The power of rest
I have just returned to the Practice after 2 weeks leave visiting family in the UK and attending a trauma conference in Belfast…oh and catching COVID (of course) to keep things interesting! It didn’t quite go as planned, thanks to the COVID bit, but it was amazing to go on a plane again (something I used to take for granted) and even more splendid to go back to England and see people and places that are so special to me. I took a really hard-line with myself and the degree of contact I was intending to have with the Practice and everything that might need tending to while I was away. I had communicated my leave with my clients (obviously) and spent time with them to make sure we had a plan for while I was away. The same went for the amazing team of therapists who also work at Thea Baker Wellbeing (TBW), as well as the administration team headed by Alicia. So before I headed off I’d done everything within my abilities to ensure that everyone and everything would run like clockwork while I was away which I knew would be an important part of allowing myself the rest I needed.
And then I rested. And I was forced to do extra resting thanks to COVID. And it gave me time to think about rest and honestly how cool it is. So, my first blog back is about rest.
You see, the human body is designed to thrive on a series of short sprints. It definitely wasn’t designed for a pandemic, lockdowns, working from home and the associated isolation for social support. Rest – whether in the form of short breaks or longer periods of time off work, leave, holidays are vital to promote mental health, boost creativity, increase productivity, promote wellbeing, reduce stress, improve mood, and revitalise relationships. We’re all unique individuals. That is the foundation of my work – appreciating the individual difference and working with that difference – so finding our own rest ‘sweet spot’ is super important (and after the last couple of years, probably needs a little reset). I know for example that I’m an endurance kind of human. Back when I used to swim competitively, I used to do the 800m and 1500m events in the pool and I loved the ocean swims up to 5km. I’m the person that just finds it kind of comfortable sitting at the almost point of vomit for lap after lap. So, it’s not surprising that I also tolerate working long hours and going for lots of days before having a good rest day. But I am learning how important breaks are and so I’m sharing my learnings with you this week.
We all know that stress is an intrinsic aspect of modern life. For some of us it can act like a stimulant. Chronic (long-term) stress though suppresses our immune system and increases our risk of disease. During stressful experiences we enter that fight-flight state of physiological arousal. Rest activates the other, counter aspect of our nervous system that helps return us to homeostasis.
Taking time off or away from our usual work and taking time to rest and relax allows the space to become more creative. Rest helps us to refill our reserves, and it literally allows us to experience increasing solutions to open-ended problems.
Just like with other muscles, our brain is less functional when it’s tired. We are always more productive and more efficient when we have taken some rest-time.
Rest improves our ability to make decisions. Long periods of working without a break reduces our concentration and can depreciate our emotional capacity.
Rest with purpose
Rest is more significant and helpful when we do it purposefully. Aside from booking a holiday, here are some little tips for being purposeful rest into our daily lives:
- Practice gratitude
- Take deep breaths
- Cultivate healthy habits (exercise, mindful practices like meditation and yoga)
- Practice good sleep hygiene (screen-time, phones out of the bedroom and a regular wake-up time)
What would happen if you gave yourself permission to rest more?