For the last few weeks, my counselling has been focusing on discussions about rest. Specifically, I’ve been working on re-framing my definition of what rest is and allowing myself to rest when I need to.
Before now, and in the black and white delineations of my mind, rest became something that represented weakness. I learned to believe that I only had worth if I was busy and active. And the only excuse for resting was exhaustion or illness. Sounds healthy, right?
How many of us push ourselves constantly to keep going? How many of us don’t take advantage of restful moments because we’re too anxious or have too many expectations placed on us to be constantly engaged?
In my previous relationships, I expected myself (and was expected by my partners) to be available and ready for action at all moments. I was also burdened with the vast majority of the physical and emotional labour in those relationships, which meant that restful moments were few and far between, and that when I did rest, it was out of utter exhaustion as opposed to simply taking a break or relaxing. It was so bad that I actually forgot how to relax entirely! I remained in a hyper-vigilant mode of awareness constantly. I was always, always tired, but could never rest.
I’m still so incredibly tired. I’m still doing the majority of the physical and emotional work for my family. I’m still anxious a lot and I still have this tendency to try and fill all the hours of all the days and then crash afterwards…
But I’m learning how to do things differently. My need for rest is being validated and supported in the therapy I’m doing, which is going a long way towards my acceptance of its validity. I am trying to no longer feel guilty for needing to rest. I’m trying to take advantage of the time I have to relax and recuperate. I’m coming to understand that rest is, in fact, productive! No, seriously!
Think of it this way: in order to be productive, you need to have energy. And how do we get energy? Well, by eating good foods, drinking water, and resting. If we don’t take our downtime seriously, how can we have enough “umph” to keep going and accomplish the things we need or want to do?
My counsellor and I are working to change my thinking to reflect this kind of understanding. Not only do I have the time right now to engage in some really solid rest, my body is also telling me that I need it. A decade or more of being burdened with unfair and incredibly heavy expectations has taken its toll; mama needs a good sleep and to put her feet up or take a nap otherwise she can’t function!
I know I’m fortunate to have time to rest right now. I’m already thinking ahead to the fall when I’m going to be busier (I’m going back to school…yay!) and will have more to worry about. But fuck that anxiety, because I’d rather focus on taking advantage of the time I have now and using it the best way that I can. And instead of thinking that that means doing a million things everyday and never sitting down or catching my breath, I’m thinking that I might take a nap instead. I might enjoy a crossword puzzle, or have a mindful snack. Maybe I’ll watch some Netflix or take a walk. Snuggle up with a book or cuddle under the covers.
Rest is not my enemy. Resting doesn’t make me weak. My value doesn’t come from how much I can get done in a day; it comes from tuning in and responding authentically to the needs my body presents to me. It comes from being my authentic self and showing up in all the ways I need to, including times of rest.
What do your restful moments look like?
How does getting enough (or NOT getting enough) rest affect your mental and physical health?
Who else wants to go take a nap right now?