Good Rest is Good For Us

Reflections on REST as a Component of Good Health

A client recently summed up her over-all health by saying, “I feel like a hamster on speed in a wheel that’s on fire!” This woman’s colorful description mirrors how so many of us feel in today’s crazy-busy world.

For anyone who is like me and has often half-jokingly remarked that they need a vacation to recover from their vacation, the lesson we need to learn is that there is no substitute for a good rest—that is, a rest that refreshes and rejuvenates your body, mind and spirit.

Stress is not an option.

If you feel this way, you need to get some rest.

Rest—proper rest, and the permission to act on it— seems to be a forgotten component of good health.

Our culture sends mixed messages about rest. On one hand, it is a cultural convention for a hostess to inquire of her overnight guests, “Did you sleep well?” The question implies that restful sleep is somehow desirable, and yet, the question is largely rhetorical, since most of us are woefully unprepared to do anything to improve the quality of sleep for our guests besides offering a pharmaceutical sleep aid.

On the other hand, have you noticed how insomniacs are often celebrated in our culture as the most productive members of society? These are the people who can hold down a full-time job and write a best-selling novel with the time they’re not “wasting” in sleep.  The thinking here is that since we get to rest in peace once we’re dead and buried, in order to be productive, we must work constantly the entire time we’re alive.  I recently heard a well-meaning grandfather make the comment, “If I take a nap, I might miss something.” Unfortunately, his pre-school-aged grandkids overheard him and began to echo the sentiment.

Rest has no room in today’s workplace, either. We work right through our breaks and meals—and then brag about it. Our employers celebrate as model employees those who never use their personal leave days or vacation time. Or society rewards those who go, go, go—all the time, non-stop. The hamsters on speed in the wheels on fire are the heroes among us. We obsessively use drugs like caffeine to artificially push ourselves beyond our natural limits. And then we wonder why our lives are so incredibly stressful…and why we are not enjoying good health.

We’ve forgotten that the human being has a natural biological rhythm of activity and rest that allows our bodies and minds to function optimally. Numerous scientific studies have shown that sleep deprivation diminishes mental performance. We know that stress and sleeplessness go hand-in-hand, and science has proven to us over and over again that chronic stress and sleep loss hastens the onset of aging and chronic disease. When will we wake up to the realization that good rest is good for us?

Change Your Perspective and Get a Good R.E.S.T.

Giving ourselves permission to rest regularly and properly can help avoid the physical and mental exhaustion that so often plagues our lives. One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is the gift of rest. Honoring our need for rest by restoring and rejuvenating our bodies, minds and spirits contributes to our whole-person wellbeing. If you want to enhance your over-all quality of life, give yourself permission to rest—regularly and right.

Resting “right” has everything to do with our perspective of rest. Resting properly, or right, means viewing rest as a positive thing, not as the remainder or the leftovers, or the thing you finally get to do after you die, but as part of the natural and necessary rhythm of life. As a culture, we need to learn to value the time we spend not working as “up-time,” rather than “down-time.”  I can’t change our culture overnight by myself, but I can change my personal perspective.

To help me begin thinking of rest as “up-time,” for the betterment of my own overall health, I came up with some words the letters R, E, S and T could stand for: Regular Elimination of Stimuli and Tension. This mnemonic helps me remember to keep the idea of rest in a positive perspective.

  • Regular – I do my best to honor a regular bedtime and wake-up time, so my body can depend on its own natural biorhythm. This also gives my body’s physical systems the time they need to rest and recharge.
  • Elimination– I consciously act on ways of shutting out unnecessary stimulation and tension in your life. I’m getting better at saying “No, thank you” to invitations that interfere with my regular sleep schedule. I look for ways to block out light and noise in the bedroom, and I look for ways to create peace wherever I go.
  • Stimuli– Knowing what activities and foods can stimulate my brain and body and counteract my sleep cycle helps me  avoid things like too much TV, exercising too late at night, caffeine after 7 pm.
  • Tension– Emotional upheaval makes my mind and body tense. When I’m tense or upset emotionally, I can’t sleep well. I do my best to defuse interpersonal tensions in my life and create peace in all my relationships, but especially before bed. There is profound wisdom in the advice, “Don’t go to bed angry.”

The time I spend resting is up-time for me because it raises the quality of my life. By remembering to R.E.S.T. regularly and right, I can improve the quality of my own life, and hopefully set a positive example for others. I hope you, too, can learn to rest well.

 

 

Rest - Kaleidoscope of Creative Connections

This post was part of the Kaleidoscope of Creative Connections focused on Rest. Dive into more heart-centred writings from the amazing souls who collaborated in the creation of KCC – June 2014.

 

 

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About lanetherrell

Lane Therrell is a freelance writer, family nurse practitioner and holistic health coach dedicated to helping others achieve whole-person wellness. She has a background in agriculture and a passion for the great outdoors.
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9 Responses to Good Rest is Good For Us

  1. Lorraine says:

    Wonderful reframing of rest as ‘up-time’, because it truly is uplifting. You’ve given us all a wake up call for feasting on rest rather than making it sloppy seconds or leftovers. Your super smart four letter guide to resting is very helpful too.

  2. Shan says:

    Lane, I loved your post on rest. I try and approach my rest (and life) from the same perspective. I’ve done the 10 hours a day work schedule many years ago, which left me with nothing spare at all. I find that when I am well rested, my diet is also healthier and I want to engage in physical exercise as opposed to resisting it. Thank you for the R.E.S.T. acronym – very smart 🙂

    • lanetherrell says:

      Shan, thank you for validating the need for work-life balance. When we make self-care (including rest) a priority, it can become a real and relevant part of our daily lives instead of an elusive, seemingly unattainable goal.

  3. Sam says:

    I love how you have turned rest into an acronym!
    so easy to remind ourselves 🙂

    • lanetherrell says:

      Acronyms got me through nursing school, and it looks like they are helpful in getting me through the “rest” of life, too. 😉

  4. rebellin says:

    Amen! I think women, especially mothers, fell guilty when they rest. There is always something that needs to get done, and this post is a good reminder that we need to make room for rest and get rid of any feelings of guilt!

    • lanetherrell says:

      You are absolutely right that giving ourselves permission to rest is difficult, especially for moms and other caregivers. Getting rid of guilt is definitely a challenge– and your comment makes me think that guilt might be a good topic for a future blog. Thanks!

  5. Pingback: Resting With Creative Connections

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