For many of us, we’re all too familiar with all-nighters before exams, coffee binges and piling on way too many assignments last minute. College culture has become synonymous with excessive partying, but it’s also become synonymous with burnout. As college students, we often equate being successful as a young adult by the amount of energy we can give and the amount of things we can juggle at once. We pride ourselves by the nights filled with anxiety and stress, where you probably consider switching your major or dropping out altogether. For many, productivity equates to personal worth, despite how unhealthy this kind of thinking can be.
For BIPOC, which have higher rates of being first-generation college students, this mindset can be an even heavier burden. Not only do we deal with the burdens of being a college student, but a whole new set of challenges can arise, such as financial strains, cultural disconnect and having to figure college out without any familial guidance. Yet, new methods of combating the issue of burnout are arising.
The Nap Ministry was founded by Tricia Hersey during her master’s program at Emory University. While juggling a rigorous course load and dealing with feelings of anxiety, isolation and depression, Hersey began to take naps as a way to regain her energy and heal from the events around her. As a Black college student, she not only had to deal with the exhaustion that school constantly brought, but also the reality of racial inequality within the U.S., such as the state of police brutality against Black people during that time. During these months she became tired on a mental, physical and spiritual level, and through her daily naps, she realized the power that she carried when resting. She became interested and began to research the connection between rest and coping mechanisms for BIPOC. Soon enough, Hersey created The Nap Ministry, which focused on inviting people to connect with the power of rest.
The first event in 2016 was an experiment where she invited 40 people to meditate, collectively nap and then have “nap talks.” The room was laid out with pillows, yoga mats, blankets, candles and anything else that could provide comfort for the attendees. Hersey’s “nap talks” consist of a process to decompress and talk about their feelings after napping. Since then, Hersey has hosted monthly collective nap sessions and pop up nap sessions around the U.S and plans to open a permanent “nap temple” sometime soon.
I was able to find Hersey’s work through her social media pages, since the posts began to gain heavy traction with the people I followed over the pandemic. On The Nap Ministry’s Instagram account, she publishes reminders about the healing power that resting has and how it’s essential to dismantle the systems that we feed into. For example, one of the practices she tries to combat is the overwhelming “grind culture” that college students feed into. Through this grind culture that demands constant labor and energy, we neglect our bodies and minds to attain what we deem to be success. While it is definitely great to focus on our goals, we must remind ourselves that it’s best to disconnect and continue working in a healthy manner.
Through The Nap Ministry’s in-person and online work, the project centers resting as an act of resistance. Many may think that napping is just an activity to pass time, but Hersey challenges this through her work and centers rest as something transformative. It reminds BIPOC folks that rest is not a luxury that comes after exhausting themselves to the point of no return; instead, it is a tool in the process towards reaching success. It should be intentional and serve as a guidance for healing through the things that life throws at us.
While we’ve all heard of sleeping as something important for our health, we barely hear about it as a healthy tool against the stress that life can bring us, especially as BIPOC. For Hersey, resting is an active tool of resistance for people under systems that seek to exploit BIPOC’s energy and labor, and one that you should pick up now more than ever. If you have yet to give yourself some space for extra care and healing, I strongly recommend checking out The Nap Ministry to learn about the intention behind their work.