Come Aside and Rest a While: Learning to Practice Rest to Combat Stress

restI am still learning how to rest. From trying to be “good enough” or the need to somehow be better or different from who I am. I’m still learning to quiet the noise that tells me there is never enough time or that I am perpetually behind on my task list. Still negotiating healthy work-family-rest boundaries in this season of life. When I am reading or writing I can rarely sit completely still; my body rocks back and forth. Somehow this movement permits my mind to focus on more contemplative tasks. Rest can be hard.

Many years ago there was an unhealthy yet predictable pattern at play in my life. I would say yes to volunteering, strive to keep my house perfectly clean at all times, stay up way too late getting work done. Then crash. And for an entire weekend I’d be forced to cancel all commitments and lay on the couch recovering reading. I was sick but happy. Finally it dawned on me – what if, instead of crashing I learned to set healthier limits in my life, learned to actually choose rest, so that I didn’t have to get sick. Crazy stuff, I know.

I learned that if I need a weekend to lay on the couch and read that I can just take it, guilt free. Flu not included.

But learning to come aside and rest a while to combat stress is harder than it sounds on paper, right?

Parents chauffeur their kids to tournaments on the weekend (and perhaps many truly enjoy this!) or maybe, like my husband, coach or ref other people’s kids. And the week days are already jam packed with school and extra curriculars, homework and hopefully some family meals. When do our kids rest?

Even if we say we disagree with the notion that more is better and being busy determines our worth, our culture promotes a frantic, anxious, stressed-out mode of operation. No surprise at all that 75-90% of doctor visits are due to stress related complaints or illness and emotional stress is a major contributing factor to the six leading causes of death in the United States (source) .

Wondering how stress might be affecting different areas of your life? Use this free questionnaire to gauge your stress levels and stress related symptoms.

And yet, despite our actions I think we all understand at a soul-level the fundamental need for us fragile human beings to gift ourselves time to rest a while. And not just once a year on a beach somewhere where it takes two weeks just to begin to decompress.

I love Seth Godin’s quote, “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” A life like this surely entails rest. In ample quantity.

I have always desired, but somehow could not quite figure out how to implement, a regular day of rest in the week. Books and articles abound (I assume, I didn’t actually do a search) on the idea of Sabbath Rest but I have always felt frustrated by this expectation or ‘rule’.

If you are a church-goer or grew up in a church then you know that wrangling kids (of all sizes) into clean clothes, packing bags of diapers, snacks or quiet activities and getting out the door on time (and without yelling at anyone) in and of itself is anything but restful. Then there are meals and cleaning up and getting ready for the week ahead… seriously, I’m hard pressed to see how this serves as a day of rest for the vast majority of folks.

Many pastors wisely take Monday off as a day of rest but what about everyone else who shows up to volunteer or has to try to keep their little people quiet-ish through a worship service? They can’t just decide to take off Mondays. When do they get a day of rest?

In some traditions the Sabbath Rest begins at sundown Friday until sundown Saturday. Lately I have been contemplating how this might serve me well in my current season of life. I think I’ll shut down work by 5 pm on Friday and relax (in the past I used this time for writing or studying); connect with my family or climb into bed early with a novel. On Saturdays I love to stay in my PJ’s and putter with my coffee – technically I am still “working”: meal planning, budgeting, throwing some laundry in, and so on but at a leisurely pace. Nowhere I have to be. Braless. But if I have a Saturday where even that feels like too much then I can give myself permission to take the rest I need.

Obviously, what feels restful for me might sound horrible to you. Maybe you love to get up super early, while I am yet snoring, to watch the sunrise and head out for a yummy breakfast; perhaps you love to hunt, drive to the mountains for a hike, or spend the day volunteering at a youth shelter. And if it genuinely feels like rest to you, and fills you up, then keep going!

Maybe to pay the bills you rarely get a day off or your career involves shift work and unpredictable schedules. Where can you carve out bits of time for rest in your life so that stress does not destroy you? Focus on what you can do and not the limitations in your current life. Because remember, mindset matters and the way that we perceive stress influences how it affects us including increasing the risk of premature death (source).

A friend of mine, Renée, takes personal retreat days each month for life assessment and planning. Though I aimed for this last year (and mostly failed) I intend to take one Friday each month this year as an R & R & R day. A day for rest, reflection and reordering. A day where my sole (and soul) purpose is to pull out my Short and Long Term Goal Worksheets and my Values Based Spending Plan and to check in. A day to reflect on how things are going in my life and to rebalance where necessary. Some coffee and reading and delicious soul-searching thrown in.

