It sounds like it should be simple, but most of us struggle to give ourselves the rest we need.
Our society does not condone rest, and many of us have built lives that don’t really allow for it. We have jobs and families and chores and errands and hobbies and social circles and exercise routines and … the list goes on endlessly. We keep adding elements that complicate rather than subtracting the unnecessary and simplifying. We discount the extreme importance that down time has in terms of our mental, physical, and emotional health. There is this sneaking suspicion that allowing ourselves to take a break is lazy, self-indulgent and frivolous.
It’s very hard to live healthily in a world where we feel the pressure to constantly produce, whether that pressure be loud or subtle. Think about it. If you took several days for yourself – not to travel, not to work on ANYTHING, but only to be with yourself and rest – how would that feel? How would you feel telling the people around you what you were doing? I’m willing to bet most of you would feel pretty guilty. Keep in mind you haven’t just finished a huge project or made a ton of money that “allows” you to take a break. No, you are just resting because you need it. End of story.
I recently accepted an offer from someone to live in a cabin rent-free while working for them part-time and figuring out my next steps. I’ve been taking some of this time to do inner work and reset. I’m letting my nervous system rebalance after years of working in chaotic, high-stress situations where I felt miserable and trapped. I’m also beginning to figure out where I want to go next – and what personal blocks get in the way of that. I’m not a patient person, and it’s taking more time than I would like.
I keep telling myself that it’s not my responsibility to produce anything in return for being here. That the space was offered out of the goodness of my boss’s heart, and that it’s okay if I don’t have everything about my business figured out and set up by the time I leave. And yet, there’s this voice of anxiety and pressure in the back of my mind, telling me how lucky I am to have this time. Telling me I’d better not squander it by “doing nothing”.
That’s how pervasive the propaganda of our world can be. I don’t believe I’m allowed to rest. I’m afraid, even, to rest. This leads to a never ending cycle where I cannot find clarity and true productivity in my life in a meaningful way. I always wished for some time and space away from the grind so I could focus and tune in to where I want to go next. Now that I have that, I’m so worried about wasting it that I can hardly relax. If I do try to let myself rest, I feel such guilt that it’s nearly impossible.
So how do we get to a place where we allow ourselves to fiercely prioritize rest? A place where we can tune out all the voices in our heads and those around us? A place where we can celebrate just being and not worry about doing – trusting that we are capable of handling whatever comes later? Letting ourselves be here in the moment now and letting go of the future?
It isn’t easy. It takes commitment to the knowledge that if you don’t put your own health first, everything and everyone else in your life suffers. It takes the understanding that anyone who doesn’t believe you should prioritize yourself probably isn’t worth keeping around. It takes the belief that you aren’t required to explain yourself or your needs, ever. You’ll have to dig deep and find strength. It’s challenging to combat a whole society full of expectations that don’t fit your priorities.
You can do this. The work starts inside of you. Learn to listen to your body and intuition. Remember that no one else is living your life. Why should they tell you how to spend your valuable time? You get the power of choice over what you want for yourself. Don’t forget that. You deserve rest – it’s essential to be the best version of yourself that you can be. If you keep depriving yourself, you’ll end up like me – totally imbalanced. It’s taking me several months to restore some sense of equilibrium to my body. I wish I hadn’t let it get so bad, but I’m learning now. Don’t make the same mistake. Sending you love.