Our resistance to rest

I know I am like many of you when it comes to taking some rest time or time away from work, or chill time from being a busy at home parent. There is a niggling in the mind that creates a sense of guilt – I could be catching up, getting in front or making up ground.

I often lightly suggest that busy mums who are trying to get in front as a mum need to give up that passion because you simply can’t get in front until your kids leave home! Your daughter is already wearing the next load of washing and your son probably already has a skiddy on his jocks! The striving to do more, be more or have more are key drivers in our avoidance of resting or taking a break. In a wonderful blog Thea O’Connor has called this phenomenon “rest resistance”.

“Regular stopping was once embedded into our weekly, monthly and yearly calendars. I can remember when walking out of the office marked the end of the day’s work, when Sundays equalled rest days and Christmas holidays stretched on for weeks, even months. That’s rare these days,” Thea writes.

I can remember when country towns used to close all the shops for an hour lunch break and so you were forced to go and have a break from the busy-ness of life. My dad had an after lunch nap most days of his life as a farmer because it was a cultural norm. Many European cultures still do this as a siesta, although they then have shops and life happening until much later into the night. So when did rest become the enemy of functioning humans in our society? When did it get perceived as almost a form of weakness? Something to be avoided?

As Thea writes: “Australian surveys indicate that about a third of fulltime workers don’t stop for a lunch break, and about 40 percent don’t take all their annual leave.”

Maybe it started to happen as our individualist, consumer-driven world eroded our ‘we’ culture and getting in front, being better than and having more became the goal of life. The striving for external signs of success may have driven many to work harder to ensure we appear to be someone with worth and value. The ‘keeping up with the Jones’ mentality may have had a part to play in the aversion to resting.

For me it was the arrival of computers and technology that meant my office was with me all the time. Don’t get me wrong technology has allowed me to have a virtual office where my team work from where they live, in often quite isolated places, and yet still be able to work from home and be there for their children. With the smart phone I can be contactable day and night and with many media people having my mobile number sometimes the differences in daylight saving mean I can be called at 3am to arrange an interview.

Last year I became ill with bronchitis that developed into pneumonia twice. So in my summer break I pondered how to help my body and immune system stay well and yet still work. I pencilled more breaks out of my diary – including a whole month in the middle of the year. More rest days when travelling and cutting back on how many seminars I run overall. Yes I heard the inner panic of ‘will I be able to meet my financial commitments’, ‘am I just getting slack and lazy?’ and ‘will this negatively impact my business?’

Well I have only had the one bout of illness this year – still one too many. My extended rest times and rest days have been fabulous and enjoyable. I have done some sewing, cooking and lots more meditation and reflection. So much more time ‘being’ in my absolute favourite place – nature. My fears were completely unfounded. My rest time made me more creative hence a new book and more creative moments of “aha”. My team have helped me to remain unplugged more and we have worked out ways for me to keep doing what I love supporting families and communities in the healthy raising of children from home with online courses and more to come. And interestingly, I have done better financially.

So I am going to challenge you – find pockets of rest. Say ‘no’ more often and give yourself the gift of some downtime, some rest time and time to fill your own cup. Not only will your immune system benefit, so will your body, mind and soul. Unplug yourself from the world more often and be present in your life and especially in the lives of your children and nearest and dearest.

As Thea advises in her blog: “If you are interested in exploring rest-resistance to make more space for rhythms of renewal in your life, you could start by examining your own drivers of rest resistance. This helps us see that we do actually have some choice. Valuing downtime might be counter-cultural but you can create sub-cultures, including amongst family, friends and co-workers that consciously shape healthier norms.”

Saying ‘no’ and doing less might threaten the self-esteem we derive from ‘doing’ but we can learn new ways to value ourselves. And if we are too wired to rest, we can consult health professionals or take advantage of the many mindfulness tools out there like the Smiling Mind app to help re-set the nervous system.

To those busy mums who have little ones give yourself permission for daily couch time or chill out in the garden time. Just sitting and watching little ones play is a powerful way to connect and encourage them to be creative and inquisitive. When we are calmer we are also kinder to ourselves and our loved ones. If that guilt monster comes to visit while you are taking time out, tell it to get lost or go hang the washing out.

Become a human being rather than a human doing and you will reap so many rewards. Having dis-connect times from endless news of the world or your FB community will feel great just allow the ‘habit to be plugged in to gradually fade and watch how much healthier and happier you will become. Small can be beautiful and less can be so much more.

“We are tempted not to rest because we think we will produce more, but what we produce is less wonderful.” – Michael Carmichael