How To *Actually* Get Some Rest
Take a deep breath. Hold it for a moment, then exhale and relax your shoulders. Feel more relaxed? Breathing exercises are one way to relax. But not all resting tips and relaxing methods work for everyone.
It might seem silly that I'm writing an article about rest but so often so many feel like they don't get enough rest. I imagine it's a combination of many things but I wanted to highlight some details to inspire you to take notice and maybe...just maybe take a few tips for yourself to include actual rest into your life.
Rest doesn't necessary mean sleep but it will improve your sleep
For many people rest isn’t part of their lives, at least not regularly, and not genuine rest. Many are too focused on striving, thriving, executing and never stopping. Because, we've been conditioned to think that stopping is to quit, and quitting is being lazy, and lazy is; inefficient, ineffective, unproductive, unsuccessful - BAD.
So, we wait until we’re so exhausted, we have no other choice.
Many think that “resting” is doing nothing productive; wasting time
Maybe we fear rest because it'll only set us back. After resting, we’ll have to work that much faster, harder and more to make up for the time our tasks went undone. So, what’s the point?
Then there are those who yearn to rest despite the hustle and the bustle, but their minds are too busy racing and reviewing all the responsibilities that are piling up and spilling over into other days and weeks.
Others think using our phones is resting and in some cases that might be true, but if it's there to fill a void, make us avoid or replace something, it’s actually causing you to be even more exhausted.
As you are absorbing the sensory input, your brain is quickly trying to process it all. And you might start unconsciously comparing yourself while experiencing negative feelings such as envy, jealousy and anger.
There's also a misconception that we’ll get our rest when we sleep. But your much needed sleep isn't restful if you are unable to actually rest while you're awake.
If your brain is in a constant stress-state during awake hours, then most likely it is losing or has lost connective pathways that tell it to decrease or stop the stress response.
Think of rest as “being, rather than doing.” It’s not really rest when the body is still but the mind is contemplating.
Start by looking at where you are able to rest, and where your resting deficits are. Are you sleeping well on weeknights, but lingering awake until 3 a.m. on the weekends? Is it the other way around?
Once you’ve decided on the amount of rest you need and where you can access it in your schedule, decide why you need to restore yourself. Knowing your overall “why,” makes it much easier to set aside intentional time to do it.
Understand the power of rest
So many people are in a constant state of stress. In fact, 70 percent of visits to the doctor are due to stress-related health issues.
Rest is the only way to engage the part of our nervous system that allows for relaxation.
Rest also helps us show up for others and for ourselves. It benefits everything we touch and do. We need to start valuing taking care of ourselves as much as we value accomplishing tasks.
Rethink the narrative
This won’t happen overnight, but it’s important to chip away at the narrative that resting is failing. Most people tend to attach their successes to their worth, value, and identity.
We need to reframe and shift the narrative to a more realistic view; If this task does not get done today, it does not mean you have failed. It just means that you will get to it later.
Remind yourself regularly that you’re not a machine, and you can’t do everything at once. Some tasks simply won’t get done - that is ok. Accepting things as they are, comes with practice. It's perfectly fine to give yourself the mental space to rest. Try saying: “I did not expect this, but I accept it.”
Create a routine
Having a routine can make you feel more grounded and prepared for the day ahead. Routine allows you to feel like you are in control which can help with doing and completing tasks. Also prioritize a nighttime/sleep routine and stick with it.
Be intentional; Be mindful
Wake up each day with an affirmation: “I slept well, and I feel rested.” Is it always true? No. But will allow you to establish a more positive morning routine rather than grumbling about how tired you are. (When was the last time you didn't think of feeling tired; complaining only adds to the situation. Start telling people you're a great sleeper, see what happens).
Relax your body
This doesn't mean a deep dive into yoga and breathing practices; that shit isn't for everyone. Sometimes closing your eyes and relaxing your shoulders is all you need. Maybe it's laying on the floor and lifting your legs up?
Take in your surroundings
For example focus on your senses. Spend a few minutes sitting on a bench. Notice the sun on your skin. Notice the colors around you. Notice the sounds. Notice how the bench feels. Allow yourself to be completely present in the here and now.
Focus on yourself and what works for you
It's in your hands to figuring out how you like to rest, what grounds you, or helps you feel most alive. This will be different for everyone. For one person, cooking is a meditative practice; for someone else cooking is misery.
Maybe it's: journaling; drawing; sipping coffee while watching the sunrise; walking your dog, practicing yoga; sitting on the beach.
Many have forgotten how to truly rest and unfortunately there's an unnecessary negative narrative about what it means. Many have replaced real rest with superficial, stimulating activities to distract them.
If you’ve tried everything and still feel exhausted, release any self-judgment you’re carrying. It is not a failure if you are having a difficult time feeling rested. Do your best, and get help with the rest.
I hope you can relearn to rest fully and wholeheartedly. Maybe you’ll even consider practicing today. Or right now.