Today is one of those days where rest is on my mind. It’s overcast with occasional showers, I woke up sleepy after lots of strange dreams, and I just generally want to close my eyes and curl up on some comfortable pillows. We all have days like this.
I used to hate that I wanted to rest, since it always seemed to crop up at the most inopportune times. Like right now as I’m writing this, a Wednesday in the middle of the week, with lots of work to do. This need to relax was often my number one body-shaming trigger, like I talk about in this previous article here. But, through some personal examination and growth, I’ve now come to really honor my need to rest.
We live in a progress-oriented world, where rest is deemed something extracurricular. Not too long ago, when I was in college for art (and, contrary to popular belief, we all work our butts off!), I remember hearing about people spending several days without sleep. It wasn’t even rare to hear about. Sleep is the most basic form of rest, literally essential for our survival, and finishing a certain painting or essay was deemed more important. As a Residential Advisor with an extra full schedule, something seemed off about it. Firstly, I couldn’t picture myself working through the night and secondly, I was watching the students I mentored suffer from emotional breakdowns, stress, and severe fatigue all because of the negligence to rest.
It’s been a blessing and a curse to have a chronic illness that prevents me from surviving on less than 8 hours of sleep a night. At first I hated it—it was tough to coordinate, especially as a busy entrepreneur who’s running one business and starting a second! Now, I’m really glad it forced me to put rest and relaxation (and, with that, my mental health) first. Once I put relaxation into practice, I came to understand that rest actually increases my productivity.
A lot of successful business people work four-day weeks. A lot pull regular all-nighters too, but when you look at both of these pictures of what we call “success” in our world, it seems like there are two paths we can take. Choosing to neglect or accept rest seems to be able to get many of us to the same place, making it a choice we are empowered to decide on independent of any standard.
We all have our challenges to face when we start to implement more rest into our lives. The most common I’ve heard from people is that they think they will either feel unproductive or they will not accomplish everything they want. I was there too, believing both things, until I convinced myself to give it a try. Now, I feel like I accomplish much more—but there’s a specific reason why it feels this way and it isn’t actually the quantity of what I accomplish. It’s the quality.
When you’re well rested, you can make better decisions, be more attentive, and your overall mood is better. These are all things demonstrated in scientific studies and they’re relatively common knowledge (here’s a study by Harvard on sleep and mood). So if we know that taking time to rest and relax will make us feel better, why don’t we follow through? It’s because many of us feel that the quantity of what we accomplish weighs more than the quality of what we do.
Take a second to think about the mental picture of a successful person who doesn’t rest much. Now take a second to picture a successful person who does. What do both archetypes look like for you? My bet is that you could easily say that the latter person feels more fulfilled with their work. When we’re sleep-deprived and anxious, we are so busy spending the little energy we have to just accomplish the necessities that we don’t have time to dig deeper and explore what fulfills us. Our passions need energy to thrive.
When it comes to living mindfully, rest is even more important. Just like in the article I wrote a couple months ago about respecting your body’s needs, mindfulness itself helps us listen to these needs more. It creates an awareness that then empowers us to make a choice—that choice is where we want our success to come from. Do we want to be driven but exhausted, or do we want to feel fulfilled and rested? The specific navigation each one of us has will be unique, but the underlying idea is a shared human experience. It is ultimately our choice what we do with our time and what we prioritize.
Within rest we can find stillness, and from this stillness we have room for all the self-reflection, healing, and rejuvenation we need to live our ideal lives. When we are well-rested, we have access to peace, joy, and contentment—all of these leave our consciousness when we’re scrambling and too busy to dwell in such stillness. The more you allow rest into your life, the more you will feel this peace even when you working hard and taking action. Eventually, life itself feels like blissful relaxation, no matter what you are doing—from breathing to running a meeting.
Where do you find moments to relax? What does the voice in your head say when it tries to convince you not to rest?
Caring for yourself is an essential part of living a joyous life, but learning how to navigate your life situation and silence than inner busy-body voice is not always easy. What helps is when you’re guided towards the breakthroughs you need to adopt a healthier lifestyle. This is a focus of mindfulness life coaching. You don’t have to live a lifestyle that promotes anxiety anymore, we can rework it and help you find your happiness. Here’s where you can book or inquire about a coaching session.