What is Rest & Why You Need It

rest and relax to sleep - blog

You may have forgotten what true rest is & why you need it. Reconnect with rest for better sleep & a more balanced, healthy life.

Do you desperately need a rest?

I’m not asking whether you need a nap, or more sleep (though that could be true as well)!

I’m not talking about taking an extended beach vacation.

Just rest.

I’m also not asking whether you want to collapse on your sofa and binge watch Netflix.

Because I’m asking you about REST (not recreation).

Are you a bit confused about what rest is?

And, are you still pretty sure you need some?

What is rest?

To me, rest is a physical, mental, and emotional break from processing life. A pause from putting energy out, as well as a pause from taking energy in (on all three levels).

Rest restores your energy & well-being gently, without brute force or powering through.

  • Mentally, it’s where your mind feels alert, clear, and calm. (Similar to meditation.)
  • Physically, it’s where your body feels strong, flexible, and relaxed. (Imagine a great workout followed by a hot shower & a massage!)
  • Emotionally, it’s where your heart fully connects with another person, leaps in awe at nature’s beauty, or becomes absorbed in a piece of music.

Rest is a sigh of relief, when there’s no need for relief.

Rest is space. It’s being a human being. Period. No WHYs, no BECAUSEs, no apologies nor guilt.

Official definitions of rest include:

  • To cease work or movement in order to relax, refresh oneself, or recover strength (verb)
  • To be placed or supported so as to stay in a specified position (verb)
  • An instance or period of relaxing or ceasing to engage in strenuous or stressful activity (noun)
  • An interval of silence of a specified duration. (noun, music)

When should you rest?

I’ve said this before & I’ll say it again: rest is a DAYTIME activity.

Most people I connect with need more rest, any time and any way they can get it.

And, just as circadian rhythms help regulate our sleep, we can learn to create rhythms of rest that replenish our physical, mental, and emotional energies throughout a day.

For most people, there are optimal time windows for rest, which I talk about in the Sleep Academy.

That said, rest is still personal. What’s restful to you may be stimulating to someone else. When you need rest may be different than when I do.

And, it almost doesn’t matter what you do to rest. The very act of creating SPACE for rest & recovery—dare I say, EMBRACING the natural limitations of our humanness—is what matters most.

Why do you need rest?

When I was studying Yoga Therapy in 2015, one of my teachers said something that temporarily broke my brain.

He shared that meditation is something you do once your mind-body system is balanced. Meaning: being in a balanced state is a PREREQUISITE for the higher intention of a meditative practice.

This broke my brain because like most people, I was trying to use meditation to reduce my stress, clear my mind chatter, and relieve my anxiety. In other words, as a tool to bring me into balance!

If meditation was not the tool for that, what was/is?

The answer inevitably comes back to lifestyle. To mindfulness. To how our daily choices influence the state of our mind and body positively or negatively.

When we seek to “feel balanced”, what we’re seeking is the proper functioning of our nervous system. We yearn to shift from the “stress response” to the “rest and digest response” more frequently, more fluidly. 

We desire to spend less time, to go more shallowly into stress (sympathetic nervous system activation) so it’s beneficial for our growth but not detrimental to our health. We crave more time in parasympathetic lands; we’ve not felt them for so long! (Folks spending excessive time in the stress response may even find themselves diagnosed with burnout.)

It’s possible to recreate this balance starting with the body, or the breath, or the mind.

Since there’s so much to “undo”, and most of us have such small amounts of time, my preference is to combine the three. (I share some specific practices in the Sleep Academy too.)

That’s because rest is also part of the training your mind and body need to be able to sleep well again.

When & how will you rest?

Take a look at your schedule for the week ahead. Where is there space for rest?

What can you defer, delegate, or release to create some?

Sometimes just having open blocks of time can help.

And if this week is already booked full, that’s OK! There’s always a week ahead where you can be more intentional about rest.

Remember: rest isn’t taking a week-long staycation. It’s something that you incorporate into daily life.

Now, HOW will you rest?

For some people, rest is making a cup of tea and sitting on a patio, watching backyard wildlife. For others, it may be a walk in silence. Perhaps you sit, eyes closed, feeling yourself breathe. Maybe you pet your cat or toss a ball for your dog.

When you have a plan to explore, tell someone. (It could be me: you can always comment below or send me a note.)

Then keep your commitment to yourself, because when you do, so much changes for the better (including your sleep!).


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