By: Fredelyn Calla
What does “good” rest look like? Someone said to me recently that good rest looks like being energized, alert and excited. Is that how it really feels? If it does, I wonder if a lot of us question it or don’t feel we deserve to feel energized, alert and present, so we turn our attention to what causes stress. And when there’s too much stress, we need to rest because we’re overwhelmed.
How do you rest? Do you like to rest? Does resting or stillness make you uncomfortable?
A lot of therapists, like me, probably hear these two words a great deal: “I’m tired.” And those words are most likely met with a few responses, such as, “Oh, I hear ya!” or “Me too!” or “I’m sorry, how come?” Then there’s usually explanations or explorations as to why someone is tired, such as not getting enough sleep due to anxiety or depressive symptoms, having too many tasks and responsibilities to do or places to go in a day, or not having enough energy to last a day due to pain, stress, illness or debilitating physical or medical conditions. The list goes on. If it’s not our own lives or own worries making us tired, we can also blame the world around us, such as the ongoing pressure of our jobs or capitalism, the hardships of bureaucracy, systemic racism, microaggressions, and concerns about safety, money and security.
How does one rest from all of that? Let’s look at all the various ways one can rest, which does not only mean sleeping at night. If you aren’t, call/tell your therapist or find one immediately at inclusivetherapists.com or therapyden.com.
This one does include sleeping. Most of us sleep at night, or try to, because we are awake during the day for our jobs and our commitments to ourselves, our families and other people. Some of us sleep at other times when we’re not working. Depending on our schedules, whether we work in shifts, throughout the day randomly or if we’re caring for a newborn, an older or sick loved one, we live within a circadian rhythm. Google defines this as “circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. These natural processes respond primarily to light and dark and affect most living things, including animals, plants, and microbes. Chronobiology is the study of circadian rhythms.”
Whatever our lives demand, we naturally follow a rhythm. When that rhythm is off, it can become more difficult to physically and mentally handle stress. This is why a lot of us do better with a daily and weekly routine or structure because our bodies and our minds know what to expect and when. Nature, the seasons, and how all living things grow follow a beginning, a middle and an end. Leaning into what we need naturally helps us feel grounded and centered.
I’m also going to use this opportunity to plug naps. A colleague recently commended me on my ability to take naps and honestly, it was nice, yet a bit surprising. Who doesn’t like to take naps? I do know some people who don’t or don’t like to because their nighttime sleep will be disrupted. I completely get that. My family and friends used to scold me or make fun of me for my proclivity to take naps as much as possible. Scientists Lois and Steven James on a recent Freakonomics podcast said that there are ”real cultural differences in terms of acceptance of self-care and stigmatizing of fatigue… it’s not a weakness to need rest… we call this the alertness edge. it’s a cultural shift thinking of sleep as a strength.” I’m a firm believer in giving whatever your body needs when it needs it.
Have you ever experienced a few days, weeks or months of really stressful, sad or dark times and constantly feel exhausted, even if you’ve slept soundly for a good number of hours? I have worked with a good number of clients who have experienced grief and this is a continual complaint. When we’re experiencing grief, whether from loss, trauma or major change, good or bad, we may feel sad, lost, angry, and anxious. Our bodies hold on to those emotions, too. Sometimes we feel such when we least expect it or want it. We may feel achey or itchy, experience headaches, neck, shoulder or back pain, stomach aches and more.
Speaking of the mind-body connection, I believe this is why we need to be patient with ourselves and give ourselves time and space to adjust to the loss of our loved one, of our health, or of our sense of stability and security. You’re not lazy and there’s nothing wrong with you. The pieces will fall into place in time if we allow ourselves emotional rest.
To help you get emotional rest, try:
I believe this one is personal, cultural and political. The Internet showed me a variety of ways that people define spiritual rest. Below I’ve compiled a short list of various concepts that caught my eye while researching spiritual rest.
How would you define it? What images come to mind? Whatever they are for you, I hope that you not only give yourself what your mind and body need, but also time and space to contemplate this. I invite you to be still, breathe deeply, journal, create a drawing, painting, or collage, write a poem or story, sing a song or create a movement that speaks to what resonates with you.
- Solitude, not loneliness
- Being in nature
- Feeling confident that your loved ones validate you, encourage you and love you
- Letting go
- Setting boundaries
Last year, Dr. Thema, a minister and psychologist, tweeted, “Rest is revolutionary. Self care and community care are soul food. Dancing and singing in the midst of everything that pulls you to disconnect from yourself is radical. Spiritual practices are fuel for the journey ahead. May we restore.”
Nap Time for Everyone!
“Our Editors Share What They Want To “Keep” Post-Pandemic”
The Lost Practice of Resting One Day Each Week by Joshua Becker
The Nap Ministry