The Importance of Rest
- November 24, 2020
- by Diane Duvall
In today’s busy society rest is often considered an indulgence that we have little time for. With so many commitments and responsibilities filling our daily calendars, we feel pressured to keep pushing. We often feel guilty when we take time for ourselves. Many of us don’t take our needed rest because we feel we should be spending our time being more productive. But it has been shown that taking breaks throughout the day is actually beneficial, resulting in increased efficiency and performance. It also promotes clarity in thinking. Adequate rest is also needed for immune defense. If we are run down, we will be more susceptible to illness and fatigue which will impede our productivity and ability to fulfill our obligations.
In the past we lived according to daylight and nighttime. With modern technology, those boundaries have become blurred, resulting in a society constantly working and moving. We must become aware and create our own boundaries. Now that many are working from home boundaries are being blurred even more. We need to protect and/or rebuild those boundaries. We have overloaded our lives with too much information, too many things to do, too much emotions, making us like the proverbial hamster on the wheel. In today’s social media world of perfection and superhuman activities we feel the need to always measure up. We live in a culture that often undervalues the importance of rest.
Rest is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Getting plenty of rest is necessary for our bodies to be able to function. We are not meant to keep going without taking time to restore our body, mind and spirit. Can you find a way to make time for down-time? Can you create healthy boundaries that allow time to rest and recharge? A simple start could be going to bed on time or saying “no” when your schedule is too full. It can mean asking for help or delegating some of your tasks. Let’s explore several key areas of rest that can contribute to overall happiness and well-being:
Physical rest: With all the demands on our time it seems a fair exchange to replace some of our sleep time for finishing some work, watching television, spending time on the computer or socializing. But compromising our sleep will take its toll. Adequate sleep is one of the best anti-aging secrets for feeling and looking our best. Our body detoxifies and repairs and rebuilds while we sleep. Sleep is a time when memories, emotions and new information is processed and filed away. A tired person with unmanaged stress usually ages before their time in contrast with someone who is more resilient and relaxed who ages gracefully.
Chronic stress and sleep deprivation affect us on a cellular level. Living with stress or sleeping less than five hours per night is linked to telomere shortening and aging to our cells. Telomeres are the protective end caps on our chromosomes that protect our cells and genes. Just as a plastic tip on the end of a shoelace protects it from fraying, the telomere keeps the DNA from unravelling and becoming damaged. When telomeres get short from aging or poor lifestyle habits, our cells cannot replenish. Proper rest is related to longer telomeres. Allow time to unwind and aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night to help keep these end caps long and in good condition. Check our article on sleep here.
Physical rest can include things such as taking a restorative yoga or tai chi class, getting adequate sleep, enjoying a walk in nature, having a massage, practicing progressive muscle relaxation, enjoying a foot soak or relaxing in a lavender oil bath.
Emotional rest: When we are strong emotionally we are more resilient, and it is much easier to manage stress in any area of our life. Worry, overwhelm and negativity can wear us down emotionally. Emotional relaxation rejuvenates us and connects us to our creative potential and happiness. It can be difficult to find a balance between work and rest, but a good balance is necessary for long-term health and peace of mind. Sometimes finding balance means saying ‘no’ or asking for help. Don’t feel guilty for taking time away from your chores for rest. We need to replenish our energy to function at our best. When our emotions are healthy, we see things from a better perspective, make better decisions and respond better to others. Face and process negative emotions. Remind yourself throughout the day to breathe and check in with how you are feeling. Practicing techniques like mindfulness can have a positive effect in building emotional strength. Sleep also strengthens us emotionally. Sleep helps file away chemicals resulting from all the emotions we have experienced during the day and clean what is not beneficial.
Emotional rest can include things such as laughing with friends, watching comedies, fasting from social media and negative news, quiet time in nature, prayer and meditation, taking a day off, exercise, sports, practicing gratitude and forgiveness, and journaling.
Mental rest: Do you find there are times when you would like to rest or unwind for sleep in the evening, but your mind won’t stop turning? Our minds are always working. Between our families, jobs, computers, phones, appointments, concerns, and worries we can rarely find the time to fully decompress. Relaxation isn’t just for our bodies. We need to give our minds a break as well. Information overload is a very real problem in today’s society. It is important to turn off the information that is coming in. Manage the information that is coming in by evaluating the quality. Is it helpful to build you up or is it tearing you down?
There are seasons in our lives when pressing work projects or family responsibilities eliminate the ability to fit in downtime. When time is short, even fitting in a few small mental breaks during the day can re-infuse inner strength. Simply observing the evening sunset or directing your focus to the warm water as you shower or wash your hands can slow the flow of thoughts. Most anxiety is caused by overthinking and living in a time other than the present. Rest your mind by living in the present moment. When you feel your thoughts taking you to the errands you must run tomorrow, next week’s bills, or worries about a future event, bring yourself back to the present. Even a few minutes of focused breathing or meditation can help calm the mind. While practicing meditation can give us a sense of calm, peace and balance, we can also find mental rest in doing things we truly enjoy or focusing on things that we are thankful for.
Mental rest can include things such as taking a vacation, getting out in nature, yoga, tai chi, prayer and meditation, reading, hobbies, writing down concerns or to-do’s, letting go of perfection, listening to music, connecting with friends and family.
Spiritual Rest: The pressures of life can weaken us and leave us feeling tired, wounded, or defeated. Our spirits are broken when there is no physical, emotional or mental rest. It is important to reconnect with your Maker and start the restoration process. Spiritual rest restores and balances us and helps us to focus on what is most important in our lives. Pursuing restoration and realizing what is important to you can add more meaning to your daily life. Studies have shown a positive link between spirituality and mental and physical health.
Spiritual rest can include things such as spending time in prayer, sitting quietly in meditation or meditating on scriptures, attending religious services/worship, fellowship, volunteering and doing good for others, spending time in nature, spending time in quiet contemplation, forgiveness of self or others.
Rest is about building time into your life for restoration. This can take the form of daily rest where you fit breaks into your day for things such as listening to music, taking a walk in nature or disconnecting from technology. Weekly rest could be taking a day or a chunk of a day for yourself to enjoy a day of shopping, time with friends, or quiet time nurturing yourself. Monthly rest can include things such as getting a massage or having a weekend away. Yearly rest can mean vacation time but be sure to include a few days of relaxing where you don’t have anything planned and you can sleep in, spend time in nature, etc.
We may need to eliminate things in our lives that overcrowd our schedule and don’t allow time for balance or rest. Time management and organization are tools that will help us to avoid living a hurried life where we are always putting out fires and handling urgent tasks. When we have things in order, we can feel good about taking time off and enjoying periods of rest. Rest is key to well-being and is at the root of restoration. When we live a restorative life, we have the resilience to adjust through seasons of challenges and be more productive in our life’s endeavors. The idea of pursuing rest can be overwhelming. Pick restorative activities that have multiple benefits such as listening to music as you walk in nature. What are your favorite ways to restore your body, mind and spirit?
-Diane Duvall, Life Coach and Certified Health Coach for the Lifestyle Medicine Practice of Dr. Geni Abraham, Board Certified, American Board of Internal Medicine. Our Internal Medicine Practice is an integrated medical practice with a focus on Lifestyle Medicine. We offer health coaching sessions to help you reach your personal goals. Dr. Geni Abraham, Medical Specialists of the Palm Beaches, Inc., 205 JFK Drive, Atlantis FL 33462. Phone: (561) 432-8935, Visit DrGeniAbraham.com and Follow us on Facebook: Dr. Geni Abraham