The amount of time we have in a day is finite and consistent from day-to-day.
24 hours, or 1440 minutes. That’s it. Yet, we try and make the time we have stretch and bend to accommodate our never-ending to-do lists.
We see evidence and studies every day that tell us we’re frazzling ourselves with busy lives and the constant juggling of priorities. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, our modern lifestyles created an endemic of another nature, pulling us in many directions, leaving us feeling busier, fraught, worn down and time poor. It’s fair to say that feeling has been magnified against the backdrop of a global health pandemic and the change that has brought into our lives, with the drastic shifts to routine and habits and the blurring of boundaries between work, school, family and home.
Recently I spoke with a client who had attended a livestreamed rest session during lockdown. She shared with me the experience had been exactly what she needed at the end of a busy day, and she wanted more. It offered an opportunity to close the door and truly rest. But…
She said she’d been too busy to attend another session. It wasn’t the cost. Or finding the right space in her home. Or the length of the session (60 minutes). It was the time, or her perceived lack of it. She also shared that to get through even just some of the things on her to-do list, she was waking up at 4am and not going to bed until close to midnight. How, she asked, could she make the time to rest when some days she struggled to even find time to brush her teeth. I don’t think her story is unique.
We live a life that is at odds with the natural ebb and flow of nature. And we forget that as humans, we are part of nature and a larger ecosystem.
Think about the ebb and flow of the sea tides, the rise and fall of the day and night, the coming and going of the seasons. Our own body’s circadian rhythms. How can we find balance if we aren’t in tune with the ebb and flow of our own natural human cycles and needs?
With so much coming at us from all sides, it’s easy to just go to our learned default behaviour (habits) and knuckle down, focusing on doing what you need to in order to get through the day. I believe, now more than ever, we need to make a conscious lifestyle decision and step into a place of actively making rest as important as every other task on our to-do lists. Rest deserves some time, even a few moments, in the day.
I recently read a TEDX article by Dr Saundra Dalton-Smith that looked at the seven types of rest that every person needs and provides a fresh perspective on the importance of rest in this age.
“Sleep and rest are not the same thing, although many of us incorrectly confuse the two … We’re suffering from a rest deficit because we don’t understand the true power of rest.”
For me rest, unlike sleep, is a practice of deeply unwinding tension and ‘holding on’, in my body and mind, coming to rest in a liminal space. It’s a practice in discovery and curiosity and unwinding in a way that allows my body to literally sigh with relief.
Intentionally making time for rest doesn’t always have to involve finding a big block of time. It can be small, simple lifestyle practices that you do consistently.
Amelia Freer explains it well. She says,
“showing up for ourselves with consistency is the most powerful tool we have in our lifestyle toolbox. The best way to support our immune system, reduce our risk of ill-health, improve our energy or achieve any number of other goals is to consistently practice healthy lifestyle habits. These outcomes aren’t achieved by having the odd green smoothie or special powder, but by nourishing our bodies day-in, day-out, sleeping enough, moving regularly, managing stress and taking a proactive role in our health. The programme that is most effective is the one that we can stick to, not for a few weeks here or there, or months, but years.”
So, what small practices can you make time for to allow yourself to rest?
Here are some of my own simple daily non-negotiables that truly make a difference.
- I made myself a sincere promise that each day – whether for 5 minutes or 45 – I will spend time in nature, to get my feet on the earth. Being in and with the rhythm of nature helps to ground me and I feel connected to a greater energy. Very often, that will be first thing in the morning when the sun is rising and I can get the morning light into my eyes.
- I integrate a few breathing practices into my daily activities when I notice that I fall into a more adrenaline-based, unconscious breathing response. This most often happens when I’m sitting working at my computer, or when I’m driving the car. My breathing becomes shallow and based more in my chest than in my belly. So, to counter this I manually shift how I breathe. For example, if I’m in my car, I use the time when I’m stopped at the traffic lights to place one hand on my lower belly and with intent, on the inhale through my nose, I feel my belly move towards the steering wheel. On the exhale out through my nose, my belly naturally moves back towards my spine. When I’m sitting at my computer, I do the same, I set a soft alarm for every 30 minutes and again, place my hand on my lower belly as a physical cue for where I’d like my breath to travel to, and then inhale and invite the breath towards my hand.
- I stay on top of my commitments by being in charge of my diary, not letting it be in charge of me. I give myself permission to schedule time for pauses and rest.
- I quieten my evenings with gentle music and softer light to induce a more restful response in my nervous system. I bury myself in a good book, or something that I find quietly creative. I find people to connect with that lighten me.
- My intentional rest and stillness sessions offer dedicated time to set yourself up for the week ahead and to prepare yourself to show up in your life – all from the comfort of your own home or space.
- I find people to connect with that lighten me.
If you’re curious and would like to give it a try, I’d love you to join us on a Sunday that suits you.
I know life is busy, yet I encourage you to create some priority and space to practice resting in a quality way – creating balance and giving your body and mind a chance to decompress.
From this place of balance you are able to show up for yourself and loved ones around you in the best possible way. I would love to support you to find your version of stillness and balance through rest. So start small and rest well.