Whenever I suggest to my clients or to my friends that they should rest more, I tend to get the same answer I give when someone tells me I should slow down: I just don’t have the time, there are not enough hours in the day and I do sleep enough (ish) hours at night.
Although, I have no doubt my clients believe it, I absolutely know that it is not true. All I need to do is to look at my life for evidence. You might now think: But I REALLY don’t have the time! Let me ask you this: Do you go to the toilet? Do you watch any TV? Do you spend any time on social media? Do you read the newspaper? Do you talk to friends and family on the phone? Do you take the rubbish out? Do you do the laundry? Do you cook? Do you eat? If you answered yes to any of the questions, then I can happily inform you that you do have time to rest and that you might be able to do so while doing some of the things listed above.
There are different ways to rest and resting while awake is really important to our overall well being and interestingly it improves our sleep. If you had a bad night sleep or if you are feeling unwell, then an afternoon nap can be very restorative, but if that is not an option or you are not feeling sleepy, here are other ways to rest your body, mind and soul.
Sitting down with or without a cup of tea is a good start. Ten to fifteen minutes should do the trick if you can stay off screens, books and radios and instead use the time for a quiet contemplation or meditation. Going for a walk, preferably in the nature or at least a garden, is very restorative, but sometimes even just a bit of fresh air or change of scenery can refresh the mind. Mindfulness meditation while doing simple tasks like washing up or hoovering, is shown to help consolidate memories and life experiences, clearing mental fog and reenergising the mind. Simple breathing exercises while going to the toilet and body scan to release tensions can make a lot of difference if done regularly throughout the day.
Repetitive exercise that does not push us to the limit can also be helpful, good examples are running (especially in nature), swimming, cycling, yoga (if you know what you are doing) and brisk walk.
Research has shown that it is better to have a little bit of rest every day than a lot of it in one go once a week. Waiting for the weekend or the holidays is therefore not the best option.
If you are a new parent or even of a toddler, having a rest probably seems to be completely impossible. As a single and stay at home mum, let me assure you it really is possible, albeit it admittedly takes a little discipline (for you, not the child) and prioritising.
With a newborn, rest when you are feeding, look at your baby and let go of any particular train of thought, let your thoughts come and go without going into their stories, just keep coming back to your baby’s face. When baby is asleep, whether on you in a carrier or in the cot, you can use some of the ways I described earlier to take a rest. You can certainly take a nap while baby does or take your little one for a walk in the park.
Once they are on the move and trying for greater independence, use their nap time effectively. Instead of endlessly scrolling on social media or watching TV, use at least 15 mins to rest properly, sit down in a quiet space and meditate. If you have an older child that does not nap, have them join you. You can even do it with your partner. Meditating with one or more people can actually make it easier and more powerful and facilitates better connection, something many new parents can always do with. Bit of a silent cuddle with your partner without the TV on while your bubs sleeps can be very healing too.
Resting really is not complicated and it does not need to take long. A minute few times a day is much much better than nothing. If you take your time to breathe as seriously as smokers take their time to smoke, you’ll be a master rester. From personal experience, I can safely say that I am a better person, a better partner and certainly better parent when I am rested. I also tend to be more creative and productive. What’s there not to like about rest? What it does take is discipline, it is not going to work, unless you take it seriously and make it a priority. If you’d like to become and remain well and healthy, physically, mentally and emotionally, I suggest that you take rest seriously indeed. Write it into your diary if it helps, set up reminders on your phone if you must, put up sticky notes, arrange daily lunch time walk with your friend, sell your TV, do whatever it takes to make time to rest. Your life literally depends on it.