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Rest is one of the 7 Foundations, but back when I first wrote about the Foundations 101 series, I didn’t actually mention it. At that time, I was calling this foundation “Sleep“. Sleep is crucial for health, but it’s not the whole picture. So I’ve updated my framework to say Rest (with sleep being one type of rest).
The month of December this year is being dedicated to the idea of rest. This time of year can be stressful. Even if you’re excited about the holiday season, there can be a lot going on. Rest can become an afterthought. Let’s take a little bit of time this week to consider how we can bring more restfulness into our lives.
- Rest is recovery (today!)
- Meditation (coming Dec 9/18)
- Play (coming Dec 16/18)
- Boredom & Creativity (coming Dec 23/18)
- Reflection (coming Dec 30/18)
Rest is recovery
Anyone who exercises regularly knows how important it is to rest. You’ve got to rest between workout sessions, and you’ve got to rest between sets. That’s especially true in high-intensity interval training or strength training. Depending on how intense your exercise is, your fitness level, and your natural ability to recover, you’ll adjust how much rest you need.
The same is true in the mental and social domains of life.
When you are working or learning or doing anything else that requires you to use your mental “muscles”, you need to take breaks. These breaks allow you to
- recover to do another “set”
- process what you are learning
- integrate your knowledge and experience
- allow your unconscious mind to make non-linear connections – In other words, to be creative!
- return to your work or learning with more energy
On the social side of things, giving yourself time to rest after socializing is important for introverts. That is, in fact, a simple definition of being introverted. Introverts find that being social, even when they enjoy being around people, requires them to use energy. They must then recharge by doing something quiet, and likely alone.
Extroverts, on the other hand, need to make sure they have regular contact and interaction with people. If they are working on a project that takes them away from people, they will need to take time to recharge by finding a way to connect with others.
If you’re not sure if you’re an introvert or extrovert, this is a quick little quiz. Regardless of whether you identify as an introvert, extrovert, or ambivert, introversion and extroversion lie on a continuum – meaning that you likely are a little of both. No matter where you lie, being aware of your need to balance solitude and quiet with connection and interaction can help you to manage your energy. Take breaks when you need to rest and recharge in whatever way you must.
The point of rest is to restore your energy
Whenever you’re doing something that requires physical, mental, or emotional energy, expect to need recovery time. When you think of it this way, it’s only natural that you’ll need to sleep each day. Simply being awake requires a lot of energy, never mind all the stuff we do in that day!
The more driven, goal-oriented people among us will now be asking, “How can I rest in the most efficient way?” Which could be a fair question. It might also miss the point slightly. I’m going to shift the focus to, “How can we rest in the most effective way?” The point isn’t to recharge for the sake of getting more done. The point is to rest and recover after we’ve expended energy so that we can feel like our life is in balance.
Too much rest leaves us feeling antsy and unfulfilled. Using up too much energy, without restoring it, leaves us feeling exhausted and burnt out. Finding the middle path, and correcting when we swing too far one way or the other, leaves us feeling at peace and ready to take on the world. Or at least the stuff we want to do.
How to rest effectively
What you find restful is going to be a bit individual. I find writing in my journal to be very restful. I’m sure other people wouldn’t find it restful or enjoyable. You’ll have to come up with your own list, but I’ll give you a few ideas to get you started.
- talking to a good friend
- going for a walk
- playing a video game
- watching TV
- having a bath
Rest is great. Numbing is not.
This something I learned from Brene Brown’s work1. The same activity can be relaxing or it can be used as a way to numb and escape. Watching TV is a perfect example. You could find TV watching to be very relaxing and it could restore your energy. Or you could be watching TV as a way to escape some thought or situation and numb your emotions and mind.
This idea of numbing can be eye-opening. And frustrating. Once you know what it is, you’ll see yourself numbing. And there’s this very interesting point in changing your behaviours where you wish you never knew about numbing. Because you still want to do it. But you also know that you don’t actually feel any better after scrolling through your social media of choice for 3 hours. And yet you do it anyway. Been there. I still do it when I’m exhausted but I know it’s too early to go to bed (or at least that’s what I’m thinking).
The wrinkle is that depending on how long you do a thing, it could be numbing, or it could actually be restful. 20 minutes of a casual game on your phone might be the kind of break you need. 2 hours probably is numbing.
So the trick is to try a bunch of different things and figure out what actually recharges your batteries and what is just numbing.
We need to rest to feel our best and do our best (and to avoid burnout). Rest takes many forms, and what you find restful might not work for another person. It takes knowing yourself and what works for you.
Be sure to come back to the blog throughout the month to catch up on the other ideas about Rest. You could also follow me on Facebook or Instagram – or sign up for the email newsletter to be guaranteed to be notified as soon as the next post goes up!