Rest as a fundamental practice of well-being

cassandra-hamer-PwSRfJWqUqs-unsplashimage by @cassandra.hamer

Rest is an essential practice of life and well-being. It is an act of self-care and self-love that we can offer ourselves regularly. It is something that we can prioritize in our lives; thus, giving others that we come into contact with the permission to prioritize it in their lives as well. Centering rest allows us to live rather than merely just surviving.

Rest is something that many of us haven’t been able to prioritize for many reasons including socioeconomic factors, the influence of familial and societal pressures, and the many challenges of surviving in a capitalist system.

Rest is something that is vital to life in general and especially during a global pandemic where social and racial inequities and injustices and the harm and violence perpetuated by systems of oppression are illuminated in a way that has an immediate impact on our bodies.

It’s important to recognize the ways that you may habituate and stress productivity over adequate rest and the impact that prioritization has on how you feel and how you engage in the world. Notice how that impacts you as relates to the frequency of feelings of fatigue, irritability, and discontent alongside how tangible feelings of satisfaction and enoughness are for you to connect with.

When doing and overdoing are the standards we live by and use to measure our worth, how can we rest without feelings of guilt, shame, and judgment being evoked and overwhelming us? How would it be if instead of associating rest with laziness or indulgence, we associated it with care? What if we told ourselves you don’t have to do to matter to me? You can just be.

When I encourage people to rest more, they often tell me that they just don’t have the time to rest or that resting causes them to feel lazy or guilty because when they rest they overindulge in it. We literally have an entire nervous system, the parasympathetic system which aids with essential tasks such as absorbing and digesting nutrients, that functions optimally every time we allow ourselves to rest and relax. Could there really be a thing as too much rest when we consider that when we rest the body has more space to offer us care? And how often is an overindulgence in rest a response to factors such as burn out, grief, depression, trauma, etc. calling for our attention and care rather than a default in our character?

If you thought rest could save your life, would that allow you more space to center it? Because when looking at some of the information below about the harmful impact of lack of sleep and rest, it really becomes clear that rest has a dramatic impact on one’s life and quality of life.

What are some of the harmful effects of chronic sleep deprivation?

*Memory changes in both short and long-term memory

*Difficulty with thinking and concentration

*Mood swings, irritability, depression, anxiety, paranoia, hallucinations, suicidal thoughts

*Decreased libido, decreased estrogen and testosterone in favor of increased stress hormone cortisol, decreased sperm, infertility

*Increased accidents including car accidents and increased risk for falls due to  changes in balance and coordination

*Weakened immune system; increased propensity for colds and chronic illness

*Increased risk for high blood pressure, Diabetes Mellitus, heart disease, stroke, cancer

*Weight gain related to decreased production of digestive hormones that help control feelings of hunger and fullness; increased hunger for high calorie, high carb foods

*Increased mortality risk

woman with blue hair
Photo by Retha Ferguson on

Ways to Get More Sleep 

Sleep is a very complicated subject that varies in each person in terms of how much sleep is needed and supportive practices that help or hinder each person as relates to sleeping with ease and feeling rested.

Centre for Clinical Interventions has a comprehensive sleep hygiene worksheet with 15 tips that is a good place to start. A few highlights from the worksheet are finding a balanced schedule and structure that works for you throughout the day along with exploring nutrition, physical activity, and the impact of caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine on your sleep cycle, journaling a few notes about your sleep patterns and factors that are supportive as well as unsupportive as relates to sleep, and creating a ritual for sleep.

The creation of sleep rituals, which are specific activities that you engage in to ready and remind your body that it is time for sleep, is important as it can help with the centering of rest and sleep as something that you value. By engaging in these specific activities, you can allow for a letting go of the day and a preparing of the body for sleep by engaging in relaxing and energy-clearing activities. These activities can include any number of practices including perhaps a form of journaling, grounding, deep breathing practices, soothing sound meditation, gentle relaxing stretches, etc. It can be helpful if the ritual allows for you to reflect on the day in a way that offers appreciation and acceptance over what occurred during the day and an intentional letting go of the day to allow space for sleep. Being clear in the intentional practice of accepting and letting go of the day can help one recognize if they are bringing critical or worrying energy into their sleep with them.

It’s also important to recognize your view of sleep. I’ve talked with many people who view sleep as something that they dread, which they avoid or put off, engaging in any number of stressful things or stimulating forms of technology prior to engaging in and which they see merely as a means to arrive into the next exciting day. What if you looked at sleep though as an incredible gift to yourself and the body? When we sleep, the body processes and stores information, repairs cells, restores energy, and releases and lets go of toxins. Sleep and rest are vitally important so why not prepare and make space for them in a way that indicates that they matter?

All the things we do, things we think, food and media we consume, and our environment and the people we surround ourselves with play a role in our sleep cycle. Consider getting additional support if none of these interventions are helpful in supporting your sleep. Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia is a highly recommended approach which you can engage in with a therapist or initially on your own through the many resources and apps available on the subject. Also, having a sleep study done to further investigate potential causes and consequences related to chronic sleep dis-ease may be of benefit for you as well and is something you can discuss with your health care provider.

joseph-barrientos-JtGpJToxQ5c-unsplashimage by @jbcreate

Ways to Easefully Rest 

If finding time to rest feels particularly inaccessible, why not schedule small moments of rest into your day? Even in the busiest of days, there can still be time to take a round of deep breaths or to just close the eyes for a moment and allow for anywhere that you are holding tension to soften. You can schedule rest as much as you do other tasks like work, meals, and socialization; you can set a timer on your phone, for example, if you want to rest for a few seconds or minutes every hour, for example. Even activities that don’t necessarily involve as much scheduling such as the random frequency that we might check out emails or social media can be a cue to also rest before or after that activity as well.

See if you can approach rest in a way that is easeful and spacious — an intention for the day that you approach with kindness and generosity in deliberate contrast to the striving or judgmental qualities that may be part of the ways you engage with other tasks. This approaching of rest with the very allowing nature that rest embodies may allow for a reminder that rest is a form of care and love for ourselves that benefits us all when we center it.

Rest in this moment, dear one. Just this moment right here. Set down anything you are holding, allowing space for what is here right now. Space for human being, rather than human doing. Rest just for a moment. I trust that you won’t lose yourself in rest. I trust that you matter even when you are resting. I trust that you are always doing the best you can. You don’t have to do to matter to me. Is there space for you to trust that also and give yourself permission to rest?

—Lissa E.

Thank you for your support!

Donations are greatly appreciated to support Lissa's writings and mission to offer sliding scale and donation-based offerings to create greater accessibility and inclusivity.


Published by lissa e.

Lissa's offerings include integrative mental health care, meditation and movement (yoga, qigong, intuitive) guidance, writings, and community facilitation offered in a compassionate, trauma-responsive, and racial and social justice-oriented framework as part of a lifelong mission to reduce suffering for all beings.

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