Updated: Oct 12, 2020
I have talked before about how resting is a key part of our cycles as women. Our bodies naturally draw us toward rest each month, but for the modern woman this is difficult as many of us haven’t been taught to rest! Our culture tells us that rest is a mindless Netflix and chill binge, while often times the women in our lives have showed us through their own actions that constant work and hustle is the only way to get anywhere in life. As a result most of us are overextended, living in perpetual survival mode, and teetering on the brink of burnout.
Today I want to talk about what rest really looks like, because I think that many of us are believing some myths about it! I know that many of the women I talk to are resistant to rest because they believe it requires them to fully stop their lives for a certain length of time. This is absolutely not the case, and I would argue, that fully stopping and becoming mindless is not actually true rest. (Except in the case of sleep, of course!)
First up though, the myths!
There are two common myths that our culture holds up to us as the pinnacle of rest.
The first myth is that numbing out = rest. This is encouraged through memes and jokes about “Netflix and chill” or “Mommy needs wine”, as if by totally escaping the pressures that are weighing on us we can find rest.
A good question to ask yourself when you are feeling the pull to numb out is, “How will I feel after this?” Will you feel more refreshed and energized when you wake up the morning after you get your wine fix? Will you feel motivated and grace-filled after an afternoon spent binging the latest Netflix dramedy? I think that honestly answering this question for yourself will be all the proof you need that this is a counterfeit rest!
The second myth is that the only way to find deep rest is by escaping all of your problems with an extended beach vacation. This one is sometimes a little trickier to spot, because there can be true and deep rest that occurs on a vacation, and sometimes that is truly just what the doctor ordered! However, I believe this becomes a problem when those of us who can’t afford in either time or money what it would cost to take such a trip, become discouraged and even somewhat bitter and feel that deep rest is just not available for us.
This is false! Deep rest is available to all of us no matter our work schedule, our income bracket, or our home responsibilities.
So let’s dive into the two different types of rest and when each is most appropriate!
So what is active rest and is it actually restful? To the second question, yes. And to the first, I believe, and am backed up by different productivity techniques, that rest is not always a stopping of action, but sometimes is rather a changing of pace or activity. For example, lets say that you have been deep cleaning your bathroom for the last 30 minutes, instead of kicking your feet up and reading a good book when you are finished which can tend to stop all forward motivation for many of us, you can instead choose to switch to a chore or activity that you enjoy doing for a shorter increment of time, such as sitting down for 10 minutes to reply to business emails. (Just be sure that you hold to whatever time limit you set to be sure that this is a true rest period and not another black hole of endless working.)
This principle can look different depending on the period of time that we are resting. If we are resting during our period, then we can choose more inward focused activities such as planning and journaling, or reviewing and assessing. If we are resting for a day of the week, we can choose to focus on creating things that we enjoy but that isn’t urgent and therefore doesn’t get our attention during the rest of the week. If we are resting during the day, then it often looks like changing from a mental to a physical task or vice versa.
There are times however, when we are Just. So. Tired!!! Our brains are whirring away, our feet ache, the tears are threatening to spill over, and we are desperate for a moment of escape from the constant needs. This is the time for deep rest, and the time that our culture really encourages us to either give into that numbing out myth, or become even more discouraged that the beach isn’t at our doorstep.
While I do believe that curling up with a cozy blanket, a cup of hot chocolate, and a movie is a blissful way to relax and wind down some days (I am an enneagram 9 after all!), as I have already said, I believe that the way that our culture frames this actually does more harm than good.
I believe that deep rest is not something that just distracts us for an hour or two or more, but something that refreshes us and makes us even more fit to handle the big things in our lives!
So what counts as deep rest? Well, that is different for each of us! For me, I feel deeply rested and refreshed when I take the time to read a good book, journal, write down one of the stories that is always swirling around in my head, tackle a sewing project, or even do some house projects without my kids interrupting me every 5 minutes. (It is amazing how restful de-cluttering the toy box can be!) Each of these activities renews my energy and my motivation, and I always come away from them with a smile on my face and so much more grace for those around me. For you, deep rest might look like a long soak in the tub, a jam session on your favorite instrument, a dance break, or a much needed nap!
Because I know how easy it is to revert to those binges or social scrolls when we have a few minutes, I have a little activity for you. Right now, I encourage you to pull out a notebook and make a list of 5 Active Rest activities and 5 Deep Rest activities for yourself. Now, stick that list to your fridge, your computer desk, or plug it into your phone, wherever you will see it regularly, and whenever you find yourself with a few minutes between tasks, or craving some deep rest, you can pull it out and choose one item to do. Decision fatigue is a real thing and one of the top reasons that we give into the mindless Instagram scroll and Netflix binge, so this is a super practical way to set yourself up for success!
A bonus to incorporating this rhythm into your life is that you teach your children how to rest well too! This life that we live doesn’t stop with us. Our values and our habits are passed on to our children, and there are few things that will be more valuable to them and to you, than knowing how to rest well in this crazy world!