Amy Cappelo Rests like a Boss
but she's no snoozefest
Amy Capello likes to nap.
A former biology teacher and assistant principal, she understands the joyful and regenerative power of rest. Amy is no snoozefest. She volunteers with the Tybee Island Marine Science Center and raises money for Oatland Island Wildlife Center. She is a mom and a wife. After the grind of working in education, Amy changed career trajectories and found herself called to life coaching. She works with clients around the world to help them build joy into their lives.
In April 2020, while the rest of us were “flattening the curve,” wrestling with sourdough and mocking the Tiger King, Amy was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of breast cancer. She underwent a radical mastectomy and chemo. Her body is now cancer-free.
RM: Ok, so let’s start with some basic thoughts about rest…
AC: We can create what rest is. Rest is dynamic. And individual. There isn’t one definition. What is rest for me might not be rest for you. Like if someone said that physically, they might be tired, but mentally they feel rested after running, that would never be me. It is important to figure out exactly what rest means for you. It can be something that’s organic and changes over time. This season of your life this might be what rest is. In the next season, it might be something else.
I’m a human that needs a lot of sleep. I'm sure you’ve heard the term hangry. For years, I’ve tried to make a word out of sleep-angry and I can’t come up with anything. I can handle hangry, but if I’m not rested or haven’t been sleeping. It’s bad. It’s gonna be bad for everybody. I have a short fuse. I assume the worst. I will lash out. I get angry really fast. Like if I don’t get sleep, it's just not a pretty environment.
It’s hard because in our society right now, we value a hustle. I hate the whole concept of this. There was a networking thing for women recently called “She Hustles.” It’s cool and catchy and I understand the heart of what they’re getting at. And I hustle and you hustle. But seriously. STOP. Stop glorifying the hustle. We should support rest and balance as much as the grind.
I can’t remember who, maybe Einstein talks about how ideas came to him in the shower.
RM: Some of my best ideas are shower ideas.
AC: I was prepping for my last masterclass, struggling to come up with a clever way to help my students remember to implement a strategy. I just couldn’t make it work, what I was trying to get across. I got so angry and so irritated. I'd been in front of the PowerPoint, writing and trying to get it out. Finally, I stopped and took a shower. And there it was. Yeah, right in my mind. It just flowed. It flowed like it had been there the whole time. But because of me grinding in my brain, I couldn't give it space. Rest allows for that space, for things to exist. We pretend and act like the only way that things are going to exist is if we overwork ourselves, our brains, our bodies, our emotions. Overwork, all of that. That's how we’re going to produce. We’re much more productive when we rest than when we’re grinding.
For me, I have learned, that means I need a lot of sleep.
RM: Has that always been the case or is it post-chemo?
AC: It’s always been the case for sure. What I’ve learned going through cancer, there are blessings to cancer, and one of the blessings in cancer was me prioritizing that rest.
I may get excited about something and I want it and want to work for it-- like when I was creating my website for my company, I was up until one o’clock in the morning some nights. I was in flow and it was really beautiful. I went to bed and I woke up thinking about it more, and I never felt tired. I never felt like I didn’t rest.
But it’s not always like that. My chemo sessions usually last like five or six hours hooked up to the machine. My first session, I hooked up with the needle and the port, getting chemo while working and on a zoom meeting. Looking back on that, that’s stupid.
We praise people, “She worked through all of her cancer treatments.” That’s ridiculous. The more I went along in my journey, the more I realized how ridiculous this was. Cancer helped me realize the importance of rest and taking care of my body. Chemo side effects usually hit you three days after the chemo, but usually fine that day, but two to three days later it really starts to get you. I've been in bed for a couple of days. My husband would take off work. Some of the side effects are really, really bad bone pain and joint pain. I would lay in bed and he’d rub my legs for me. It felt like the flu times three. I didn’t get out of bed.
I realized if I honored what I needed in the rest, I was totally okay with that. But the first time I had chemo and two or three days afterwards, experiencing the symptoms I tried to keep cleaning and doing the laundry and working full time and doing all this other stuff. My symptoms and my side effects lasted longer.
I don’t think any of us are ever going to have the perfect rest day every day. But it’s important to have built in that time that you need so that you can keep being productive-- productive work-wise, but also productive with your own wants, with your spouse, with your kids, with your own dreams and ambitions. Fill your cup with rest instead of draining that cup every day.
RM: What about balancing working from home?
AC: I’ve been working from home since 2012. At first, I worked for a company. I would be in meetings all day, so I would run the dishwasher, put it away, do laundry and vacuum. All I had to do was listen, so all the house just got taken care of-- it actually helped me work. My brain works well while I’m moving and doing things. It was awesome.
But now that can’t happen. I can’t meet with a client and multitask folding laundry-- like can you imagine your life coach folding laundry while you're doing a session? That’s not going to happen. So those kinds of things are piling up in a new way. And we’re having to learn to navigate them. I’ve talked about hiring someone to come help me because I can’t keep up with it. And the irony is I quit my really high paying job to start a company from scratch and now I want to hire someone to clean, but we have less funding.
I like a clean house. Everything is in its place. Everything is dusted. All the laundry is done. I feel at peace when every piece of clothing is washed and cleaned and put up. I grew up that way.
RM: So, you can’t rest in chaos?
