We’ve done a big disservice by portraying rest and relaxation as something you get if you work hard, can do if you get everything done by the end of the day or something you deserve if you are completely run down and burnt out.
Contrary to popular belief, rest is not a reward but instead an essential part of your health and healing journey (a.k.a. your life).
The old (often unspoken) rules say …
- You must earn your rest.
- You must demonstrate your need to rest and relax through excellent productivity skills or your failing health.
- A nap is ok but only if you are sick or exhausted.
- You can relax on vacation, 2 weeks a year if you are privileged and lucky.
The old rules go on to say that even if you follow the rules above, resting, relaxing and nourishing yourself is selfish. That’s why we call it a guilty pleasure. I used to reward myself with rest and relaxation too but now, all of my “guilty pleasures” have become my core self-care practices and I have no guilt or apology for that.
Saving rest for the weekends or relaxation for vacations didn’t serve me either because my body and brain forgot how to relax in between. It took the entire time I had saved for resting to learn how to rest again and just about the time I felt rested, it was time to rev up again. I didn’t have time to linger or marinate in the restful state I desperately needed.
There are seasons of life when it’s harder to find the time to rest so when I do have the time, I don’t waste it trying to be extra productive. I use it taking really good care of myself so I have the resilience to navigate the less restful seasons.
If you still think you don’t have time, or that it’s not worth making the time to relax, the stats below from The Mayo Clinic suggest that you don’t have time not to rest and relax …
When faced with numerous responsibilities and tasks or the demands of an illness, relaxation techniques may not be a priority in your life. But that means you might miss out on the health benefits of relaxation.
Practicing relaxation techniques can have many benefits, including:
- Slowing heart rate
- Lowering blood pressure
- Slowing your breathing rate
- Improving digestion
- Maintaining normal blood sugar levels
- Reducing activity of stress hormones
- Increasing blood flow to major muscles
- Reducing muscle tension and chronic pain
- Improving concentration and mood
- Improving sleep quality
- Lowering fatigue
- Reducing anger and frustration
- Boosting confidence to handle problems
Relaxing can also make you happier, more patient and creative.
THE REST MANIFESTO
(10 new rules to help you reclaim your right to relax)
I reject the unspoken rules, the old rules … so I made us new ones. If you too want to ditch the old rules and reclaim your right to rest and relax, here are 10 new rules to help.
1. Thou shalt read a good book or listen to relaxing music and enjoy a cup of tea before checking email or social media.
2. Thou shalt take a nap or a bath long before there is a check mark next to every single thing on the to-do list.
3. Thou shalt not wait for the weekend to rest or for a vacation to relax.
4. Thou shalt not apologize for resting and relaxing.
5. Thou shalt watch an episode of Gilmore Girls or go for a walk before finishing the dishes or cleaning up the house.
6. Thou shalt ease through hard days instead of pushing through them.
7. When people tell you, “No pain, no gain” or “I’m so busy” or “I can sleep when I’m dead,” thou shalt tell people to eff-off or simply smile and share The Rest Manifesto.
8. Thou shalt use free time to be free and not to catch up (and there shalt be no worry about catching up after rest and relaxation).
9. Thou shalt not compare productivity or busyness, understanding that it only glorifies the thing that is tearing us down and wearing us out.
10. Thou shalt relax and claim your rest as a right not a reward.
Please adjust these rules to fit your own seasons and lifestyle. Make them work for you, starting right now.