Let's Talk About Rest
Updated: Aug 14, 2020
If you are like most people “rest” either sounds like a completely foreign concept or is, at the very least, something that sounds nice but ranks as “highly unlikely” to actually occur on any regular basis. We live in a culture of never-ending to-do lists and addictions to productivity. Sure, a nap sounds nice, but who has time for that?!
Worldwide pandemic aside, rest is rare. We wish we had time for it. We like the sound of it. We don’t prioritize it. Instead, we run on caffeine and blind hope that today won’t be the day we have a complete and total meltdown. If your morning mantra is “I just want to get through this day,” then you, my friend, should keep reading.
Rest is essential to function in this world for many reasons. Let’s start with the basics: Rest allows for restoration of the mind-body-spirit. What does that mean? Our nervous systems are very complex, and often very sensitive, constructs of the human body. They have a certain response when we are stressed, and another when we are at rest. You may heard of them as “flight or flight” and “rest and digest.” The stress response activates the sympathetic nervous system and redirects your energy to the functions that are essential in survival mode: increased heart rate, dilated pupils, inhibited digestion, and relaxed airways. Ideally, the stress response turns off when the danger ceases, and the mind-body-spirit experiences the rest response. The rest response activates the parasympathetic nervous system, allowing for the reversal of body functions: decreased heart rate, constricted pupils, stimulated digestion, and constricted airways.
Sometimes we get stuck in the stress response, because, well, life is stressful. The body gets used to the stress response and forgets that rest was ever a possibility. The simplest, and dare I say obvious, remedy is to bring the mind, body and spirit to rest. Rest is one of the most healing things you can do for yourself. And it requires no effort. In fact, that is the entire point of it. To slow down and purposely do nothing.
We let ourselves think that it would take too much out of our day to practice self-care. It doesn’t have to. It’s not about how much time you have, but how you use it. 15 minutes of real rest can do so much more for you than two hours of Netflix and a glass of wine ever will. Don’t get me wrong: there are days when I choose to escape into the fictional world of shows I’ve probably already seen a dozen times. However, I do know that when it is real rest I need, distraction won’t do the trick.
Real rest requires a few things:
First, you need a soothing environment. Somewhere quiet, with dim lighting. If there are a lot of distracting sounds around you, use a pair of headphones and play relaxing music. Maybe even rub a little essential oil on your temples. Soothe your senses.
Second, you need to find stillness. Whether you are sitting in a supportive chair, laying in a restorative yoga pose, or soaking in a bubble bath, let yourself be still. Relax and soften your entire body, and let your breath flow freely.
Third, you need a willingness to heal, to invite rest into your life, and to restore your mind-body-spirit. Have an open mind and open heart. (Skeptical thoughts are a form of resistance.)
Rest can feel uncomfortable at first. You’ve been “thriving” in chaos, after all! Give it time. Let yourself process what you normally don’t take the time to process. Consider that tension doesn’t have to be your closest companion. And most importantly, never mistake self-care for self-indulgence. Rest isn’t something you need to deserve. Rest is essential for a healthy, balanced life. Rest is one long exhale…