It seems that every time someone tries to make plans with me, I’m busy. There’s always a work project, a kid’s event, a birthday, a networking meeting, a webinar, or something else going on that keeps me from fully detaching and just relaxing, with or without friends.
Doesn’t it seem that we have to work for our relaxation now? We have to prepare for it, plan it, and always be doing something. Americans are notorious for overworking and under-relaxing. It’s a thing. Bring it up to your supervisor (just kidding, that’s horrible advice). God forbid we just sit down and do nothing—we might be labeled lazy and entitled!
In Italy and much of Europe, there is a rest period between the morning and evening hours, often called a “siesta“. It adds quality time to your day where you can cook a meal and relax with family before you’re completely exhausted from the stress of the long work day. It means your bigger meal is in the middle of the day when you still have time to burn it off, instead of at night which compounds the effects of our horrible Standard American Diet (which is fittingly shortened to SAD). Seriously, who doesn’t want to take a siesta mid-day? I think I would be so much more productive the second half of the day if I could. Why did we ever stop taking naps after pre-school?
Quality rest is extremely important to our mental and physical health. Anyone telling you different is selling energy drinks or illegal substances. How to get that rest during the hustle and bustle is the hard part. So I’ve come up with my own little system that, even with my effort, I still often neglect. But like anything, I just have to keep trying at it.
Learning to Meditate
Yes, meditate. There is a saying by Buddha (actually I have no idea if he really said it, but the internet seems to think so) that goes something like this: “everyone needs to meditate for an hour, unless you don’t have time, then you need to meditate for two hours.” I love this saying because it highlights the importance of taking time for myself, and reminds me that busy isn’t always better—or productive, for that matter. I usually take 5-15 minutes of my lunch and just be mindful of my surroundings. I take my food and sit by a park, listen to the birds, turn off the radio, and just observe. For me, it’s about learning to be without having to do all the time. Existing is enough. Meditating reminds me of that.
Reading a Book
Legit paper and ink. The touch and feel of the actual book reduces the availability of distractions from my quality rest. When you’re engulfed in a story or a quality piece of nonfiction, your mind gets to break from reality while still learning. But if I’m connected, I just keep switching from app to app. I promise nothing that interesting happens on my Facebook page between chapters, but the habit of clicking around is slowly killing my sanity. Paper books don’t give me that option.
I Ban YouTube
I repeat: I BAN YouTube! The endless jumping from video to video is not relaxing for my brain, even if I’m listening to music. My body might be at rest, but my mind is working overtime switching from image to image, and overwhelmed with ads, so at the end of my”rest” period I still feel drained, and now I’m unable to focus. Double whammy.
Being a writer—even if part time—means that I’m constantly observing the world for nuances and anomalies that make for interesting content. Being able to shut out the noise helps my brain focus on the idea, and see it through to a point. Otherwise, I’m basically just shouting on paper. It doesn’t make much sense. The idea of rest paradoxically gives me anxiety, because I sometimes feel I’m expected to be busy every minute of the day. I, like many other people I know, have had to rewire my brain to understand that rest is simply part of the process of success.
Basically everything that I do to unwind involves turning off the electronics. Music is fine, conversation is fine, but I’ve found that just being alone and embracing boredom is not so bad. At first, sitting with my thoughts and just letting them happen was terrifying, and I think it is for a lot of others as well. After forcing myself to practice this, though, I found that simply existing in my own mind was kind of fascinating. There’s a lot going on in there, and if I can quiet my monkey brain for a few minutes, I end up learning a lot about patience, and end up with wonderfully creative ideas.
This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on rest from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.