This is yet another form of rest that will serve me well and honor my personality type (Enneagram 1, ISFJ); taking into account the personality types of your family members is important!  It is, as you see, not idle time really; in fact it is quite purposeful. But it feels restful to me, luxurious even. And will contribute to greater mental and physical rest or calm in my overall life.

But I also want more rest for my husband and my children – my youngest has headed to public school for the first time after homeschooling (a far gentler lifestyle, by the way) and she is tired. I have offered to her stay at home days but then she must catch up which can increase stress. We have seriously limited her extra curriculars so that she has time to sew and draw and watch Gilmore Girls with her mama on the couch. My older daughter thrives on more busyness and quickly becomes bored at home (I don’t know if I have ever felt bored at home); her ideas of rest look different from mine.

In 18 years with his school district my husband has taken only one or two sick days off and one of those was because he was sent home by his Principal. He is still learning to rest.

So we are all works in progress but the conversation will continue. I am unwilling to simply go with the flow of this burned-out, hyped-up culture I live in. I want to live with purpose, health & JOY and this requires learning to come aside and rest a while.

Krista xo

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7 comments on “Come Aside and Rest a While: Learning to Practice Rest to Combat Stress

  1. Hi
    I’ve given myself permission to go to bed after dinner on a Wednesday, to read, listen to the radio do my nails and go to sleep early. No worrying about chores. It means I only have to do 2 days before rest. It’s a semi sabbath ?

  2. I enjoyed this post Krista and the idea also of rest for one is not rest for another. I love putzing around the house on a Saturday. Those are my best days and a restful day might like light gardening, maybe lotion making, organizing a cupboard, definitely reading and basically doing what I want, without a schedule. (usually involving beauty or making order). The idea of menu planning is not restful to me 🙂

    It’s interesting, my personal retreat days which I’ve recently renamed personal planning days, because that’s really what they are, aren’t restful for me. They require a significant amount of emotional, spiritual and intellectual energy as I examine each area of my life. By the end of the day I’m tired out, but it’s so good and worth it. I love it, even though it’s a lot of effort.

    I just listened to a Rob Cast about this very topic, can’t remember the number, but you’ve probably listened to it.

    I’ve also struggled for the last couple years to set aside a day each week for rest. It was clearer when our kids were little and we did one day a week outdoors as our “sabbath” and we had routines in place for that, easy meals, supper out, etc. Now, we don’t have that cohesive activity and our kids have their own interests, schedules, social lives that depend largely on us driving them places 🙂

    Also, we once again go to church nearly every Sunday (we didn’t do that for years) which is not restful for me. And every 7-8weeks or so I don’t go to church so I can have a complete day of rest.

    I have been thinking a lot about this idea of regular rest. We’ve “lost” it as a family, but everyone has different desires now. But I know what’s restful for me and I try to do those things on a weekly basis- usually some combination of saturday/Sunday. Recently, Damien and I started Sunday coffee dates, where we find new cafes around Montreal. This is very restful and enjoyable.

    It’s a mixed bag for me right now. but I completely agree that we should have to be sick in order to give ourselves permission to read and sleep and lay-low. I regularly do this but it feels something I have to fight for.

    • Funny that you inspired me to take my R&R&R days as one form of rest and yet you don’t find yours restful, exactly. I have not listened to a podcast on rest so if you remember the name I’d like to know! Oh, wait, I just searched it and you actually did mean Robcast – I have never listened to him. Your dates with Damien sound lovely and I’m jealous seeing pics of your beautiful coffees:) Georges and I do work to connect but usually that means walking together when the weather permits (ex. no ice on the sidewalks). We used to have a glass of wine together but that’s out. We are heading to the city to see Jairus soon and will also enjoy a meal somewhere and someone else inspired me to pull out Scrabble some Friday nights. Woo hoo!

  3. We used to be very involved in Church activities…Sunday morning…then Sunday afternoon “home group” which entailed cooking and cleaning for a group, Wednesday Bible study and various “retreats” and mission trips. Many times the husbands would leave for the weekends for Mens retreats where they would be taught how to serve their families better…one time I was in teaching in Sunday School, in the nursery, and the men were going to be back that afternoon, there were several other young mothers there, and they were saying how exhausted they were and they were so looking forward to the husbands coming back….meanwhile my husband had chosen not to go and instead to spend the weekend helping me with chores around the house and hanging out with the kids… about 10 years ago we stopped going to church and for me it made life much easier!

    • Not all of our patterns or traditions are healthy for everyone that is for sure. Sounds like your husband is a sensitive guy:) Renée (who commented above) and family took a period off church and I take days off as needed… I do believe the community helps keep me healthy, though as I can easily move toward isolation. Have you found a community to be a part of? Did you walk away from your faith or just “church”?

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