I’m a small-town California girl turned mental health therapist. Favorite things: babies (but don’t have my own!), comfy pants, and taking too many pictures. I'm all about realistic self-care, mental health for everyone, and personal growth even if you hate that phrase (cause I do!).
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I’ll admit––many of us are not taught or shown how to rest. For some of us, the thought of it is guilt or shame inducing, for many reasons (which we’ll explore together). Yet rest is foundational for our wellbeing, growth, and living a full + meaningful life. Rest is important for our mind, body, and soul. If you struggle with anxiety, depression, chronic illness, etc, rest needs to be a top priority for your self-care. But living out rest is nothing but simple. In this post, I want to address some foundational questions about rest:
First things first, we’ve gotta get a handle on what rest truly is. Rest is more than just sleep.
How I define rest: the intentional ceasing or slowing of striving, making, producing, working. Making space for being with (yourself and others): enjoying, delighting, playing, relishing, reflecting, remembering, dreaming.
You might think the answer is obvious, but we forget more often than we realize. Sleep, a basic form of rest, is crucial for strengthening our immune system and physiological processes. Sleep promotes our ability to feel hungry and full. Sleep helps us maintain hormonal and circadian rhythms. This promotes stable and positive mood, stress tolerance, and decrease anxiety and fatigue. Sleep repairs and prepares our brains for the next day, helping us concentrate, think, be creative, and problem solve (1).
Yet rest goes beyond our biological functions. Contrary to our culture that prizes (and at times demands) production, efficiency, and working to exhaustion, you are so much more than what you make or do, and you are a human being, not a machine. Rest includes making space for restoration and rejuvenation of our mind and spirit, our social and existential selves. Rest helps us reconnect with our identity outside of our work, production, or efficiency. Rest helps us remember what is most important and meaningful to us.
We need rest because we are finite, limited creatures. Don’t get me wrong––you ARE gifted, skilled, unique, and lovely, but we all have a limits. We have limited amount of time in the day. We have limited energy of all kinds: emotional, mental, physical, spiritual, social, etc. Rest is a way of acknowledging our limits and capacity. The world continues spinning while we rest*. Rest forces us to remember that we are not the martyr, the rescuer, the solution, the end all be all for anyone or anything.
Sometimes we think we are resting but instead we traded one type of hustle for another. Sometimes we never learn how to rest to begin with.
“I fake-rested instead of real-rested, and then I found that I was real-tired. It feels ludicrous to be a grown woman, a mother, still learning how to rest. But here I am, baby-stepping to learn something kids know intuitively. Part of being an adult is taking responsibility for resting your body and your soul. And part of being an adult is learning to meet your own needs, because when it comes down to it, with a few exceptions, no one else is going to do it for you.” (-Shauna Niequist)
I love that quote because it shows how tricky it is to practice real rest, because fake-rest can look exactly the same.
How I define ‘not rest’: striving, hustling, proving, running, numbing, over-indulgent consumption (as an escape), hiding, controlling, avoiding. There’s a fine–even invisible–line between ‘real rest’ and ‘fake rest.’ You could be doing the same activities but not experiencing true rest. Because rest also includes our minds and bodies. You could be in a yoga class, but still replaying a tough conversation you had earlier that day. This hinders your ability to be present and rest during the class, reducing the rest you experience.
Now, I don’t say this to shame you, AT ALL. I say this in hopes of clearing up confusion and offering some guideposts for you along the journey, so that we can better understand what we’re experiencing. It’s hard to find a person who doesn’t struggle with rest in some way.
Privilege and Rest
Being able to rest requires a certain amount of privilege. This privilege looks like income, social + familial supports, access to medical care and education, trauma (both experienced and inter-generational), feeling safe in the world, etc). Folks without privilege in any of these areas may have reduced ability to experience rest. For example, I often hear that black women feel pressure to continue to perform work for others. This obligation to do work functions both proving their value and securing their safety against racial violence. Folks with low paying jobs may work additional hours during the week to make ends meet. This limits their amount of time available to rest from the basic obligations of life. Someone dealing with moderate/severe symptoms of mental health difficulties may be unable to access an inner/physiological experience of rest. Not having access to affordable, quality, and nearby mental health services they need continues the cycle.
In addition to the limits that lack of privilege creates, there are other challenges to our attempts to rest.
First, unacknowledged or unprocessed emotions tend to surface when we stop to rest. This experience keep us from approaching true rest altogether (whether we realize we are doing this or not). When we finally slow down, our bodies and minds have a way of surfacing the emotions or experiences that need our loving attention. But sometimes these emotions are too much. For example, I used to try to journal as a way of rest. But each time I journaled I would end up emotionally overwhelmed. This was a real limit to what tools I could use to rest, so I had to slowly work through the emotions before I could journal in a way that was restful for me.
Second, old stories about ourselves or our life that keep us from rest. Some narratives or beliefs about rest can include:
Bottom line: You deserve rest. Real, restorative rest.
Consider taking a moment to check in with yourself. Here are some questions for reflection:
If you aren’t sure where to start, start with the basics. Look at how much sleep you’re getting. If it’s not enough, consider what could change to make that happen if possible. Make a list of things that might be restful for you. Set a day and time for when you want to try it out with an open mind. Notice how you during and feel afterwards. Try to add a little more margin into your day for a slower, more restful pace. Baby steps.
I hope you have the courage to face the unaddressed pain or grief. I hope we take meaningful action to allow people to be able to afford margins required for rest. I hope you make space for rest for yourself and encourage rest in others.. Because you are of infinite value, and yet you are a finite being. You are not a machine, but human, with limited time, energy, and resources.
May you lean into listening to your own needs.
May you ask for help when you need it.
May you open yourself up a bit more to the love + support from the people in your corner. Chances are, they do care. Trust that as best you can. ⠀
May you offer resources from your own place of rest to promote the rest of others.
May you lean into your responsibility for caring for your whole self, knowing you are worthy of it simply by being human.
May you lean in towards the moments of play, rest, beauty, goodness as they both present themselves and you cultivate the intention to keep looking. ⠀⠀⠀⠀
May you take a break from any running, hiding, avoiding, as much as feels safe for you right now.
May you lean into real, wholehearted rest (bonus for not apologizing for it).
by Kylie |
December 14, 2018
© Tend and Mend, Kylie Bennett 2019.
I'm Kylie. I’m a small-town California girl turned mental health therapist. Favorite things: babies (but don’t have my own!), comfy pants, and taking too many pictures. I'm all about realistic self-care, mental health for everyone, and personal growth even if you hate that phrase (cause I do!).