Now that the kids are out of school, we’re getting into the season when families typically take vacations. This year, the Fourth of July falls on a Wednesday, leaving people in that strange predicament where you can’t really take a long weekend, so I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot of our neighbors taking the whole week and hitting the highway next week. If that includes you, I applaud you for taking some time away. I hope you have a time of real rest.
Everybody Sleeps, Nobody Rests
Here in the United States, we live such an over-connected, over-stimulated, over-energized lifestyle that it gets difficult to pull away from it all and really rest. Most of the other nations of the world set aside time for a rest after lunch — a “siesta” or whatever they call it in their own languages. In fact, in many ways, our culture shames us for slowing down. Many of us live with an over-active sense of responsibility. Some call it a “work ethic,” but some of us are afraid of what people will think of us if we stop driving ourselves. But I’ve got more to say about that later, so I’ll come back to it.
This week, I want to encourage you and challenge you to up your rest game.
Rest Is Powerful
According to Dan Beuttner’s Blue Zones, taking time to rest is one of the nine qualities that appear consistently among the cultures that fostered the most longevity – the Blue Zones Power 9. The populations that live the longest make rest a regular part of their lives. The adage “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” may be popular among “top performers” in the business world, but it is also popular among people who end up arriving at their graves sooner than they should have.
But the power that comes from downshifting isn’t just a good idea, it’s a God idea. The Almighty Creator God of the Bible took Saturdays off consistently and urges us to do the same. In fact, He put not taking a day off on the same level as murder, lying, and stealing.
Think about that for a minute.
When Your Rest Isn’t Restful
So let’s talk about rest.
I want to address an elephant in the room. When I say it, you will know that it’s true, but we violate it anyway. If you’re using your vacation to go to Walt Disney World or Universal, you’re really not resting. We call it “time off” or “vacation,” but in reality, we are just spending our stress, fatigue, and over-exertion on something fun (depending on your point of view).
If you take time off of your over-scheduled, over-stimulated, over-active life so you can march around the Magic Kingdom for three days, and you call it “rest,” you’re fooling yourself. Sure, it might be fun. It might be a change of scenery, but it’s not a change of pace. It’s a joke so common that it has become a figure of speech — “I need a vacation from my vacation.”
Rest Can Be A Daily Occurrence
Fortunately, rest doesn’t have to be something you get once a year. It doesn’t have to be something you have to leave town to find. Rest can be as accessible as food and water.
If you have over 16 hours of your day scheduled with activity, I’m going to urge you to eliminate some activities. Now, I know that I will get pushback from busy executives, pastors, and stay-at-home moms who can’t possibly give up any of their ceaseless activities, but let me take the risk of offending you: who is in control of your life? If you can’t remove an activity from your daily rush, you are not in control of your life. And before you say it, let me cut you off — neither is God. He is a good Shepherd, not a cattle driver. Don’t blame Him if you are out of control.
You Have To Make It A Priority
You have either abdicated responsibility for your own life to another person or group, or you are driven by a fear of what other people will think of you if you slow down. You’re a grown-up now. Fix it. Set your own priorities, set your own boundaries, and set your own schedule. Make time to rest.
There is no such thing as “I can’t” when it comes to managing your own life. There is only “I won’t.” If you choose not to say “no” to someone else’s demands, it is not their fault. You have chosen to give them the right to control you. You must take it back or you will always be a victim, controlled by other people. I think you want better for yourself, but it takes a willingness to risk possible confrontation, and I know that can be uncomfortable.
Your frustration with life is never anyone else’s fault. If they are hurting you, you are letting them. Either confront the problem or stay stuck and miserable.
All that to say, you can make time to rest during each day.
Rest Is Not Sleep
Now, it’s important to remember that rest and sleep are not the same, so don’t count your sleeping hours. Just ask anyone who has woken up from a fitful night’s sleep. I have a couple of articles on the benefits of sleep, so I’ll refer you to those if you’re not getting enough sleep.
On the other hand, you can be resting while preparing for a meeting. You can be resting while enjoying a meal with your family. You can rest while reading a good book. There are many ways to rest yourself. Just as your body needs rest, your mind needs rest, and your spirit needs rest.
