I thought it would be appropriate to talk about rest this week, what with the holiday season upon us. Rest is one of those topics that we frequently forget to consider, and yet it is possibly the most important thing we can do for our souls and our bodies alike.
If you’re anything like me, you have often waited until your body crashed and your mind blew several fuses before you actually curled up to give yourself some serious rest. I used to think I needed to earn my rest, so I’d work until I was beyond exhaustion. Then, feeling quite deserving, I would collapse. Unfortunately, this collapse often involved being sick. It took a lifetime of this pattern and much protesting from my body for me to figure it out. (And I still repeat it on occasion, despite being onto myself.) Light-bulb moment! Maybe my body would like to rest more often! Maybe I could rest without needing a total collapse!
My husband has often teased me for being “extreme.” I admit, it’s quite true. I go full force, then full stop. I turn the burner on high, notice the food is burning, then turn it too low. I have embraced this about myself, and I have also practiced that odd thing people call moderation, in hopes of learning how to do it. Sometimes, it still eludes me. However, with resting, I am starting to successfully employ moderation techniques.
I used to think of resting as either sleeping or spending an entire day in a movie coma. Now, however, I have an entirely new definition of rest. Rest is actually anything you do/don’t do that allows your body to drop out of the fight or flight response or maintain an already present non-fight or flight status. This is my own definition, designed to help me rest each and every day.
With this definition, I remind myself of the importance of allowing my body to spend daily time using the parasympathetic part of my nervous system – the part that allows healing, rebuilding, and growth to take place. Like in all things, we need balance; a balance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic elements of our nervous systems. If you were driving your car in heavy traffic and didn’t have the sympathetic nervous system available to you, your life would be in extreme danger. The flip of that is also true. Too much high-alert, sympathetic nervous system living makes it impossible to heal and to feel contentment.
There are so many ways to rest when you use my basic definition. Anything that helps your body drop into rest and digest mode counts, which means that your resting style might be very unique. Knitting, for example, might be restful to you. To me, it creates aggravation. Crocheting, on the other hand, is something I find restful.
On my rest list is also listening to soothing music, breathing, listening to other kinds of music, reading enjoyable non-fiction, restorative yoga, gentle walking, petting my dog, drawing, creating jewelry, listening to various guided imagery recordings, getting a massage, and intentional resting .
I pick from my list daily. If I forget, I soon feel jittery and out of sorts, and slightly disconnected from myself. Your rest list might look totally different from mine, but I do encourage you to discover what helps you rest. What better time to consciously put rest into your life than right now? Life is not about striving, achieving, doing, and accomplishing. It’s about enjoying. Enjoying what? Whatever you’re doing, or whatever you’re not doing. This moment, right now, even if you’re sad, mad, scared, or happy, can contain the peace of just being restfully here.