P.S. This one is especially helpful in addressing the unique stressors that women deal with.)

Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams

By Matthew Walker

This is definitely the geekiest selection on the list, but it really drives home why it’s so important that we get our nightly shut eye. Hustle culture has made sleeplessness a badge of honor, but sleep researcher Matthew Walker has a simple, yet intense message to share: The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life.

Spoiler alert! We don’t know the exact reason that sleep is necessary for human beings to live. We do, however, have tons of evidence of how important it is. Walker’s book goes into what “circadian rhythms” actually are, how substances like caffeine and alcohol work on the parts of the brain that affect sleep, and the importance of the REM (which is, honestly, super weird). Admittedly, this book can be scary if you’re not getting your nightly 8 hours. But! When you see all the wonderful things a good night’s sleep can do for your health, it’s pretty inspiring, too.

I know what you’re probably thinking: when in the heckin heck am I supposed to read?? 

Ok, no judgment here, because I’m still working on this myself. First, I’d gently ask you to locate the screen time tracker on your phone and take an honest look at how much time you spend on social media. If you can’t find it, try making a tally of every time you swipe or click over to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. What you find may surprise you.

Picking up our phones repeatedly is a very difficult habit to break. So instead of beating yourself up about it, why not just make the most of it and get a reading app? Besides the obvious Kindle app, there’s Google Play, Apple Books, an ebook and audiobook subscription service called Scribd, and Overdrive—a way to save money and read ebooks that you check out of your local library.

You deserve to give yourself a little more restoration and relaxation in the coming year. If this blog isn’t enough to convince you to allow yourself that time and space, I’m willing to bet the books will be.