There’s something about doing good work that fuels us. It gives us affirmation, fills us with a sense of purpose, and keeps our mind buzzing. While these feelings are all well and good, it can be extremely hard to shut off the overdrive mentality and take a break.
We talk a lot about rest during our workouts: rest for sixty seconds (which, for some of you more impatient ones, is really thirty seconds), rest between sets, take a rest day, etc. However, we rarely talk about rest outside the weight room.
At some point you’ve probably had thoughts like:
“There’s no space.”
“There’s no time.”
“There’s no good way to take a break right now.” “I’ll stretch when I get home, I promise.”
But as the excuses pile up, your energy and motivations get worn down.
I can definitely speak from experience: I spent almost all of my college years never bothering to rest. I never took days off. I was constantly searching for ways to be productive, even when I thought I was resting (enter the guy who literally would do dishes during house parties).
I didn’t know how to pump the brakes. I found so much of my identity in what I was doing that when I took time away, I felt like I wasn’t myself or that I was missing out on precious hours where progress could be made. But the truth was I was just exhausted. I felt like everything relied upon me, but I was being a martyr for no apparent reason because I wasn’t serving the world anything but a tired, worn-out version of myself.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized taking intentional time (in today’s world it feels almost like stealing) to rest would restore me enough that I could power through my days with productivity and ease, without sacrificing my well-being. But what does true, healthful rest look like? Can we be disciplined and still have rest? How can we pull that workaholic out of us and stop hiding behind our productivity to experience rest, and be who we actually are?
I wrote this email in order to nudge you towards making space for what matters most by carving out time to breathe. I want to take this word “rest” and unhinge it from all the definitions we’ve given it in the past. Rest doesn’t have to look like sleeping, drinking tea, or listening to Jack Johnson. Rest is whatever you pursue that fires you up, helps you recharge, and gives you life.
So do me a favor: put your phone on “do not disturb” for the next five minutes. Step out of whatever you’re doing (if you’ve read this far you probably have the time for this). Grab some paper and a pen, and write out your thoughts on rest and what it looks like for you. Then, keep reading and compare what you wrote with what I suggested rest could look like.
… five minutes later…
The suggestions below are merely that: suggestions. There is no right or wrong way to rest. However, I do think we should pay attention to how the activity makes us feel. Does it drain us or fill us? Does it give us more stamina or does it wear us down and make us more tired? They don’t require a ticket to a tropical island or enough money for a spa day. These are simple rhythms you can incorporate into your weekly schedule.
01. Go Outside. I never used to see the importance of getting away into nature: I was always missing my bed and a hot shower. But after spending even just 10 minutes outside I feel more at home (and at peace) with myself. Nature moves to a different rhythm and clock than we do — sometimes it’s nice to go off of nature’s schedule.
02. Read. I think making space to read a book is restful. Now here’s what I am not telling you to do: I am not telling you to pick up a book that is going to help you “improve” or “better” your life. That’s not exactly restful, that’s work. Pick a book that has a story to it – maybe something fictional. Allow yourself to get swept up in the plot and characters. Relax, step back, and enjoy a moment of not “fixing” yourself.
03. Make a Meal. It might not seem restful, but your body will have another opinion. You are worth the process of chopping veggies and mixing spices. You are worth the following of a recipe. You are worth something that takes more time than 5 minutes to create and doesn’t require a microwave (at least not all the steps). Slow down long enough to recharge with a new dish you’ve been wanting to try.
04. Make a date with yourself. Pick a spot on your calendar and block it off. Whether it’s early morning or during lunch, keep that date with yourself. Venture to a coffee shop where they serve you a real mug. Don’t pull out the computer or start hammering away at the next to-do list. Just be. Just listen. Just people-watch. Maybe pull out a journal and just let your thoughts float. Feel the freedom of being right where you are supposed to be even if the rest of your week looks crazy busy.
05. Pick a Rest Day. This means try to pick one day a week where you don’t work. Where you don’t prep or clean or get busy. I chose to keep my rest days on Sundays because I usually have work or social plans on the other days. Maybe your rest day is Friday. Maybe your rest day is Monday. Whatever the day, embrace the chance to just enjoy people, a nice nap, a slow morning, and some much-needed downtime.
06. Shut off your phone. I don’t mean throw it away and go completely Lewis & Clark, but establish boundaries, even with yourself, to ensure you can rest and recharge. I rarely leave a place like Instagram feeling refreshed and rested. Be careful you’re not responsible for draining your own battery. Put the phone away— or at least close out some of the apps— and rest your brain.
07. Use your brain. On the topic of your brain, you can actually rest your brain by using it. One of my favorite ways to rest is by writing. The joy is that I am not “winning” anything, but rather expressing my thoughts with pen and paper (or key and screen). I am recharging my mind by putting it to use.
08. Meditate. I know, I know, this is a hard one but it actually works. Whenever I am stressed or anxious and I need a time out, I pull out a meditation app on my phone. It’s not always a
quick fix, but doing only one workout never made anyone strong, and I’ve seen a massive difference from when I initially started.
So, head into the rest (see what I did there?) of today, this upcoming week, and this month pursuing true, unhindered rest. Find ways to create margin in your life to be where your feet are.
Breathe. Take space. Give yourself permission to be your authentic self. Rest well,