How to Rest Well
When was the last time you rested?
I don’t mean binge-watching 4 seasons of your favorite show, although that has its place. Nor am I asking how many hours of sleep you got last night. I’m also not talking about a vacation to the Bahamas, (although if you have the opportunity, I’m not suggesting you turn that down). I’m talking about the kind of rest that you are intentional about, the kind you lean into and the experience leaves you feeling refilled, rejuvenated, and refreshed.
This morning I ate breakfast on my porch, which is something I rarely ever do. I gave myself 20 minutes to sit outside and do nothing else but soak in the morning.
And I discovered that I’ve been missing a lot.
Those flowers that I go out every evening to water? They’re gorgeous in the morning sun. And that hot sun that I’m so tired of after 100 degree temperatures for the last couple of months? It felt really good on my skin in the mild morning. The sky was so blue! The birds had a lot to say. And somehow my protein breakfast cereal (which is not necessarily purchased for its flavor) tasted a bit sweeter.
I discovered something else. Time passes slower. Twenty minutes can pass by in almost a blink when I’m running around, trying to get chores and errands done or trying to meet deadlines. But this morning I checked the time at least 4 times, thinking I must surely be late…only to find that there was still time left to rest. When I had the chance to observe the small things happening in my back yard, moving at nature’s pace instead of man’s pace, I was reminded that most of life happens on a much slower timeline.
You know what else happens on a slower timeline?
As a mental health professional, I’m always reading, learning about healing, and looking for new ways to restore mental health. If you asked me what soothes the soul from the pain of depression and anxiety, I would tell you that much of it comes down to two things: connection and gratefulness. This morning’s pause gave me a chance to notice. And noticing led to seeing the beauty around me and feeling connected to the world. And the beauty of it led to gratefulness.
As I went back inside feeling refreshed and ready to get to my task list for the day, I thought of one of my favorite memes.
It's a favorite of mine because it really illustrates what it means to rest well.
Rest is something you plan for. Something you put on the calendar and make space for in your life.
You plan ahead for how you’re going to rest.
And then you guard it because something will always be trying to take its place.
And as if to cement my thoughts on the subject, I then opened my email and saw an old Scottish poem that someone shared.
A Sabbath well spent brings a week of content
And strength for the toils of the morrow;
But a Sabbath profaned, whate’er may be gained,
Is a certain forerunner of sorrow.
The Jewish Sabbath was a time set aside weekly for rest. Those who observed the Sabbath put it on the calendar. They prepared food and necessities ahead of time so they could pause their daily busyness and be restored. And they valued it culturally, guarding its significance.
That phrase “whate’er may be gained” really stood out to me. What do we gain from all this busyness? Not health. Not joy. One of the best ways we can take care of ourselves is to honor our need for rest and taking a pause that allows us to get back in touch with the life around us.
This Monday many of us will have the day off work for Labor Day, a national holiday that was created in 1894 as an annual day of rest from work at a time where industrialization and the drive for productivity was beginning to overshadow the value of life. 128 years later, rest is still hard to do in a society where there are so many things vying for our attention and “busy” is the standard pace of life. I’m challenging you to lean into rest this weekend. Make space for it. Plan ahead for it. Guard it. And while you’re resting, notice. Notice what’s happening around you, and notice what’s happening within you.
I wish you healing and peace.