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The Skill of Rest

Defining Rest

Rest can be defined as to “cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength” per the Oxford English Dictionary. Resting is not the same as sleeping. This is why it is possible to go to bed and have a full night of sleep and wake up not feeling recharged and downright exhausted. I view rest as an intentional act of restorative downtime to cope with the many stressors we face and to foster our mental well-being. Rest is such a vital practice but one that many of us don’t know how to pursue and often we feel like we do not have time to make rest a priority. Read along to learn about some barriers that may be getting in your way and for tips on how to recharge and rest.


Identifying Barriers to Rest


Fear of Judgment

In American culture, we idolize the “hustle culture”. We have a strong association with our self-worth and our productivity levels. We often feel that we must operate at maximum capacity every day to accomplish our goals as rapidly as possible. Chasing the “good ol’ American dream” while unfortunately running ourselves ragged. There can often be fear of judgment on how we will be perceived if we allow ourselves to rest. We may be concerned that others will view us as lazy, unmotivated, and lacking drive if we allow ourselves to slow down.


Guilt and Anxiety

If you find yourself thinking about how you should be doing something productive while you are attempting to rest, you are not resting. Be intentional in redirecting these thoughts without judgment. Extend the same kindness and grace to yourself that you give to others. Another common barrier to rest is anxiety. You may find yourself worrying about that rapidly approaching deadline or thinking about the long laundry list of tasks that are waiting to be done. You may find yourself going down the rabbit hole of negative self-talk due to this anxiety surfacing and even if you are engaging in a restful activity, your mind is not in it. Speak with a professional to learn ways to challenge negative self-talk and anxious thinking patterns. 


Tips to Keep in Mind to Practice the Skill of Rest


1) Identify and Honor Your Limits

Be mindful of your energy capacity limits. As much as we would love to be able to do it all, we really cannot. Identify your energy capacity for each area of your life and budget your energy accordingly. Your capacity may fluctuate day to day, month to month, or year to year depending on many factors. Honor that.


2) Be Curious and Become Aware

To begin to practice the skill of rest, you must first become aware of what activities restore you and leave you feeling refreshed. Explore various hobbies and self-care practices. Be curious about how you feel after completing these various activities. Do you feel that your mind is clearer or that you are at ease? Be aware of your thoughts and feelings after these activities and that will give you vital clues on what activities will allow you to feel rested. Need help generating ideas to try? Check out our blog titled “30 Quick Self-Care Ideas” for activities that can be integrated into even the busiest schedule. 


3) Focus on Intentionality

Intentionality regarding rest refers to allowing yourself to be fully present in the moment of the restorative activity and establishing healthy boundaries to ensure you are allowing yourself space to do so. Identify what rest needs to look like at that time and establish boundaries surrounding that need. For example, imagine you are feeling burnt out from work obligations and feel you need space to rest and restore your mind before furthering your work. Boundaries surrounding work to ensure time for rest may include acts such as silencing e-mails, requesting time off, setting an automated response for your email, leaving your work computer at the office, and more. Put your mind in the headspace of being intentional and being present during periods of rest. Don’t let yourself get caught multitasking and neglecting true rest.


4) Add It To The Calendar

The reality is while rest is incredibly important, we often do not feel we have time to allow ourselves to rest. When you factor in work commitments, child extracurricular activities, errands, and more, it can feel like there is little to no time to allow yourself to rest. I often encourage my clients to carve rest time out of their schedule regularly, even if it is just 15-minute intervals here and there to engage in a restful activity. 


Many of us live in a constant state of stress and the skill of rest is likely to be an ongoing challenge and will require intentional effort. If you need help honing the skill of rest and finding ways to integrate restorative downtime in your life, our counselors would be honored to support you. We strive to help our clients achieve balance and foster well-being in multiple areas of their lives. Feel free to reach out to us for a free 15-minute phone consultation to see if we would be a good fit for you!