How To Rest Your Mind And Body
I encourage you to set aside time during your waking hours each day where you disconnect from all electronics, disengage from all conversations, don’t read the news, and don’t work. Most employers are required to give you at least 30 minutes of break time each shift you work. The problem is that often, we spend it on the phone, reading Facebook, or browsing the news. None of those activities can be called “rest” because they keep your mind active. And then there is the emotional part of information. Even good news stimulates neurotransmitter responses that flow through your whole body and set off a cascade of emotions and sensations. How much more does bad news trigger a flood of emotions?
Ideally, I’d like to see you set aside 15-20 minutes during your day when you clear your mind and rest your body. Clearing your mind may include closing your eyes or just going into a quiet place where you are not receiving as much stimulation. Some people use soothing music for this process, but I tend to think that continues the stimulation of the brain, unless you can find music that really allows you to unwind.
Get Your Body Ready To Rest
Sit in a comfortable position with your arms hung loosely at your sides, hands in your lap. Or, you can lay flat on your back. In either position, become aware of your breathing. Breathe slowly and steadily, drawing air in slowly and releasing it all at once. Let it be natural. Feel your heart rate calm down. Become aware of your toes, your ankles, your shins, your knees, and so on, moving from body part to body part up your entire frame to the top of your head. I like to gently flex each muscle group individually for a few seconds and then release it, letting the care of that muscle drift away.
As you concentrate on each body part, you won’t fall asleep. Let thoughts of responsibilities drift into your mind and drift out. Don’t worry; they will still be there when you get back to work.
The Resting Power of Brain Dumps
That brings up another thing that I have learned to be helpful when it comes to resting and sleeping: write things down. The act of writing down the thoughts in your mind (or “brain dump”) transfers them out of your mind and releasing you from them. Thoughts, ideas, creativity, lists, images, and responsibilities have a way of cluttering up your mind because your mind feels responsible for storing that information. Writing it down gives your mind permission to release it. You will be shocked at how much more peaceful you are because your mind isn’t having to keep track of hundreds of bits of data.
At the end of a busy day, do not go to bed until you have allowed your mind a chance to dump its contents onto paper. You will sleep better, knowing that all that information still exists someone you can find it when you need it. Now, it’s the paper’s responsibilities to remember, so your mind can rest while you sleep. Again, sleep and rest are not the same. The more data you can transfer from your mind to paper, the more your mind will be able to rest.
Connect With the Earth
A couple other quick tips for resting: spend some time connecting with the earth and enjoy either the sunrise or the sunset. Gardening has a myriad of health benefits, and among them is slowing down your mind. I often find that a 15-minute walk around the neighborhood, a half-hour out in the lawn, or (when I have a garden) an hour or two in the garden can be so therapeutic, not only for my skin and muscles but also for my mind. And grounding is a whole other set of benefits.
Bookend The Day With The Sun
I also like to make time (not find the time) to go to the beach as often as I can and watch the sunset. You can’t fit a sunset into 10 minutes; you have to allocate at least 45 to 60 minutes of time not spent thinking about other things. This is a great opportunity to disconnect from the day. I wonder if that’s the reason the Hebrew calendar starts the day at sunset instead of at sunrise like we do it. God must have known that the act of watching the sunset would force us to disconnect from the day that just ended and leave it in the past. Just a hunch.
Rethink Your Time Off
I hope this has been helpful. If you were planning to take a “vacation” to one of the parks in Orlando, I hope you’ll reconsider and add at least one day of actual rest to your trip. You will thank me when you get back to work and don’t feel like such a zombie. Your co-workers will thank me, too.
Help Me Share This Information
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but my blog doesn’t always appear in your newsfeed, even though I post it every Wednesday morning. Also, there are some social media platforms (who will remain nameless) who have taken it upon themselves to determine that, because I refer to the occasional Vitamin supplement in my articles, I can not boost my posts to a wider audience. I have some opinions about that, but I don’t want to be blocked, so I’ll let you judge for yourself. In the meantime, it would mean the world to me if you would share these articles with your circle of influence. You never know who is looking for just this article right now.
Thank you in advance. Now, shut off your phone and go get some rest.
“At the end of your FEELINGS is NOTHING. At the end of your PRINCIPLES is a PROMISE.” — Eric Thomas