The importance of rest in today’s busy world

Today we are joined by one of our regular contributors, Miriam Kerins from TheAwakening.ie, with a beautiful article on why we simply must make time in our lives for rest. With the weekend ahead, we ask you to think about how you can make time to rest over the next few days.

In today’s world, we often perceive life as being busy, chaotic and stressful, always on the the go, which often leads to feelings of being overwhelmed, exhausted, fatigued, anxious and even burnt out.

In order for us to succeed in life and to be the best versions of ourselves, no matter what avenue of life that may be in – first and foremost, above anything else, we need to be well.

In order to be the best mother or father, the best CEO or director, employer or employee, friend or colleague, husband or wife, daughter or son, you must be healthy, you must be well. Well in your mind as well as your body.

For me, this is a question I get asked over and over again – Miriam, how do I become well?

One of the first ways to becoming well – is to find rest. And to find rest regularly. In fact rest and recovery is vital for our overall health and happiness. We don’t need more noise, or more busyness, what we really need and crave is more stillness, more silence, more rest and more recovery.

When we allow ourselves the luxury of rest and silence, we almost rediscover, through this process called pausing, the things that bring us joy.

Often clients say to me, “I don’t have time to rest” or “Me, rest? I can’t sit still”.

I think it’s important to note that rest can take on many different forms.

Resting doesn’t just mean ‘doing nothing’. Practicing rest is one of the basic fundamental needs of human beings, it doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. In fact it doesn’t cost anything at all.

Finding rest is about finding some stillness or silence in your life.

It’s about allowing yourself the time and space to get off the treadmill of life for a few minutes everyday to unplug, to switch off, to breathe, to tune in to your internal world of emotions, feelings, thoughts as well as your physical sensations and sensitivities.

Resting is all about changing something from your normal day-to-day activities, and switching your awareness to using a different part of your brain and body.

If we use the same part of our body and/or mind too much without switching it off or allowing it time to recover and repair – it becomes overwhelmed and over-stretched, which in turn drives anxiety and stress. This constant usage of similar areas and pathways leads to other areas becoming under utilised and undernourished. Areas such as creativity, focus, clarity, rest, repair, reflection, fun and laughter.

As mentioned above, rest can take on different forms, and because we as human beings are all different and bio-individual, it’s important to find something that works best for you, for your lifestyle, for your body, for your mind, for your soul.

I like to categorise rest into two main sections:

  • Gentle rest – such as sleep, meditation, breath work, pranayama, silence and mindfulness.
  • Active rest and recovery – such as journaling, painting, colouring, yoga, stretching, mindful walking, massage, reflexology, holistic energy treatments.

What are the benefits to resting and allowing your body to recover?

By allowing the body and mind to rest, you enable the body to activate its own inner healing cascade. This allows the body to return to its natural state of homeostasis, enabling the body to repair, recover and reset. When we rest we automatically activate our para-sympathetic nervous system, which is our rest, digest and repair system – the exact opposite to our sympathetic nervous system which is fight or flight – a state of being many of us spend far too long operating from today.

Some benefits of resting and repairing:

  • Increased productivity and performance
  • Reduced risk of disease and illness
  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Increased clarity, focus and concentration
  • Increased happiness and sense of peace
  • Increased level of inner ease and harmony

Our entire bodies/systems are built to survive and thrive in a series of short sprints, where we go at high speeds for short periods of time and then pause or rest to allow the body to recover and repair so we can perform consistently and focus again and again.

Life is not a marathon, it’s a series of sprints, the quality of rest and recovery is what determines the quality of our next sprint.

Therefore it so important that we start living our life like so, going but then stopping. Living but then pausing. Being but then resting. Doing but then reflecting. Acting but then processing. Operating but then feeling.

Another common question I get asked is, why do so many of us find it difficult to take time to rest?

I believe this to be the case because we mis-prioritise time. There are 168 hours in every week and that will not or cannot ever be changed. Time is not going faster, time is constant. Time has never changed. What has changed is how fast-paced our thoughts and minds have become.

It’s not that we should try to manage time, we simply need to manage what we prioritise and what we dedicate our time and energy to. We must challenge ourselves to be honest about how much time we spend on social media, watching tv, scrolling on the internet, sending snapchat or whatsapp messages and so on. What if we were to use this time for more productive morning or night time routines or rituals?

