Somewhere along the way I was told that resting meant you were lazy. That practicing self-care in the form of napping or simply taking time to do something other than work or housework meant you were selfish.
I remember falsely thinking “It must be nice” when I’d hear people say they’re taking time for themselves to read, to learn a new language, to have a rest day. In my mind, as a mom and businesswoman, I didn’t have that luxury.
I was wrong.
Being someone who was always on the go, and being influenced by society’s glamorization of busy-ness, I found a certain satisfaction in having and completing a massive daily to-do list. As a recovering perfectionist who has a deep-seated family trait of martyrdom, I felt the need to do more, accomplish all the things, and do it all at the highest quality possible. And if I was human and – gasp! – fell short in any way, I’d feel less than stellar about myself.
Once the pandemic hit, I was forced to stop all of my usual things. The running around, the constant work, the busy-ness for the sake of being busy all came to a screeching halt. Having forced downtime, I was able to assess my life, look at my insane self-imposed standards, and create new habits.
And I’m never going back to those old ways.
I knew on an intellectual level that rest is needed, that days off are necessary. But even though I knew it, I didn’t practice any of that. I justified my busy-ness to myself, thinking I had zero time to waste on things like reading and relaxing. It’s no wonder that my health suffered, that my blood pressure was ridiculously high even on medication, and that my sleep was impacted. I knew I needed downtime but, when push came to shove, I didn’t treat myself with the respect I should have and demand I give myself time off.
Now, I’m practicing rest and self-care every single day. And I’m giving myself at least one day a week off – meaning minimal if any chores and certainly no work on that day.
What I’m finding is that there are different ways to rest, and some are more beneficial than others. There’s the type of rest that’s replenishing, and there’s the type that’s technically downtime but more along the lines of numbing out. While I definitely do both, I’m really working on the type of rest that’s more restorative. This means that, while I absolutely can be found playing games on my phone, scrolling Twitter, and watching home improvement shows, I’m trying to do less of these and more of what will bring on physical *and* mental relaxation.
Here are some things that I’m doing to rest and recharge:
*Lay down and breathe – In the afternoon, when my usual 3p shlump begins, instead of grabbing a coffee I’ll grab my phone and headphones and head into my bedroom. There I’ll lay down, set the timer on my phone for 15 minutes, click a super mellow playlist on Spotify, and close my eyes. Then I’ll just slow my breathing down and keep my focus on my breath until my timer goes off. Sometimes I’ll begin to fall asleep, but once I catch myself, I return to focusing on my breath. While you might think that this would leave me feeling groggy after the timer goes off, surprisingly it does the opposite. I leave my room feeling relaxed and recharged, ready to get back to work with a calm mind and clear focus.
*Read a book – So far this year I’ve completed 10 books, and it’s only mid-September. And I’m in the middle of two others. Vacillating between personal growth and business books (but aren’t they really one and the same?), I read each morning during my morning routine (which includes meditation and journaling), as well as many nights before bed.
*Love on your four-legged family members – I have two dogs. While they can totally drive me crazy sometimes (like, please, why won’t you just poop and pee in the grass and not on my patio?!), I feel so much better when I get on the floor and just love on them. Their unconditional love is a good reminder, and their smiles make my heart swell. While this might seem like a silly way to rest, there’s a ton of scientific research out there to support the body’s positive response to petting your dog or cat.
*Take a nap – When my kids were little, somehow I managed to get them down for a nap at the same time. And there was definitely a period when mama would zonk out with them. While those days my naps were because I was totally an exhausted mom, there are currently days when I need more sleep. I’m not talking about using sleep as an avoidance technique, because that’s a whole other topic. I’m talking about catching up on sleep on the times when maybe you’ve slept like crap the night before or you’re recovering from an illness. Intentional napping can work wonders.
*Snuggle with a favorite person – I absolutely love snuggling into my partner when we’re laying in bed. His arms around me feel so supportive, comforting, and make my relaxation hormones increase. As humans, we’re hardwired for other human connection. So if you don’t have a partner to cuddle up with, maybe you can sit and hug your child, your parent, or your friend. We all need physical connection, and this connection can be included in our downtime.
*Allow boredom to happen – When was the last time you were bored? Try this: Grab a softy blanket, sit somewhere comfy, and just stare out the window or up at the sky. Allow your body to relax, your thoughts to drift, your eyes to observe the beauty of nature. It’s amazing how nurturing this simple act can be.
*Grab a chair and go – Speaking of being outside, grab a folding chair and go sit outside. Whether at a park, in the desert, or at the shore, being outside in the fresh air and sunshine can recharge your spirit.
You’ll notice that most of these suggestions cost no money, and yet I’d say they have the highest value. It can be challenging to give ourselves permission to rest. But if we don’t do it now, our bodies will likely force us into downtime in ways less pleasant. Do yourself a favor and schedule some rest into your life each day. The benefits are greater than you’ll ever know.