Earlier this week we talked about reflection and your values – today, we’re going to talk about how to REST.
This is part of a series for 2023 – Fill Your Cup – you can find part one here.
Take it from someone who has to try pretty hard to rest – you need it, and Resting is a skill.
You know something I am really bad at? Resting. Relaxing. It used to take me days to unwind – I remember being on vacation in Hawaii and it took me 6 days before I felt relaxed. Over 15 years ago, when I started doing outpatient therapy as a full time job, it would take me the whole weekend to recover, and it felt like I was not doing enough on the weekend because all I could do was sleep. Which was another stress!
You do not want to be forced to rest – anyone recovering from an illness, injury or surgery has experienced that. When I had COVID, I honestly think that giving myself time to just sleep and read made my recovery significantly easier! I was stuck in a hotel room for a week in a foreign country, so I really did not have many options. But I have friends who felt their symptoms for weeks (if not months), and at least some of it was because they ‘pushed through’ instead of giving themselves enough time to recover.
When I was sleeping away my weekends (because I could not do anything else) is when I started recognizing what fills me up – and what takes energy out of me, no matter that I enjoy it. And understood the true meaning of being an introvert. It is not about social skills or liking people, it is about what gives and takes your energy. For more on that, check out Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain (2012).
It took me a long time to figure out what works for me, and in different situations. Building in time to rest, and making sure you are not doing more than is reasonable for you (no matter what ‘they’ tell you you should be doing) are the preventative steps that worked for me. But it was also about dealing with crises and stressors differently, figuring out what I actually like instead of what I ‘should’ like to do, and slowing down in general. Learning more about mindfulness and compassion was helpful also, both in my life and in my work.
Everyone needs different things when it comes to “rest” – I need, for example, time alone in the quiet with soft lighting and good smells. I was thinking about it even before I saw this series in SELF’s online magazine last week. The one that spoke to me the most was A Guide to Doing Nothing For People Who Are Bad At It. I know a lot of people who are really, really bad at it.
Why don’t we rest? Well, here is one theory, though there are many others…
Generations of Women Who Don’t Allow Themselves to Rest
I am not 100% sure if this is true, but anecdotal evidence suggests that women have not ever been good at resting, and somewhat worse about it since Rosie the Riveter (my second favorite Halloween costume, BTW). I do not know many Baby Boomers who allowed themselves to rest until retirement – and then they had a whole new skill set to learn. My Gen-X peers are notoriously known for being slackers – but I have rarely met a female slacker. We’re in the midst of being forced to slow down as we age and need to deal with health, career, and family issues that insist we engage in wellness and self care, which is a big shift. Most of us do not seem to deem ourselves worthy or deserving of rest, care, and consideration. Millennials seem just as bad in some ways – they have not been forced to slow down yet – but it is also a lingering sense of because we can, we should.
Yes, we can do anything – just because we can doesn’t mean we have to, should, or are expected to. I’ve seen a couple things on social media lately that reinforce that – one was about different expectations for boys and girls in childhood, and the other was about our collective expectations of fathers and how they differ from our expectations of mothers.
In the first, which I became aware of through @impact on Instagram – 10 boys and 10 girls were sent to live in an unsupervised house. They were all given cooking lessons prior. Basically, the boys turned into a sugar fueled Lord of the Flies situation and the girls organized a chore chart, cooked for each other, and made a mess with makeup. The point is that there is a vastly different set of socialization norms in what we teach men to do and what we teach women to – we all need to examine what we intend to teach and what we are actually teaching.
The second was about ‘invisible labor’ that women are generally expected to do as wives and mothers, but men are not. “invisible labor” and “weaponized incompetence” were the interesting phrases that stood out on this one.
But this is not only a gender issue, or a generational issue (though I am hopeful that Gen-Z will figure out the invisible labor issue as they continue to challenge gender and sexual roles and stereotypes in their relationships). Why do we EVER have to ‘deserve’ rest? Don’t we all need it. Aren’t we all craving it? I hear so many people say they are tired and stressed – could it be because we have not developed the set of skills necessary to rest well? There are a lot of coping skills we do not seem to think we ‘should’ need – but we do.
How to Rest
The most important thing is to PRACTICE. If we do not attempt it, we will not get better at it. So we need to take time to rest, figure out what is restful for us, and take our damn vacations!
On a smaller scale, this can mean simply doing things we enjoy. Here are some ideas:
- Take a nap or go to bed early.
- Watching a show you like without doing anything else.
- Do a short meditation – 10% Happier, Balance, Calm, Headspace, Sensa are all apps/websites with short meditations and instructions.
- Try LovingKindness or compassion – this is one of my favorites, and there are several on self-compassion.org that are 7 minutes or less.
- Make a meal that is a favorite of yours.
- Sit down and listen to a podcast (I like Were You Raised By Wolves, but it is more funny than restful).
- Try yoga – a relaxing one, like this from Yoga with Adriene which is for bedtime and only 10 minutes.
- Sit down and read for a bit.
- Square Breathing
- Listen to music without doing anything else.
Whatever you choose to try, maybe make it a regular thing. And try to remember that this will make you a more relaxed person overall. When you are rested, you tend to be more patient, compassionate, and allow more fun in your life. The goal is to fill the cup – not to break the cup and have to go get a new one on top of all the other things on your to-do list.
If you are one of the many who simply cannot rest, try this A Guide to Doing Nothing For People Who Are Bad At It to dive deeper.
What does rest look like for you? What recharges your batteries and is in line with your values? What would you tell a friend to do? How is it different than what you are doing now?