In today's fast-paced world, the concept of rest often feels like a luxury we can hardly afford. Our lives are inundated with constant content consumption, digital distractions, and an unrelenting rush from one task to another.
It's time to explore the significance of rest, understand why it feels like an elusive luxury, and discover how we can return to it without guilt.
A Peaceful Memory
I remember my grandmother sitting in her favorite chair, nestled in the soothing shade of a massive tea tree in her garden. It was the hottest summer day, but she seemed content just to be there, watching us play. There were no smartphones, no rush, and no apparent agenda. It was a serene moment, and it's imprinted in my memory.
I grew up in Bucharest, a busy capital city, but I spent all my school breaks at my grandparents house in a small village in northern Romania. Time there took on a different dimension.
There were only a few cars and we played freely in the streets. We rode horses and were entrusted with the responsibility of bringing the cows home. That was my favourite part of the day. I would spend hours in a green vast field just watching the cows or finding shapes in the clouds. The stillness and quiet of the field, the smell of the grass, the slow movement of the cows grazing. Peace.
Have you ever experienced this? How did we reach this point? Why does it seem like such a luxury to simply pause and rest?
When being busy is a badge of honour & doing nothing is uncomfortable
Perhaps part of the reason why we need to talk about self-care and intentional rest so much, is the constant stream of content we consume daily. The digital age has inundated us with a never-ending source of information, entertainment, and obligations. Our smartphones keep us glued to a virtual world that never sleeps, and the lines between work, play and personal time blur.
As we scroll through social media, read emails at odd hours, and binge-watch TV shows into the night, we may inadvertently convince ourselves that we're staying productive and connected. But is this the case, or are we merely keeping busy for the sake of it?
Busyness has become a badge of honor in our society. When someone asks how we're doing, we often reply with, "Oh, fine, very busy. A bit too busy." It's almost as if busyness equates to importance and purpose. We like the feeling of being in demand, of having our schedules full to the brim.
In the process, we've come to associate rest with laziness or not being productive. Taking a break can induce guilt or the nagging sensation that we should be doing something more "productive." The idea of simply sitting under a tree, watching clouds, or simply being without a clear purpose can feel foreign and uncomfortable.
A shift in perspective
So how do you get to a point where rest is guilt-free, and as natural as breathing. Well first, we must acknowledge and understand that doing nothing is not an indulgence; it's as essential as eating and sleeping. Acknowledge that it is fundamental to your well-being, both mentally and physically. Understand that your mind is merely trying to protect you by prioritising whatever keeps you in your comfort zone.
Doing nothing is not not a waste of time and it's not selfish; it's an investment in your future self and in your wellbeing. Treat rest as an act of self-compassion, and know that by caring for your well-being, you become emotionally and physically more available to be of service to others.
As your body and mind adapt to this newfound perspective, rest will become more natural and less of a chore. If you have no idea where to start with this practice, join me for "Permission to Rest", a slow and relaxing restorative yoga session, every Sunday at 8pm. More details here.
When do you need to dig deeper?
For me, the discomfort associated with rest had a deeper root which I uncovered in a therapy session. I grew up in a family where hard work was highly rewarded and equated with love and acceptance. I started working at 14, and was always praised for being independent and the "most hardworking in the family". I've come to realize that when you're used to working long hours and constantly pushing yourself, it's hard to accept that you're doing enough.
If you find yourself constantly burnt out, exhausted, and find it very hard to shake the guilt, reach out and speak to someone. It's one of the best decisions I've ever made.