The brain is highly capable of resetting itself even if we use short rest practices that range from as little as 15 seconds to 10 or 15 minutes. Elite athletes have mastered the art of mentally and emotionally resetting in seconds using simple reset triggers. Building simple triggers and routines into our day are key ways of utilising the time we have in a far more productive way. Some of these restful techniques include things like:

  • Gratitude
  • Taking 5 deep breathes regularly throughout your day (e.g. 5 deep breathes before eating your breakfast, 5 deep breathes before you start your car, 5 deep breathes before your turn on your computer, while you boil the kettle etc etc)
  • Saying a simple prayer
  • Doing a 3 minute body scan
  • Doing some yoga or stretching
  • Saying positive affirmations
  • Meditation
  • Visualisation

And then of course I get asked – well HOW do we rest? And what are the best ways we can take time out to rest our bodies and minds?

One of the ways to reduce stress and increase rest in your life, is to give yourself a break. Give yourself permission to self-care and nurture. I think it is very important that we learn that self-care is not selfish.

In order to find some ease and relaxation in our lives we need to first stop, listen and feel. In doing this, we can take some time out from the busyness of life and connect to a space of stillness.

Below are some simple yet very effective ways to slow down and rest, that can be done on a daily basis without any fancy props or any expense.

1) Meditation

There is no right or wrong way to meditate. The most important thing that you can do is to bring a passive attitude – allowing, not forcing. Experiencing, not controlling. Don’t worry about meditating the “right” way – just let it happen however it happens without worrying about the outcome. Allow yourself to be comfortable and acknowledge thoughts as they come and go, not attaching to them or fighting them, simply observing them, like clouds floating by, see them and let them go and bring your awareness back to your soft breath in and out or to a specific mantra or word like Om.

2) Pranayama – Breathing

By practicing mindful breathing we focus on our breath – which is our life force energy – our Prana. Once we engage with deep mindful breathing we reduce the anxiety and increase the resting ability of the body by activating our para-sympathetic nervous system. When we engage in deep mindful breathing we reduce anxiety and nervous tension in our central nervous system. When we are anxious or overwhelmed – our nerve endings can become irritated and excited. They become heightened and activated, and we thus, become “on edge” and anxious and develop nervous tension and irritability which eventually will lead to sheer exhaustion and burn out. By activating this para-sympathetic nervous system it reduces cortisol, our stress hormone, thus reducing heart rate, blood pressure and anxiety.

Try taking 5 deep breathes regularly throughout the day. It is one the most powerful tools you will ever have and it’s completely free.

3) Saying a prayer or cultivating a spiritual practice

4) Doing a body scan

5) Yoga and stretching

6) Mindful walking

7) Fresh air and nature

8) Saying positive affirmations and practicing positive psychology

9) Practicing visualisation

10) Journaling, colouring, painting

And lastly, I get asked what if I don’t have time to rest? Or how can we (and why should we) make it our priority? And how can I learn to slow down a little?

My answers to these are quite simple. We can tell ourselves the same story over and over again – “I don’t have time”, “I’m too busy”, “time is going too fast”.

However If we allow ourselves 15 minutes a day, this is only 1% of your day. You can give the other 99% of your day away. All that I am asking is can you give yourself 1% of your day? If you were to allow yourself this 15 minutes every day to practice some mindfulness, meditation, breathing, stretching, walking, getting some fresh air, having a bath, journaling, colouring – whatever it is you like to do, by giving yourself permission to do this you will not only dramatically change your life but it will also have a huge potential positive impact on those around you. As you allow your mind and body to rest and repair, you become healthier and you become happier.

If we can begin to change the story we are telling ourselves and start to become more emotionally aware – of where our mind and emotions are in each and every given day, we can begin to re-create our future through using reset triggers like breathwork, positive psychology, meditation and so on.

I would encourage you all to make a commitment and decision to get into the driving seat of your own life. This is your own life. It’s not a dress rehearsal. Don’t dim your light in order to fit in or people please. Allow yourself to be the best version of yourself. Allow yourself to dream, allow yourself 15 minutes a day to self-care, allow yourself to express your innermost self and ignite that inner beauty and brilliance that is within each and every one of us.

In order for us to express this inner light – we need to be well, we need to be energised, we need to be revitalised.

Give yourself the permission to rest and repair and watch your world unfold.

Miriam will be running a series of Breathe & Be yoga events next year. They will take place one Saturday every month in Union Café, Mount Merrion, Dublin. First date is Sat 13 Jan, followed by 24 Feb and 24 March. We’ve attended Miriam’s Breathe & Be yoga before and it was a beautiful, spiritual day of restorative yoga and real conversations about life – we highly recommend attending and experiencing it for yourself. 

Miriam will also be holding a number of wellbeing retreats. For more information on these, visit her on Facebook here.

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