"Rest" and "self-care" have become buzzwords all over the internet and in our offline conversations. We talk about incorporating them into our lives, but we're still not very good at following through.
We take pictures of ourselves reading a novel, lighting a candle, prepping a bubble bath and tea situation, or laying in bed at noon on a Saturday, hashtag it #lazysaturday #selfcaresaturday, and call it good. But we're not giving our souls the kind of rest they crave.
WHAT REST DOES FOR US
Rest and sleep have such an amazing effect on us when we get enough of them! And the great thing is that we can start seeing results quickly if we change our habits now to incorporate more rest and sleep-- we don't have to wait weeks or months to see a difference.
Rest makes us more creative. Have you ever tried to create something when you're sleep-deprived? I know that when I'm low on sleep, I'm only able to run on autopilot. I can't generate fresh ideas, brainstorm, paint, design, write, or even dream. My creativity tank is on empty when I haven't gotten enough sleep.
But when I'm well-rested, I can approach my creative work with renewed energy and a greater ability to come up with new ideas and perspectives. It's only when I've allowed myself to rest and sleep enough that I'm able to fire on all cylinders.
Rest allows us to be more productive. I'm pretty much useless after ten pm. I can be present physically, but my brain is very punctual in turning off. If I stay up too late or have too many nights where I get less than eight hours of sleep (yes, I'm one of those people), I can hardly think straight, let alone think or work quickly or efficiently. Tasks take five times longer. It's a struggle to put the right words together to say what I want, which is a problem when my work is word-focused.
I'm recognizing that in order to be the most effective in my work, I need sleep and rest. My body needs to rest and my mind needs to take a break in order for me to come back and be able to give my work the attention it deserves.
Rest rejuvenates us and heals us physically. Have you ever tried to get back to your normal level of activity too quickly after an injury? I have. I thought I could just push myself a little harder and a little faster, maybe even skipping a little icing or extra stretching here and there, and it wouldn't do any real harm. I just wanted to get back to normal faster. I was impatient. Do you know what happened? You probably do.
I delayed my healing. Instead of skipping from square one to square three, I went back to zero. I had to start the healing process all over again. My attempts to bypass rest only hurt me more in the long run. It's still hard for me to remember that my body needs rest sometimes when I want to be going, going, going all the time, but I'm learning to embrace it because I only get this one body, and I need to take good care of it.
Rest and sleep give our brains a break. I need brain breaks. I stare at screens, answer emails, reply to comments, ask questions of my own, post messages and photos and articles and links, write content here, record videos, watch and listen to others' content, and that's just Tuesdays. If I don't get up and take breaks, my eyes start to hurt, I get distracted by the simplest things, I get frustrated about the smallest inconveniences, and I'm apt to fret over small details or spend too much time overthinking a problem that isn't even mine to solve.
One of the best solutions I've found for myself is to take a break to go for a walk. Obviously, this requires the weather to cooperate, which it doesn't always do. But I've found that setting aside time to get up from my chair, walk away from my computer, and leave my work behind for a little bit is incredibly freeing and refreshing. Getting my muscles moving also gets the wheels inside my head turning in new ways, granting me new creative bursts and fresh ideas.
Rest and sleep relieve stress. I sometimes find myself getting all bent out of shape because I can't figure out how to fix wonky formatting on a blog post or get my latest Facebook Live replay to upload fast enough to my YouTube channel. It's in those moments that my eyes are opened to just how impatient and high-strung I can be. So I'm choosing more often to take breaks when I reach that point (ideally before I reach that point). Then, after I've gotten the chance to calm down and gain some perspective about what really matters, I can revisit the problem and usually resolve it pretty quickly, and with a better attitude.
Rest and sleep help us perform at our best and show up as our best selves. Nobody wants to hang out with a sourpuss or grumpy gus, right? And no one wants to get paired up with the kid who never contributes anything to the group. I don't even think any of us want to be those people. But we are. Or at least, I am when I haven't gotten enough sleep. I'm more hesitant to step outside of my comfort zone, less likely to go above and beyond to help others, less willing to put in extra time or effort, less encouraging and motivating, and just less fun to be around.
On the other hand, when I've gotten more sleep at night and make time for rest breaks throughout my week, I'm much more flexible and willing to help others. I'm more likely to stop what I'm doing to answer someone's question, more likely to change up my schedule to go visit friends, more likely to stay for the second round of the game instead of making excuses to leave early because I'm tired. I'm more like the person I want to be when I've gotten enough rest. And that alone is a good enough reason for me to pursue it more.
PRACTICAL WAYS TO GET MORE REST
Now that we understand how vital rest and sleep are to our mental, physical, and relational health, how do we prioritize rest in our real lives? It's one thing to talk about how important it is to make time for rest, sleep, and self-care, but it's another thing entirely to set aside time for it between our dentist appointments, grocery runs, work meetings, and coffee dates.
If we're not careful, making time for rest can become just another thing to check of our to-do list. What's a girl to do?
Rest, sleep, and even self-care in general, look different for everyone, and they manifest themselves a little differently in various seasons of life. I talked recently about how we set ourselves up for success by approaching self-care through a lens of lifelong learning on a Facebook Live, and that applies to figuring out how to best rest and incorporate sleep, too!
- go to sleep half an hour earlier
- get up half an hour later
- take a 30-minute power nap
- go for a leisurely walk
- light a candle
- get a mani-pedi
- put your favorite essential oils in your diffuser
- take something off your to-do list without completing it
- take a snack break
- read a book
- try to get up at the same time every day (and go to bed at the same time)
- find great sheets, blankets, and pillows to make your bed cozy and comfy
- get comfy watching your favorite movie or tv show
- meditate or pray
- turn off your screens an hour before bed
- take a midday screen break
- put your phone on "do not disturb" mode
- practice 10 slow breaths
- call a friend
- turn on your favorite song
- go for a drive
- don't set an alarm
- have a pajama day
No matter what rest looks like for you in this season, I encourage you to make it a priority. You'll be more creative, more productive, more attentive, more patient, and more like the best version of yourself!
I'd love to hear about your experience pursuing rest and sleep! You can comment below, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or schedule a time to chat with me!