In a culture so focused on doing, it is easy to forget that downtime is an important part of a healthy balanced life.
Rest is restorative. The import of this plain and simple fact is straightforward — to be well we need to rest. Yet, many of us treat the part of ourselves that values and wants to rest like a second-class citizen that demands too much. We shun, shame, and blame this part and accuse it of getting in the way of the all-important goal of achievement. But the truth is, we need this part. Without it we can’t achieve much because well-being, performance and achievement all suffer when we don’t rest. Time spent with your feet up on your couch or porch can be time well-spent, especially if you don’t beat up the part responsible for getting you there. When you respect and value your need for rest as much as your need for work, your mind and body can be restored to a healthy balance.
When we work and play and interact with others, we use up resources—fuel if you will. Engaging in such activities drains the tank. To keep running in tip-top shape we need to continually refuel. Running on, or near empty, risks harm to the parts that use the fuel. Just as we need to allow time to go to the gas station to refuel and service our car, we need to allow ourselves time to rest and restore, i.e. bring ourselves back to an unimpaired, sound and healthy state.
Some of you may have parts that are scoffing at the notion of allowing yourself to rest. With homeschooling, childcare, cleaning and trying to keep the income flowing, how can I rest? If I rest everything will fall apart! When you hear these parts, acknowledge them. They do have a point – parenting and keeping it all together during these uncertain times is extremely demanding. However, these parts are only focused on one aspect of the picture. So, after acknowledging the concerns of these parts, ask them to step back so you have enough space to consider the following question: What is the cost of not allowing myself to rest?
Lack of rest will deplete your parenting supeRpoweRs. The fundamentals (5Rs) of effective parenting depend on the resources of the fuel hungry upper part of your brain. Without sufficient fuel, access to the upper brain becomes severely limited and the lower brain – concerned more with surviving than thriving—takes control because it uses less fuel. When this happens your Regulation and your Relationship with your children will suffer. Your ability to Reflect and Rehearse – to problem solve, mentor and model and teach skills – will all be impaired. You will be more reactive and less responsive; more furious and less curious. In short, family life will get ugly and harder to manage. We are confident this is not what the parts driving you to keep going, and not rest, are trying to achieve. To avoid such scenarios, you will need to listen to the part that wants to rest and help it have a balanced relationship with the part that needs to work. You will find some suggestions for how to get started on this below.
General guidelines: This week try to focus on listening with respect to the part of you that understands the value of rest. Instead of pushing your need to rest aside and/or feeling guilty about it, work on recognizing and harnessing its value as a supeRpoweR. The benefits of this supeRpoweR extend well beyond parenting and are as important for your children as they are for you. Remind yourself of the restorative value that naps provide(d) for your children and apply the same wisdom to your own need for restoration. By modeling and teaching the importance of rest you equip your family with one of the essential tools they need to be sound, robust and healthy.
Specific tasks to try this week:
- Keep track of how much sleep you are getting on a regular basis. Adult recommendations are 7-9 hours but research shows that about a third of adults do not reach this level. Even if you can’t shift your habits yet, becoming aware of a need can be the first step toward addressing it. Remember – progress happens one step a time.
- Set an intention to take at least one 10 minute “restoration break” during the day. You can meditate, sip a cup of tea or stare into space — it doesn’t really matter what you do as long as when you finish you have a bit more fuel in the tank. The point is to replenish rather than deplete resources. Keep in mind that even though mindless activities like candy crush or solitaire on devices may seem “relaxing” they tend to be stimulating and use fuel so we don’t recommend device use as a restorative activity unless you are using a mindfulness or other app designed specifically to be restorative.
- Make a list of the activities that help you feel restored. Does listening to music help you? Painting? Going for a walk? What leaves you feeling more peaceful? Post the list in an accessible place so when you notice the need for rest you can quickly remind yourself of what helps. Try to get some of these activities scheduled into your day/week.
- Make friends with the part of you that likes to rest. If you’ve been distant and/or unkind make amends. Let the part know that, going forward, you will be trying to help it and the part that wants to work have a more balanced relationship.
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