I used to think I was great at resting. Seriously – I watched a lot of TV, read a lot of books just for fun, and grabbed naps whenever I could. What I have learned over the past year is that I was great at go, go, going until I crashed, which is when I would do all that “resting.”
We all need rest. How much we need varies from person to person, but we all need it. We live in a culture that puts a lot of emphasis, identity, and worth on busyness and productivity. The more we do, the more crammed our calendars are, the more money we make, the more important we feel. So we spend more time in our cars then we do at home. We listen to that little voice inside our heads that says we only matter is we’re DOING something.
What that attitude creates though is not just more success but also more depression, anxiety, physical illness, stressed families, stressed marriages – stressed people!
Over the past year, I have been working with my naturopath to recover from adrenal fatigue. It has been a rough year. It involved taking a lot of supplements, radically changing my diet (which was good since it was mostly pizza and ice cream anyway), and most importantly – RESTING. That was so hard for me to do. I wasn’t allowed to work out like I was used to (really I wasn’t supposed to at all, and I didn’t have much energy to anyway), I had to say no to more things, and even a “normally” scheduled day would completely overwhelm my body.
The year before my adrenal fatigue diagnosis I was spending a lot of time doing nothing. I struggled to follow through on anything, struggled to get stuff done around the house, and was napping all the time. I didn’t choose that. It was literally all I could do. That’s not rest. That’s burnout.
Learning how to rest means listening to your body, and then being okay when it tells you to stop. Learning to rest means evaluating what you already have going on in your life before you say yes to a new commitment. Learning to rest means resting before the burnout happens.
Here is how that looks for me now: today I started to do a workout. It wasn’t going to be super strenuous, and thankfully my adrenal fatigue is slowly healing so I am allowed to do more than I was six months ago. Two minutes into the workout, I could tell my body was like, “Nope! I do not want to do this. I can’t handle this today!” A year ago I would have pushed through that workout, and then had to spend much of the afternoon napping to recover from that choice, or I would have quit and then beat myself up all day that I couldn’t do it. Today, however, I stood up, turned off the computer, drank some more water, and got ready to continue my day – guilt and shame free.
I listened to my body, and rested.
Rest can look like different things for different people. There is active rest where you are doing something you truly love that fills you with joy and brings a sense of emotional rest like playing golf, swimming laps, yoga just to name a few. Then there’s what we typically think of as rest like taking a nap, reading a book, or watching TV. Your version of rest doesn’t need to look like anyone else’s, and it might not even look the same from day to day, but you do need it.
One of the sayings I like the most that illustrates this is, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” I would add to that, “and try not to let the cup get empty in the first place.” There are times in life where events outside our control drain our cup faster than we can fill it. We will get burned out. That’s okay. There’s no shame in that! But if we are letting our cup get empty in our day to day life, can you imagine how much harder those tragic times are going to be?
What fills your cup? Maybe you need to look at your Happy List again! Maybe this takes some mental, emotional, and spiritual growth on your part, because the thought of having permission to rest feels really overwhelming, or off putting to you. If that’s the case, I recommend asking yourself where you learned it wasn’t okay to rest. That’s a great therapy question, and can help you identify the root belief driving your behavior. And then start small. No one is great at anything overnight. Pick one thing that sounds restful to you, and schedule it in that overwhelming schedule of yours. That’s right – sometimes the most Type A people need to schedule their rest or it will never get done!
I don’t have this all figured out yet. This is an area in which I’m still growing. I fail at it all the time, but the times I get it right feel amazing. It feels good to take care of yourself! Once your cup is truly full, you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish!
So what fills your cup? What’s the hardest thing for you about engaging in true rest in your life? Let me know in the comments!