When you're a child, so much of what you do depends on what your parents tell you (which is always a cautionary tale for people who want to have kids). And what they tell you, it becomes a part of your foundation, your core. Spiritual beliefs included.
As far as my own spirituality goes, I grew up in a religion that honored the Seventh-Day Sabbath (DeVon Franklin is someone who spends a fair amount of time speaking on this very topic; he usually tweets about it on the actual day). And while I am no longer an Adventist ("disciple" is more my lane), I'm still someone who totally goes off of the grid from Friday sunset thru Saturday sunset. When I tell you that it is nothing short of a pure blessing? To have a full 24-hour period to just CHILL OUT is something that no job or anything else really has convinced me to compromise…ever.
One of the things I dig so much about having an entire day, each and every week, to relax is that it's taught me 1) how to better prioritize the rest of the week and 2) how to REST. A lack of rest is why a lot of us age sooner than we should. A lack of rest is why many of us are moody and irritable so much of the time. A lack of rest is why some of us stay anxious, worried, and totally stressed out far more than we should. (Everything from the common cold and headaches to obesity, asthma, diabetes, depression, and even Alzheimer's are directly related to stress, by the way.)
Mind you, I didn't say a lack of sleep. Sleep is just one component of rest. No, what I'm referring to is being intentional about seeking the kind of refreshment and refueling that directly comes from taking work breaks, disconnecting from the internet, and giving your mind, body, and spirit time to calm down…take it easy…let go.
I know that sounds super appealing. I also know its an epidemic how many of us don't have a clue how to really do this. If you think you might be the very person I'm referring to, here are some telltale signs that you and rest are not on the same page. Yet.
Silence and Stillness Make You Uncomfortable
I can't tell you how many men have told me that a sign of being in a healthy relationship with a woman is being able to just sit in silence without being pressured to say anything to her. While on the surface this might not seem like that big of a deal, the next time you're alone with your bae or even with a close friend, try sitting for 15 minutes (without any electronic device on) without saying a word. Once you do it, think about how it made you feel. If words like self-conscious, awkward, or uncomfortable come to mind, ask yourself why.
There are people I personally know who say they constantly have to stay busy because being alone with their thoughts unsettles them. To me, that sounds like they might need to see a therapist (all of us should at one point or another) because if you need to be distracted away from your own mind…something is definitely up.
My overall point is this—just like there is a time to talk and be busy, there is also a time for silence and stillness. How can I be so confident about this? Because one definition of silence is "to put (doubts, fears, etc.) to rest" (can you just imagine how draining it is to worry ALL of the time?!) and stillness itself is a spiritual principle: "Be still and know I am God." (Psalm 46:10) It's in the moments of quiet that we're able to meditate, re-center ourselves, and be OK with not having to have all of the answers or solutions. Silence and stillness are what help to bring us into this mind of mental, emotional, and spiritual peace.
Personal Days and Holidays Are Busier Than Work Days
Maybe if we lived in China (where lunch breaks are two hours long) or the Netherlands (where the work week averages out to be 29 hours a week), there would be no need to make this point. But in America, most of us work at least 40 hours a week. Even if we take a 30-minute lunch, we rarely leave our desk.
I recently read an article that said a 40-hour work week is not only not bad for our health, it's counterproductive when it comes to our overall job performance too. Their recommendation was companies should consider either going to 35-hour work weeks or cutting back to four-day work schedules. But until that glorious day comes, you should at least make a point to use your personal days to do more than go to the dentist and the holiday season to do more than clean your house and attend every party on the planet.
Aside from the weekend, if any days should be set aside for hanging out on the couch for hours on end, personal days and holidays should be. You've literally earned the right to.
Your Smartphone Is Your Bed Buddy
If anything brings forth the truth meaning of something being a blessing and a curse, it's our smartphones. I'll be honest and say that, at least when it comes to mind, I don't really use it to make phone calls (I have a landline for that); I use it because it's basically a handheld computer. That's both a good and bad thing.
