Somehow, rest has become something we are not supposed to need. If we do, we don’t want to admit it. The word has inaccurately become associated with being ‘lazy’ or ‘selfish’. But the truth is, rest is one of the basic ways we nourish ourselves.
If we don’t take time to rest, our body will put us down for a time by becoming sick. It is more productive to think of rest as what it actually is: a time for our body, mind, and spirit to recharge, reclaim, relax, rebalance and reconnect to what matters most to us.
Take time to consciously Rest
Here are five ways to consciously rest and make small, but impactful changes to your daily routine.
Recharge by unplugging.
We do not have an on/off switch – we recharge ourselves when we ‘unplug’ or disconnect from our electronic devices (TV, computer, and cell phone.)
Taking a moment for peaceful reflection (rather than reaching for our devices) gives us a feeling of spaciousness and our work is more effective without the constant electronic distractions that disrupt our focus.
In nature, the setting sun provides a wind-down time – blue light from the electronics disrupts this process.
Unplugging at least an hour before bed gives us the time to incorporate our own sleep rituals to prepare ourselves for bed, ideally at the same time every night. These may include a foot rub, writing in our gratitude journal, sipping Sleepy Time Tea, star-gazing, playing an instrument – anything that comforts us, with family or alone.
Reclaim the night.
Reclaim the night as the nourishing, peaceful pause that nature intended it to be.
Our body does its internal house-cleaning when we are sleeping. If we are up and active, we are disrupting the process and wearing down our systems. This is why statistics show that people who work nights have more health issues; and people who are sleep-deprived are less able to focus.
Prepare an inviting space that is uncluttered, quiet, and dark. Start by removing anything from the room that is not related to sleep.
If quiet is not possible, a neutral background noise (like a fan) is helpful. Studies have shown that light at night (LAN) is damaging to humans so remove anything from the room that produces light and close the drapes to shut out any outdoor artificial light.
Relax during the day.
Scheduling breaks throughout the day is better than working until we are ‘finished,’ because we are never really done – there is always more.
We may feel we will lose our edge if we are not working around the clock, but periodic relaxation is actually what keeps us sharp.
Since our breath is the connection between our mind and body, it is the number one way to relax ourselves.
When we are in ‘fight or flight’ mode, our breath is rapid and shallow. We can bring ourselves to ‘rest and digest’ mode by focusing on long, slow exhalations.
One way to reset our breath rate is to use a 4/7/8 pattern – inhale for a count of four, hold for a count of seven, and exhale for a count of eight – do this four times.
Rebalance overstressed muscles.
Restorative yoga poses are the gentle poses that are designed to let gravity help our body come back into balance.
Instead of sitting, lie on the floor in front of your chair and put your legs onto the chair so they are supported from the knees down. Open your arms out to each side for a chest-opening stretch and use the previously mentioned relaxing breath.
To relieve the stiffness and pain of ‘Tech Neck’ (strained neck, back and shoulder muscles from rounding our back and holding our head and shoulders unnaturally forward and down while slouching over our devices) roll over to your stomach so that you are lying prone (face down on the floor). Lift your chest using the muscles along your spine and feel the length in the back of your neck as you stretch the top of your head forward while reaching backward with your arms and legs.
Reconnect to what matters.
Nature is our ally, and a supporting presence we often ignore. We can go outside to take a walk, sit with our back against a tree, put our bare feet in the grass, or lie in the grass and watch the sky.
This quiet time helps us to reconnect to the peace, wisdom, and creativity within and around us.
To pause and reflect is to remember why we believe what we are working for is important.
Some things are beyond our control, but little changes can make a huge difference. By setting a conscious intention, we make time to recharge, reclaim, relax, and rebalance our body, mind, and spirit.
We can start with the one change that is easiest to incorporate into our routine and go from there.