We are living in a culture where being pathologically busy is the norm and where rest is riskily underrated. Hands up if you find it challenging to give yourself the time out to rest; to give your mind, body and spirit a decent respite with the opportunity to unplug from our often too hectic world. Can you allow yourself the time and space to ease into the bliss of nothingness?
Rest is fundamental for enhancing our health, happiness and our capacity to achieve our personal goals and success in life. We need rest for mental health and cognitive function; improving and balancing our moods, memory and concentration. Rest is imperative for reducing stress, enhancing a healthier immune system while promoting well-being. When we sleep soundly, some of our physiological systems such as our digestive system have the opportunity to rest and in doing so can improve our metabolism and help us to manage our weight more effectively.
Rest isn’t simply about sleep – humans also need “Waking Rest”. In the article, “Exercise, sleep, nutrition and waking rest” published in 2019 by the Oxford Academic, the authors explain that, “Waking rest is a period of quiet, reflective thought that allows the brain time to consider and process whatever arises spontaneously. Waking rest can last from 5 to 20 minutes once or multiple times per day, and should take place in an area where the participant feels safe, comfortable, and can remain uninterrupted by outside influences. It is void of effortful, focused thought and distracting stimuli such as watching television and engaging in social media.”
I surmise that right about now some of you are already beginning to feel uncomfortable reading this – squirming or itching to make a move away from what’s to come in this article – stopping, resting and relaxing can trigger anxious feelings for some and for others, they could go so far as feeling fear when it comes to the thought of giving up the doing for a brief respite and simply being. If you are fearful or uncomfortable with even the thought of taking regular rest stops, you might be keeping yourself busy to avoid sitting with uncomfortable feelings, unresolved issues and to allow that racing mind to quieten and slow down. I’m familiar with the notion that, “if you want to get something done, ask a busy person” – Yes, OK and yet, I’m not one to support a zeitgeist that promotes busy and burnout as the hallmarks of success.
Sacred Rest stops – Healing your body, mind and spirit
The human body is engineered to thrive in a series of short sprints generally at around 20 – 25- minute intervals.
If you have ever been on a long-distance drive in Australia and also many other countries, you would have come across frequent “Rest stops”. In Australia, the medical advice is to stop and take a rest from driving every two hours. – driver fatigue can really set in after two hours and impede your reflexes and your ability to make accurate judgements about the driving conditions. In today’s digital world, “short sprints” also applies to taking frequent short breaks away from our screens and from prolonged sessions of sitting which can be detrimental to your health including causing cardio-vascular disease.
Adequate rest allows our bodies to repair while activating our own force for inner healing enabling recovery and a return to a state of homeostasis. Rest literally heals our bodies and is vital for our capacity to maintain productivity (different to busyness), enrich creativity and achieve longevity in all areas of life.
Resting was second nature to our ancestors – hunting, gathering and being relentlessly exposed to the elements was exhausting business. Wild animals hunt for food, eat and then rest – it’s the cycle of nature. Resting needs to once again become second nature to us before fatigue, burnout or illness forces us into the sacredness of rest.
So how much rest do I need to survive and thrive?
The frequency and amount of rest required will depend on your individual needs and well-being. If you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed or anxious, don’t sleep well/suffer from insomnia or are going through a particularly challenging time (hello our shared humanity in 2020/2021), then it would serve you and your well-being to take more frequent rest.
If you are relatively healthy, meditate and exercise regularly, include nutrient dense foods in a well-balanced diet, drink adequate clean water daily and don’t have financial, relationship, career or other stressors in your life, then you might get away with a little less rest.
Why is it that only our dearly departed get to “Rest in Peace?” Why can’t those of us still here on the mortal coil get to honour and embrace times to “Rest in Peace” while we are alive? It’s not only nana’s that need a nap or to take time out to simply sit and read.
How can I include more rest into my daily life?
- Firstly, give it up for rest – I mean literally. Recognize the importance of rest and make rest a regular part of your daily schedule and activities.
- Creating intentional pauses in your everyday life by scheduling in several brief breaks from work, household activities and the distractions of the digital world – walking away from your devices and taking a rest from scrolling is a resourceful place to start. Get up and walk around the room, drink some water look out of a window at nature if possible and of course practise mindful breathing techniques.
- Letting go of creating endless to-do- lists that will need box ticking to make you feel like you are an over-accomplished and worthy human-doing is something to think about.
- Learn to read the signals rather than overriding the signals such as when your body will no longer support your racing mind – that feeling when you have nothing left in the tank, your adrenal glands are screaming at you to stop and the bandwidth is full. If you have reached that stage, you didn’t head the early warning signs – do it now, REST NOW.
- Normalise nothingness. Yes, that’s right, learn how to relax into simply being, into doing absolutely nothing consciously other than breathing (which does involve voluntary and involuntary action).
- Allow yourself to let go of the need to be focussed on constant self-improvement and embrace self-acceptance – all those dark corners, cracks, warts and all parts have contributed to and made you the inimitable and lovable being that you are today.
- Meditate, meditate and then meditate some more – simple mindfulness meditation on the breath. You are not trying to “fix” anything, rather settle into calming the mind and being-ness. When you pause, settle into the breath and relax, you can once again reconnect with your inner world and that deep sacred restful place which is the source of inspiration, wisdom, intuition, clarity, joy, well-being and peace.
- Welcome and ease into even every brief moment of nothingness – it’s not about wasting time or energy simply naval-gazing, it’s about letting go of the doingness and recognizing that rest is an essential part of the energetic cycle of life – if we are to go beyond simply surviving and enhance thriving, we must take rest.
Finding it challenging to transform a not-enough-rest pattern? Feel free to reach out and connect…
REST is SACRED and it’s time to normalise nothingness.
I rest my case…