This is a story about cosmetics. And coffee. And cause and effect.
So let’s start here…
Two weeks ago, I took myself on a date to Nordstrom. I parked my car and carted myself (and my bag full of half-used cosmetics) straight to the Bobbi Brown counter. I did not stop to ooh and aah over the David Yurman bracelets or the Tory Burch bags because I was a woman on a mission.
As a 42-year-old in February, I was feeling far less than lovely, and since nothing promises transformation like dropping a small fortune on new cosmetics, there I was.
As I explained my vision (which may or may not have included words like “luminous” and “glowing” and “my 20-year-old-self”) I elicited a compassionate but knowing smile from the impossibly fresh-faced woman behind the counter. Eventually, she lined up a row of jars, and proceeded to deliver a short but compelling lecture on cause and effect.
Apparently the disappearing act my foundation pulled every afternoon was not an issue with the product at all, so buying a new one wouldn’t help much. The issue was my skin, which was so dehydrated that it was drinking the product in making it look like it had evaporated. She assured me that if I focused on getting rehydrated instead of on searching for a new product, I’d get the results I was looking for.
Two high-powered moisturizers (and no new foundation) later, I was on my way home, a little skeptical, but definitely intrigued. I decided it was worth a shot. And now I can tell you without a doubt that she was onto something. This was not a sales ploy; it was wisdom. The Bobbi Brown rep had it right.
Which brings me…somewhat circuitously….to coffee.
Occasionally, I write from a table at my local Starbucks. Every day from 3 till 5 there is a steady line of bleary-eyed people ordering their afternoon caffeine fix. They talk to each other, commiserating.
“Oh man I am so tired. I was falling asleep at my desk. I really need this.”
“Oh my gosh me too. I’m exhausted! One Venti Americano with an extra shot please.”
I fight the urge to intercept them as they exit the line so I can deliver my own gentle talk about cause and effect. Because exhaustion is a subject I actually know a thing or two about. Here’s the essence of what I’d tell them.
Sleep is what will address the root cause of your exhaustion so that you feel better tomorrow. Coffee (or Red Bull, or Diet Coke, or green tea) just delays the inevitable. But we don’t say we need sleep. We say we need caffeine.
We say this because we think sleep is not actually an option. I mean come on. We have things to do! Places to go! People who need us! Projects to finish! And besides,
Listen, we can buy all the coffee (or luminous foundation) we want, but it will only mask the real problem and perpetuate the cycle of exhaustion. If we want a long term fix for that 4PM slump, what we need is sleep.
That dragging, sluggish, heavy-eyed, absent-minded feeling is our body’s signal that we need to find a new rhythm, one that includes more rest. I know there are times when you can’t get it – you have a newborn, or a teething baby, or a sick child, or a case of insomnia – but those are blessedly temporary.
Too often we’re making the choice to be tired. And we can and must choose differently.
So, starting today, let’s try something new. If you find yourself exhausted, tell yourself that you don’t need caffeine, you need sleep. And then make plans to get some.
Leave the dishes undone, the book unread, the show unwatched. Take a nap. Put yourself to bed ridiculously early. Make it your mission to do whatever it takes to get yourself back into a rhythm that serves you well.
Getting 7-9 hours of sleep at night will skyrocket your energy during the day. It may not sound easy, but it’s simple cause and effect.
* This post originally appeared on this blog in February 2016.