I 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 weekdays are already jam-packed with school and extracurriculars, 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).
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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 extracurriculars 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.