When we resist rest

When being ‘switched on’ feels more comfortable than resting: Why we might experience resistance to rest.

We live in a culture and society that hardwires us for busyness and distraction. How often do you hear yourself say “I’ve got so much to do, I can’t stop”, or “Just let me finish this one thing and then I’ll take a break”? How often do you eat lunch on the run or with your food in one hand and technology in the other, for example? When we’re in the habit of ‘doing’, even though all the doing can wear us out, it can also feel like a more familiar state in our body.

Today’s modern lifestyles has tasks, people and technology competing for our attention through the lens of our perceptions of obligation, responsibility, and beliefs, reinforced by our family, community, the work we do, economic reasons or other factors. Yet being constantly ‘switched on’ can create a dysregulated nervous system response in our body.

Rightly or wrongly, being in a constantly hyper-aroused state rather than regularly scheduling breaks to rest and recharge, creates a stronger habit, that is rewarded. Sometimes the more we do, the more it feels familiar to our nervous system and the more our mind recognises this as a ‘safe’ place for us to operate.  Whether it is or not, the brain, in response, creates a cocktail of feel-good hormones to support the dominant behaviour. So, even though this ‘habit’ may be unhelpful to us, when we counter this with the process of stopping, slowing down or doing nothing, it can feel really uncomfortable at first. And as humans, we resist the uncomfortableness.  Have you ever felt a little lost without your smartphone, for example?

We are cyclical in nature and run best when we are in sync or tuned into the natural rhythms and flow our body and nature.

As human beings, we are designed to ebb and flow with the cycles of life during the day and night. How do we find a balance with this and take rest, when behaviourally we’ve become compelled to fill every single moment? 

I know personally that the busier I get, I come up against my own sense of resistance to pause and rest. Years ago, I would have ploughed through, ticking off more of the boxes on the to-do list. I now know that when I ramp up, finding ways to consciously create downtime are really important. It helps me maintain a sense of balance and nervous system regulation, so that I can stay on a more even keel, sleep better, be able to meet the busy days well and (hopefully) be a better person to be around.

Some Suggestions

Rather than filling up every waking moment, and in some cases depriving ourselves of sleep, how can we bring ourselves back to the present moment to create more downtime and not resist the need to rest?

Here are some ways to help reset the nervous system and create supportive habits to rest:

  • Identify what our signs are that we need to pause and rest.
    For example, it might be recognising that our breathing is shallow and centred in the upper chest, or that we’re getting really tired or a bit irritable with those around us.
  • Ask ourselves some questions that can be useful for breaking that present cycle of thought, feeling, and emotion.
    For example, what’s going on for me right now? What’s happening here? What’s the most useful thing I can do to change my state right now?
  • Pause to take several deep belly breaths.
  • Get up from what we’re doing and taking a brief break in nature, looking out, up & around me.
  • Pause and do a grounding exercise, for example, the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise.
    What are:
    • 5 things I can see?
    • 4 things I can touch?
    • 3 things I can hear?
    • 2 things I can smell?
    • 1 thing I can taste?
  • Do something creative that occupies your mind in a completely different way and gives your brain some balance.
    Currently for me this is learning a musical instrument and returning to sewing.
  • Make a plan to rest and then put it into action. 

My intentional rest and stillness sessions offer dedicated time to foster a deep-felt sense of relaxation to counter a busy life and actively create downtime.

If you’re ready to rest and find a deep sense of calm and stillness, to feel restored, rejuvenated, and ready for life, join me. You can find more details about the sessions and times below.

And a final thought. Rather than resisting rest, how can we foster ‘rest as a resistance’ to our current way of ‘doing’ life?

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When we resist rest

When being ‘switched on’ feels more comfortable than resting: Why we might experience resistance to...