AC: Exactly. But I’m learning to let that go. Because I refuse for my life to be this constant keeping up with chores. So that’s another cancer lesson. The survival rate for my cancer is low. And the way they look at cancer statistics are five years out. So statistically, in three years, I have a 50% chance of it being back. And when you get faced with something like that, things look different to you. I accept that I can do what I can do. But I accept that my health, emotional, mental and physical and spiritual health is way more important than whether or not that laundry basket is empty. I will choose peace and rest over an empty laundry basket. Cancer totally changed how I perceive my work.
I like to travel. It gives me space, which I crave. But it gives me space away from the need to do the chores. Some years ago, a friend told me that I needed to learn to take a non-travel break. In my case at the time home meant chores. At home, I’m literally surrounded by a 3D to-do list of chores, traveling allows me to step away from that. That comment really hit me that I needed to be able to be at peace and rest in my home surrounded by the obligations.
RM: How do you find rest in your home when you’re surrounded by a towering, greedy 3D list of obligations?
AC: It’s probably a little morbid, but this [cancer] is a lens that I see my life through now in so many ways. If I died tomorrow what would I have been most proud of: that I’ve emptied the laundry basket or that I took a nap. I’m going to take the nap because that’s more honoring to me. It's more honoring to my life. I don’t need a list of accomplishments to prove how good I am to anybody. I really used to need that and I no longer need that. And so, honoring myself-- physically, emotionally, mentally, spiritually--honoring myself is more important than the things that I publish in the task list. If I died tomorrow, I’d be more happy that I took that nap and I honored my life and my body and what I needed in that moment more than getting laundry done.
RM: Aside from napping, how do you rest in your home?
AC: Angela and I joke that we’re going to get a shirt made that says “Take a damn nap.” We don’t allow ourselves to take naps as a society. Napping is at the top of my list when I need to find rest.
Nature is big rest. I'll go sit outside in my backyard and lay there in the chair in the sunshine and absorb as much sunshine as my little body will let me. When I do things like that I’m more aware of my surroundings and more grounded in what I’m doing. I’ll notice the little lizard that ran across the fence. If I’m out there writing or working I’m not aware of my surroundings. I'm not present with what I’m doing. Resting in that way, I find that I connect better.
To rest I step away from my phone. I take digital detox breaks. I have timers set on my social media app so that I can’t use them after my time limit. My husband, son and stepdaughters are important contacts on my phone, so if I have it on silent and they call me it’ll still ring through. If there’s an emergency I know it’ll be okay, and so I just shut my phone into Do Not Disturb. Nothing’s going to get to me during that time and I give myself the room to do that. Not being drawn into technology is another way I find rest.
Reading is rest. I really enjoy reading. I joined a book club to be able to connect with other really awesome women, but also because it holds me accountable to reading so I can't push it off and push it off because I’ve got another something I need to do.
And just sometimes I write. More like what’s in my heart and not write like a business plan or schedule for next year like but writing for joy and not writing for work.
Moving and some physical activity is good rest. Walking is nice, but post-chemo my body gets drained really fast. And so even walking one mile I’ll be paying for that for the rest of the day. I try to be conscientious about how I move my body. I know for some people that would be restful but it’s not so much for me.
RM: How do you help your clients create rest for themselves?
AC: Most of them need permission to rest. Permission to stray from what they were taught as a child, permission to let go of what their parents ingrained in them about needing to always go go go. Maybe they were doing soccer, and school, and clubs, and playdates. They weren’t taught to rest. So, they need permission to let that go. We work on releasing a lot of those things.
But also, permission to get assistance from outside.
If it’s hiring a cleaner [ahem, Amy, see above—rubi], getting your groceries delivered, hiring a pet sitter, -- whatever those things look like. Take those things off your plate so you have the room to rest. It’s hard.
It’s so funny how many clients put “hire a pet sitter” on their to-do list, then it’ll be six weeks, and they still haven’t done it because they’re like, well, everything else felt so much more important. I needed to do those things.
But you can take off 50% of what’s on your plate--if you have the financial means to do so. If you hire these people to assist you, then you’d be able to go to the beach for an afternoon or do whatever it is that gives you rest.
But there’s some guilt associated with it.
There’s some needing permission to let go.
There’s letting go of feeling like you’re deficient because you got help. There is no deficiency in having someone assist with something if that’s what you need to give yourself room and time for rest. And there’s nothing wrong with it. But we look at it as though it's admitting that I couldn’t. So that means there’s something wrong because I couldn’t do literally everything. There’s something wrong with me. And that’s not true at all.
I help my clients work through a lot of that, but that’s one of my biggest tips for people when we’re trying to find space and rest for them is bringing in help. Do whatever you need just to give yourself some breathing room.
I don’t think that every day you’ll have a staff of 35 people helping you do something, but prioritize building in little bits of help whenever you can financially swing it. That will alleviate that burden off of you.
RM: What else?
AC: Don’t wait for rest to happen. Schedule rest. Make room for it.
Schedule those little things that bring you joy. It is easier if we put it on a calendar. We see that it’s something that is important to do, we’re not “wasting” our time. You need to put it on your calendar or have an alarm so that when that goes off, you hold to it--even if you’re in the middle of something else.
We need to stop looking at rest as a waste of our time, but rather an investment in our time. Then it’ll be easier to work into our schedule.