Several years ago, as I was learning about rest while recovering from a brain injury, I joked to a friend that
it will probably be my calling to teach people how to rest.
It was a funny joke because I was terrible at rest. Even now, after years of practice, I’m still not much better.
And that’s what makes the joke prescient.
This is how it works: we get called to teach that which is our greatest challenge.
I once heard it described this way:
Your pain becomes your purpose.
I feel like this is one of my enduring life lessons: giving myself permission to rest.
True, restorative rest.
As much progress as I’ve made in this, I often deprive myself of the full nourishment that comes with restorative rest.
In the time when we still went to in-person yoga classes, I’d often find myself racing to my favorite restorative class while thoughts looped in my mind and I berated myself for running late. The irony wasn’t lost on me:
Racing to Restorative.
It could be the tag line for the modern wellness movement. Rest and restoration as one more thing to fit into your busy life, another task for the to-do list.
7 Ways You Sabotage Your Rest
Not all rest is restorative. Reflecting on how I undermine my own rest, I discovered 7 ways in which I sabotage my rest and see others sabotaging their rest.
- Fighting with myself about whether I should be doing something “more productive.”
- Feeling guilty for taking the time to rest and truly do nothing.
- The pretense of rest that isn’t true restorative rest: scrolling my phone, reading, listening to podcasts, binge-watching YouTube
- Trying to do work on my phone while also resting.
- Using rest time as thinking time.
- Making rest a to-do list item and trying to squeeze it into a confined time frame.
- Not even trying to rest at all.
None of these are true restorative rest. But because they offer a pretense of rest, I tell myself that I had my time to rest, and pressure myself to get back to being productive, even though I’m really not restored.
It’s a common tactic: we try to put a timeline on healing or recovery and when the time is up we attempt to resume our routines even if our bodies aren’t yet ready.
“I can’t sit around and do nothing.”
When I ask people why they rushed back to work after an injury or illness, the top answer is,
I can’t just sit around and do nothing.
I get it. Rest is my growth edge. It’s uncomfortable, in a deep psychological sense. I feel indulgent, especially when I have so much to do, so much that needs to get done.
And I also am coming to embody a deep knowing that my attempt to be productive all the time actually undermines productivity.
We need periods of deep nourishing rest to spark creativity, to germinate idea seeds, to allow our bodies and minds to heal, to replenish our energy reserves.
I’m doing by best to let go of the guilt and truly embrace real, restorative rest.