A few weeks ago, one of my all-time heroes, Shawn Shannon, sat at my kitchen table and talked about rest. She explained that her season of life was in flux, and she asked if I had any nuggets of wisdom on resting. I found it curious that she thought I had anything to offer when it came to this topic, as my nature is to stay on my hamster wheel of perfectionism and focus on productivity over everything else.
Shawn was patient as I thought. In my head I reviewed the past couple years, and I realized I had learned quite a bit on resting, though much of it was not of my own volition. In the time since our conversation, I have been mulling over how to rest, and here is what I have gathered.
Rest is unnatural—or is it?
Setting aside time to rest is unnatural. The business principles we cling to tell us the more we work or the more productive we are, the greater the profit. In college I began to learn about the benefits of rest when I read about the Jewish Sabbath in The Mudhouse Sabbath; I started taking a Sabbath from studying and working during nursing school and was astonished to find my grades actually improved! What started as a difficult discipline soon became one of my favorite, most refreshing parts of the week. Our first thought may not be to prioritize rest, but our bodies were created to need it.
The amount of rest we need ebbs and flows along with seasons of life.
While I was in school, an entire 24 hours without studying was enough to fuel the rest of the week. However, last year after living in Cambodia for a few months and moving back to the United States, both my soul and my body were in desperate need of greater rest than a single day could offer. I dove into the first season of rest I had ever encountered.
When I returned to Waco, I found many of my friends had moved, so most of my free days were spent alone—and I had plenty of free days! I began working part-time hours as a nurse, but my applications for other jobs fell through. Though I never would have chosen an empty schedule and a season of rest immediately following my return to the States, it is exactly what I needed.
Living in Cambodia was taxing. I had struggled with depression, and I had poured massive amounts of energy into learning the language and culture of a new country. I had been in a state of “hyper-awareness” for months to avoid cultural faux-pas. I had been intentional about investing in my English students, and I had worked hard to learn how to teach effectively. I loved living in Cambodia—but it took more out of me than I realized! It was a season of high intensity learning and effort, and I needed a season of intense rest afterward.
Rest provides time for healing.
When we sleep, our brains categorize memories and thoughts, and our bodies start to repair the wear-and-tear damage from the day. Likewise, our souls and hearts need time to process events and integrate them into the delicate, unique network of experiences that makes us, us.
To make the most of this time, I have found tools such as reflection and journaling invaluable. Additionally, therapy, counseling, life coaching, and good ol’ coffee dates with friends can help us be intentional about making the most of a season of rest.
Rest is holistic.
Of course, sleeping in and taking naps are one form of rest (and one of my favorites)! Though this covers the physical aspect of rest, we also benefit from mental, emotional, and spiritual rest. I find mental rest when I read a good fiction book, watch television, or spend time drawing or painting. These activities require very little mental stimulation. Emotionally, I find rest during visits with my therapist as well as when I run or exercise. When I jog, I find I am more focused on the physical realm than the emotional—and since I have a tendency to get “stuck in my head,” exercise can be very helpful for me. Finally, spiritual rest can be found in a variety of ways. It can be found listening to music while I run, praying every morning, or meditating. Rest for everyone looks different, but it always involves more than physically sleeping.
These are just a few of my observations on rest! How do you experience holistic rest? What are the benefits of rest, and do you find it natural to incorporate rest into your lifestyle? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment or send me an email—and stay tuned for Part II, where I’ll talk about the practical tips I’ve found that lead to restoration!