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When Rest Isn't Easy

In our day-to-day life, the fullness of our schedules, the demands on our attention and the sheer effort we exert in a moment-to-moment basis ripens the ground for burn-out and emotional distress. Busyness is a badge of success and we rate our days based on productivity. We know that finding ways to take care of ourselves is important AND for many, self-care comes with feelings of guilt and judgement. This paradox leaves us ambivalent about rest.



The most effective rest involves an easy level of effort, relaxation, positive affect and health benefits, a restorative quality and some distance from work. Some equate rest with sleep and idleness - and that is one vital component of rest. But rest goes beyond the time we spend snoozing.


How many times have you prioritized rest and then spent most of this leisure time worrying about other things "you should be doing?" Your body was lying on the beach, but your mind was ticking through your work calendar. Was it relaxing?


Just like meditation involves a training of the mind, rest is a practice that we can embrace with less resistance when we approach it with mindfulness. Looking at all the angles, most would agree that in theory at least rest seems like a good idea. We have to reset our technology by unplugging it, our brains consolidate new learning when we take a break from the subject matter, play and recess is built into children's school days, silence brings insight.


Underneath this activity, beliefs we hold about productivity, work and self-care fuel our resistance to resting. If you hear of someone taking a nap, does your immediate thought involve a judgement? Is the pull to "do" so strong that every time you try to rest, you end up abandoning the endeavor? Are there emotions that surface when you get quiet and still that you're avoiding by not resting?


Reflecting can often help us unpack the feelings, assumptions and expectations we hold around a particular subject. Inquiring with yourself:

What does rest mean to me?

What beliefs do I hold about resting?

What gets in the way?

What would my life look like if I had an adequate amount of rest each day?


With some insight around how you relate to rest you can begin to see what optimal rest looks like for you. You can practice not judging yourself for building rest time into your schedule. You can experiment with different types of rest to see what helps you feel most restored.


For some, moving the body is the most helpful way to quiet the mind. For others reading, zoning out, being in nature or meditating feels soothing. Often, the most helpful types of rest feel like play: self-directed, flexible, unpredictable and immersing.


There will always be a to-do list of tasks that need completed. We always think, I'll rest when x, y, or z is finished. I'll restore when I'm on vacation. I'll take care of myself when there is time. But time is always flowing by and all we really have control over is our attention to it. Don't wait. Discover what your particular flavor of rest is today.


How have you been able to integrate adequate rest into your life?