A while back, I wrote an article on here about all of the disadvantages that come with treating your phone like it's a vital organ. It's not good for your health, eyesight, libido, productivity, level of empathy—and that's just for starters!
You know what else? When you're constantly on your cell phone, it's also a clear sign that you don't know how to rest. If even when you're in bed, you're constantly strolling through your IG or you're checking to see what the latest gossip blog is talking about, you're not giving your brain time to process all of the intel (or not-so-intel) that it already received throughout the day. This can totally mess with your sleep patterns. It can also cause you to wake up feeling moody and anxious; that's a horrible way to start off any day.
If you don't think your relationship with your phone is as bad as all of this, test yourself. Commit to one week of putting your phone in an entirely different room for the evening. If the thought of doing this already has you hyperventilating…well. See my point?
You Think “Relax, Relate, Release” Is Only a Whitley Gilbert Cliché
Anyone who's a diehard A Different World fan knows that "relax, relate, release" came from a counseling session that Whitley was having as it related to trying to get over Dwayne. When her therapist (played by Debbie Allen) told her to do that, I believe it stuck with all who heard it. Why? Because most of us don't do those things.
Another clear sign of not being able to rest is if you know you're a chronic overthinker. You truly don't know how to NOT make a mountain out of a molehill about pretty much everything in your life. You cough and you wonder if it's lung cancer. Your ex gets engaged and you're spending hours trying to track the new chick down. You don't know how to complete a weekly to-do list because you're too busy worrying what your life, three years from now, will look like.
Some people are so used to overthinking that it's no big deal. Oh, but it is. There are studies that link it to mental illness and the inability to effectively solve problems too. In short, overthinking makes things worse, not better.
It might sound flippant at first but relax (be less severe), relate (take a sympathetic approach), release (let it go).
I've done it for many things and the more I do, the easier it is to accept what I can do and let go of what I cannot. Doing both is what helps you to rest in a way that you probably never have before.
You Always Feel Like You Should Be Doing…SOMETHING
There's a guy I know who told me that one time he decided to go on vacation but, after a day, he returned back home. Why? Because he felt like—and these are his words—that he needed to be doing something; that just sitting along the water and reading a book seemed like a complete waste of time. There's another guy I know who is one of the worst insomniacs that I've ever seen. For at least the past 15 years, he's averaged 3-4 hours a night. He gives me that "I'll sleep when I'm dead" response (I've told him that, ironically, shortened longevity is a symptom of sleep deprivation). But I know for a fact that something both of these men have in common is they treat womanizing like it's an Olympic sport, so the counseling side of me thinks it's their conscious that's keeping them awake.
Anyway, even if you're not able to rest due to how you treat other people, if you are someone who feels guilty for having hours or even a weekend when you did nothing but binge-watch television or order in, what's up with that? Something that I dig about the biblical principle of the Sabbath (and the fact that even God rested—Genesis 2:1-3) is it's a reminder that rest is not a sign of laziness; it's a reward for working so hard. It's also a reminder that in order to do anything well, we need moments to recharge.
When's the last time you did just that?
You’re Constantly “Working on” Relaxing
It tickles me that, whenever I tell one of my Energizer bunny friends that she should learn to relax more, her response is, "Yeah…I'm working on that." Working on relaxing. Talk about your ultimate oxymoron. If you're so unaccustomed to not resting that it does literally feel like work for you to do it, try the following:
- Deep breathe
- Go on a hike
- Put some lavender oil on your pressure points
- Take a bubble bath
- Journal things you're grateful for
- Sleep in one weekend
- Drink some cherry juice (the melatonin in it is on point!)
- Forgive someone (no joke)
- TOTALLY UNPLUG. OFTEN.
People who are holistically healthy know that resting is not a luxury; it is absolutely a necessity. Love yourself enough to finally learn how to rest, with no reservations or apologies. OK? Good (for you).
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Originally published on March 13, 2019